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Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  24,528 ratings  ·  252 reviews

For would-be entrepreneurs, innovation managers or just anyone fascinated by the special chemistry and drive that created some of the best technology companies in the world, this book offers both wisdom and engaging insights—straight from the source.

— Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, and author of The Long Tail

"All the best things that I

Kindle Edition, 482 pages
Published September 19th 2008 by Apress (first published 2001)
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Otis Chandler
Feb 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: entrepreneurs
Shelves: nonfiction, business
Loved every second of this book. Each chapter is a different story of a startup founder. I read it slowly so it wouldn't end, and read many chapters twice. My biggest take was that most founders didn't necessarily know what they were doing - or even that they were on to something big. But they were all determined to start a company - that was the only thing they all had in common.

Here are some good quotes from the book:

"I'd say determination is the single most important quality in a startup foun
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great book, so great I decide to write this post even if I have not finished reading it: Jessica Livingston in Founders at Work has interviewed 32 entrepreneurs about their story. The lessons are convincing, fascinating. Without asking for copyright, I copy here some quotes. The book is just a pleasure to read even if sometimes the Q&A are too specific about the start-up, but I assume it is part of the exercise. A Must-Read.

Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail about Risk Taking

As I say, for p
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No structure, no themes, but 30 odd interviews with tech business founders, and yet it worked and made for a great read.

The business media usually distills fundamental concepts such as team building, creating a good product and perseverance to the point where you either get a generic phrase or a string of dull paragraphs where a single generic phrase would do; the effect is that reading about business becomes a boring activity, but Founders at Work was different.

It's not a how-to book but narrat
Yaseen Hamdulay
A bit outdated but really inspiring. It's interesting to note the patterns between the different founders stories. The most unexpected being that many were unaware of the importance or enormity of the project they were in the process of undertaking.
Yevgeniy Brikman
A wonderful inside look at how a number of different startups were created. The book reinforced a few interesting trends for me:

1. Very few founders knew what they were doing when they first started; many of the ideas emerged accidentally, after many failures or experiments.

2. You *can* get more done with crazy hours and virtually all successful startups require them.

3. VC funding seemed to be an ingredient in the success if most startups, but was often a double edged sword, causing problems l
Paul Rivera
Jun 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: entrepreneurs
everyone has a bad day/week/month.
Mehran Jalali
I didn't read all the chapters -- I only read the ones that interested me. I didn't read about startups I'd never heard of because they got killed by a late-comer, or startups that dealt with very esoteric subjects like parallel supercomputers. If I'd read those, maybe my rating would have differed.

As a sort of note-to-self, these were the chapters that I read:
33 (the parts that interested me)

I should probably read the questions that interest me from the chapters I haven't
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read. An insightful look into the experiences of successful founders. One thing I learned is that even the best venture capitalists turn down unicorns.
Pranshu Sharma
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is like a small-time capsule that makes you aware of each and every person who has contributed to the growth of human experiences collectively. The book is about founders but it touches the lives of VC Mafias to Sharks and pretty much everyone involved. Master of Scale podcast by Reid H. will sure takes you back to the stories of people you will find somewhere in this book.
Juan Chavez
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
one of my all time favorite books. Not a book to read cover to cover. It is a series of interviews so you can pick and choose when and what to read. Nevertheless, I thought this book was so inspirational! So thought provoking. As a tech person and a person trying to start a company, i found this book to be full of lessons. I know I will come back to this book over and over again.


"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1 Max Levchin Cofounder, PayPal

CHAPTER 2 Sabeer Bhatia Cofounder, Hotmail

CHAPTER 3 Steve Wozniak Cofounder, Apple Computer

CHAPTER 4 Joe Kraus Cofounder, Excite

CHAPTER 5 Dan Bricklin Cofounder, Software Arts

CHAPTER 6 Mitchell Kapor Cofounder, Lotus Development

CHAPTER 7 Ray Ozzie Founder, Iris Associates, Groove Networks

CHAPTER 8 Evan Williams Confounder, Pyra Labs (

CHAPTER 9 Tim Brady First Non-Founding Employee, Yahoo

CHAPTER 10 Mike Lazari
Jun 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish there was a 4.5 on Goodreads. This book came into my hands highly recommended by several people and when I received it as a gift, I devoured it. Most of the advice in this book is timeless, and any fan of Paul Graham's essays will really enjoy this.

However, to me (an 18y old, reading in 2013), a lot of the interviews in the book, while interesting, were a bit dated. Because of how much the VC landscape (how money is raised, how interactions are had with VCs, etc), the cost of technology
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one is a brilliant, brilliant book.
I'm so glad I picked it up and it's worth every paisa of the 450 bucks I paid for it.

If you think you are the entrepreneur kinds, this book is a must read.

