Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship)” as Want to Read:
The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  3,578 ratings  ·  132 reviews
Often downplayed in the excitement of starting up a new business venture is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will face: should they go it alone, or bring in cofounders, hires, and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising ...more
Audible Audio
Published September 21st 2012 by Audible, Inc. (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Founder's Dilemmas, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Founder's Dilemmas

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,578 ratings  ·  132 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship)
Brad Feld
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman is another book that belongs on every entrepreneur’s bookshelf. It’s excellent.

I met Noam for the first time last week when I was at HBS. I was on a panel of VCs (me, Mike Maples Jr., Kate Mitchell, and David Frankel) talking to a room full of HBS alumni who are VCs. Noam and I had exchanged several emails over the past few months and he sent me a review copy of the book but it got lost in my infinite pile of books to read. After seeing him and talking to
Athan Tolis
Nov 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: startups
“The Founder’s Dilemmas” comes recommended by relevant authors Brad Feld, Eric Ries and my former classmate Jeff Bussgang, all of whom really know what they are talking about.

It’s rigged up as a parallel structure between serious statistical research and anecdotal stories that are meant to guide you, the entrepreneur, in the early decisions that stand to influence the future success of your business.

So you get told “Evan next decided he would only hire junior developers via Craigslist” and then
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
My expectation for The Founder's Dilemmas was pretty high as a result of having just read several of Professor Wasserman's publications, including "Stewards, Agents, and the Founder Discount: Executive Compensation in New Ventures."

The book explores key decisions faced by startup founders throughout the life of a company ... from pre-founding, funding options, initial team and transitional hires, salary negotiations, board management, to exit. I especially liked Wasserman's explanation around
Dec 12, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Founder’s Dilemmas – The Answer is “It depends!”

The Founder’s Dilemmas is at the same time a fascinating and frustrating book. Fascinating because it’s providing very seldom seen (and mostly unknown) data about founders and high-tech start-ups. Frustrating because it is also seldom providing answers to the dilemmas founders may face. It took me the full reading of the book to finally understand that the answer Wasserman provides is that there is no best solution for a founder facing a
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
If you are thinking about founding a business, or you are a founder of a business, I highly recommend checking if your library has this book. From Harvard Business School, Wasserman has studied the social and economic dilemmas and decisions of start-up founders for 10+ years, and in this book he gives us exquisite data on the results. Wasserman focuses on tech start-ups and businesses in the life sciences, but this book applies to all business founders if you read around the tech details and ...more
Kenneth Kinyanjui
This is one great book that I would recommend to anyone who is thinking of starting a venture or getting into a partnership to launch something.

A big percentage why most companies or ventures fail is due to people issues according to Noam Wasserman, this book prepares you with the tools needed to overcome people issues that may arise.

I enjoyed the many case studies presented in the book. I would also recommend if you are a founder already to get the audiobook from audible and listen to it on
Tigran Mamikonian
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite instructive book about different stages of startup development with plenty of examples and statistical data.

The central theme of the book is so called RICH or KING dilemma. Which refers to two basic types of founders - motivated to get profit (RICH), or motivated to control and creation (KING).

Of course there is a middle point to which author refers as "Ideal entrepreneur".

The book is longer than it could be, however I'd recommend it for reader who would want to dig deeper in this area.
Vikash Anand
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman is an insightful book for anyone working as founder, co-founder, angel investor, working in a Venture Capitalist (VC) firm or contemplating to start a company/business. The book gives wide perspective related to various dilemmas faced while taking decisions as founder or co-founder of a company, and the implications for choosing one over other.

The author has analyzed thousands of startups in the field of technology and life science in USA to find out
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good for people who, yet, don't know when and with whom to start a startup.
Mihai Cozma
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but overrated. It is very specific to only a few startup types, it stretches statistics too much at times and, while its main idea is great and worth remembering, it could have been explained just as well in half the page number or even less.
Josh Steimle
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great addition to data-driven literature that can truly help entrepreneurs. It covers basics every entrepreneur should be aware of, like the perils of setting things up the wrong way at the beginning. But rather than just being the pontifications of someone who has been there done that, it's real data, showing the probabilities of things working out well or poorly depending on choices made during the founding process. Along with Founders at Work, Four Steps to the Epiphany, and Venture ...more
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good book, easy to read given the topic. Mostly based on research, and where not, is clearly stated.

The book covers a lot of grounds for startups from co-fouding, to hiring first people, getting investors, and selling the company. The book goes over the decisions founders will face and how they affect long term value or control of the company.

I would not recommend an eBook. There were a lot of footnotes and end of book notes, some of which I felt were really important. Having the book in
Luke Kanies
This is probably a great book for someone thinking of starting a company, but useless for someone who has. And even then, it should have had a lot more information. It presented problems, but very few useful tools for solving them.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: entrepreneurship
Noam Wasserman evaluates all of the critical decisions (dilemmas) that founders of start-ups face. Some are more obvious than others, but they all have significant consequences that warrant thoughtful consideration.

According to the author, all of these dilemmas boil down to a central dilemma: wealth vs. power. Founders can choose to prioritize the value created and pursue a rich outcome, or they can prioritize control over the company to pursue what Wasserman calls a "king" outcome. (Spoiler:
Popoy Mindalano
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone who intends to start a business undergoes a lot of confusions that sometimes hinders the progress of the intended start-up. These are called the Founder’s Dillemas and if you have already experienced it then this is the best book for you in order to deal with the inhibition proceeding and developing further.