If you haven't started your company as yet, it might just push you to do it - and for those who have started it and are getting completely sloshed by the experience, it shines a nice bright light on you - letting you know that eventually everything will work out -- and even the biggest companies today we
Powell Omondi
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book, it gives the reader the right perspective of how some of the unicorns during the dotcom bubble came to be. The insights are precious and would recommend to anyone thinking of building a company.
If you want something and it is not yet on the market, find a way to invent or come up with a way of doing it, you might be into something precious.

Key lesson: Just do it, you don't need to wait to do it
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating stories about early days of pre-2008 technology companies like Apple, Blogger, TripAdvisor, etc. Some of them were absolute gems worth a 6-star review, others that got into fine details about uninteresting stuff by today's standards (technical aspects of hardware in early '80s) needed faster page flipping. But all in all a must-read for early stage startup founders.
Max Nova
A great book for bedime reading. It's basically impossible to read this book cover-to-cover in one sitting (a lot like the "48 Laws of Power"), but each piece is entertaining and instructive on its own. It does seem like it gets a bit repetitive about halfway through, but I'd highly recommend this book to anyone starting their own business.
Slavo Ingilizov
Mar 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great value. I've always preferred interviews with real people rather than a subjective opinion. This book not only tries to hit a specific topic, but also intentionally tries to just provide comparison data about some of the most successful entrepreneurs.
Jun 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the few books I've yet to finish, while it's great to see the journeys of the entrepreneurs in these stories there is mostly technical and very intricate details and the stories tend to drag on..

probably very helpful for the technical co-founder
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best part of this book for me is seeing how much businesses change as they go from idea to reality.
Muhammad Hakim Asy'ari
persistence&perseverance, things never work out right the first time.
Sergey Leschenko
Most stories are interesting as a history of Internet and software industry.
I really like chapter 24, interview with Philip Greenspun (ArsDigita), but the rest is hardly inspiring for me.
Lori Grant
A must-read book on entrepreneurial success stories for the knowledge worker or aspiring entrepreneur.
Tadas Talaikis
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Why this one is great? I can hear the minds of interviewees as they are, without useless "I know why" abstractions.
Glenn Yu
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What's really cool about this book is that you really get a sense of the personalities of these people. Livingston edited her interviews for clarity, but she seemingly made the stylistic choice to preserve the intricacies and inefficiencies of each founder's voice. This choice slows and lengthens the book (many of the interviews probably could have been cut by 30+% without losing much informational content), but it also adds a depth that's really cool.

In Ray Ozzie’s interview, he says: “Companie
Benton Turner
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great collection of insights from some of the top founders. However, since this was obviously conducted through an interview format, the points are not often described in the most digestible, logical way. That said, since it's an interview format, you can get inside the heads of the founders, which can be revealing, and also just a lot of fun.

Antonio Garcia Martinez author of Chaos Monkeys, recommends this book to aspiring entrepreneurs. In the valley, as he says basically, it's a mus
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nobody is the same, but somehow, the struggle is the same. You want to save the world. You try & you fail. But you’ve learned something. Then you try again, differently. And you fail again. And then, you know what? you try again! And this time, maybe, you might succeed. Maybe.

The lesson is though: #nevergiveup #neversurrender. FAIL FORWARD. SUCCEED FORWARD. And since I’m such a @galaxyquest fan: #nevergiveup, #neversurrender! You pick yourself up & you get moving. We’re all too poor to afford b
Vanessa Princessa
I read this book thanks to Blinkist.

The key message in these blinks:

Between the time when Apple made its first computers in the late 1970s and the early 2000s when blogs and user-generated content were all the rage, startups revolutionized business in the United States. In talking to some of the founders of the most successful startups during this time, we can see some interesting commonalities among the many stories. These include the fact that many startups began without any initial idea; that
Simon Smith
As someone who works in technology, and startups, I feel that it’s heresy to say anything bad about this book. But it is not a book. It is a collection of unedited interviews. This might be useful as archival material, but it does not make for good reading. Having read something similar recently, Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans, I know the approach can work, but it requires editing and insight from the author, helping to synthesize common themes, for example. This said, the book is striking for how ...more
Ujjawal Chauhan
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not really as much about founders in general as it is about founders of technology companies. Some technical parts that founders talk about might be too dense to absorb for someone who is a non-technie, and make them second guess the value add of this book.Startups in recent years have caught mainstream adoption in all kinds of fields - fashion, ecommerce, media etc. I'm not sure how much value this book will add to them, but if someone reads it purely for perspective on startup min ...more
Saket Nihal
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great repository of in-depth interviews with Founders and Early-Stage employees of major technological startups which scaled before 2007. While it is common to come across stories about the garage/apartment days of major tech startups such as Apple, Paypal, etc. Jessica has gone a step ahead to throw light on details such as :
- How the founding team came together?
- How historic network (dorm mates, ex-colleagues, classmates) shaped up the journey?
- The good, the bad and the ugly experiences w
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