This book provides us with a guide on how to best found a start-up. If you are confused whether to start solo or as a team, just for instance, then it will show us the necessary
Calvin Yuan
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are really thinking of starting a business, this book is a gold mine.

As many other reviewers have said, Wasserman mostly talks about the dilemmas that many founders face and the respective outcomes of each choice under those circumstances. He does not offer any conclusive solutions to many of the issues being raised. This is mainly due to there isn't such a panacea to all of these difficulties. Nevertheless, Wasserman's research is sound and comprehensive. He let me understand the
Lee Pei Yit
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a comprehensive guide to being a founder, this book is NOT it. The author removes the day-to-day decision making and industry-specific decisions in favor of more general, long term but high impact decisions that tend to be neglected. This makes the book sound bland, since the drama and epicness of being a founder are surgically removed, but I would recommend any serious founder-to-be to take a good look at this book prior to starting anything.

On the negative side, the book
Ahmed Shahrour
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely deserved the 5 star rating. This book delves into three chapters where it begins with Founding Team Dilemmas (should you found alone, equity splits, etc.) and ends with Hires and Investors (Which hires to get onboard and which investor would best suit your goals). This is a perfect solution to the trial and error you'd have to go through to figure this information out.

In addition, the author references so many research articles it's unreal, and he always looks at both sides of an
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wasserman does a masterful job of explaining relational conflict in an understandable way. His concepts are simple enough to grasp and deep enough to encompass a wide variety of dynamic and stressful dilemmas. For those new to investor capital, he explains the structure well enough for context without unnecessary complication. This book is filled with relevant stories of wealth- and control-motivated founders and their decisions. In addition to the qualitative research, he has hard data analysis ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
A book which answers very well some questions entrepreneurs may have at the beginning of their journey. It is great to read it then to better understand the consequences of some early decisions on the later stages of a business.

I liked the examples backing up suggested resolutions - even though I felt they were very repetitive throughout. For a book talking about beginners' pitfalls however, I felt it ignored one of the most basic advice anyone can receive, which is the waste of time.

I found
Todd Benschneider
Good read, in depth analysis, valuable insight for understanding successful teams in entrepreneurship. The average consumer will probably be turned off by the uneeded academic vocabaulary used throughout the book. Many conclusions drawn from statistical data sets but the book will probably be well received in scholarly peer reviews. Book should have a disclaimer on the cover that you will need a GMAT verbal score in the top 5th percentile to comprehend what the author is trying to explain. I am ...more
Marty Hu
I found this book after reading a really interesting article by the author about rich vs king. This was a really big idea that helped my own company so I assumed I'd love the book. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The topics mostly covered what I already knew, that companies have a lot of people issues, and that those issues often tank a company before it gets momentum. That said I'd still check out the book if I was thinking about starting my first company, because what the author says it's ...more
Rich Maloy
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had the pleasure of seeing Noam speak at Techstars in Boulder, and I was deeply impressed by his research. If you are in the startup world, this is a must-read. Forget the link-bait articles and the CB Insights surveys that all say the same shit. The Founder's Dilemmas is based absolutely massive research, over many years. He's done this work not to get you to pay for a subscription, but to help founders understand the pitfalls of others in the hopes they can avoid repeating the mistakes. Go ...more
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book to induce thinking about founding a company.

The quantitative analysis is interesting and quite to the point. It becomes tedious to read after some point, but the book is short enough to complete before getting to dull with quant talks.

I appreciate and recommend reading the conclusion as an excellent summary of the whole book. The conclusion also scopes the book very well (North America, high-tech and life science domains), with warnings on generalizing the results too freely.
Scott Wozniak
This is a good book for founders of tech or life science companies who are planning to use investor funding. Yes, that's pretty specific. And if that's not you, probably not worth your time. But if it is you there is a wealth of case studies and principles to help you decide how to allocate equity, defining your role as a founder, etc. Ultimately, he focuses on the tension between being king (having control over the company) and being rich (making as much money as you can).
Sinan Hanay
Jul 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good but unnecessarily stretched

The good:
+must read for newbie entrepreneurs
+ good insights from real companies

The bad:
-unnecessarily long, and keeps repeating.
-boring, because it repeats itself. It should have focused on the stories of the companies.
- keeps digressing all the time with not so interesting academic numbers. Please give the bottomline, this is not an academic paper.

Tracy S
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-print
I think this would be a good book for someone who is considering starting a company. It will force you to think about a lot of issues that will inevitably come up. However, I did most things "right" during start-up (according to the book), but some of the issues I've encountered in the actual running of the business were not really addressed here. It was also very geared towards tech start-ups, so much of the information was irrelevant to my situation.
Yc Liao
Nice researches based on many cases in such a hard topic "Entrepreneurship". There are useful warnings in the book for business founders, though it more for a bigger corporation not the small business in my opinion. Not everyone will face the same issues, but it does provide guidance, insights that founders should be careful. Mainly based on cases in America, maybe not suitable for every culture such as in the far east there are concepts and motivations very different from the western world.
Muthu Arumugam
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s a must read for anyone working on startups where they are either founders or close to founders circle. It gives some facts about different issues you can anticipate so that either you resolve or anticipate. There is no right or wrong. It gets you to the node of resolving before it happens than to catch you with surprises. Don’t n Ed to read all sections but your relevant sections. Author talked a lot about 2-3 startups across the book. Still I felt happy reading it.
Les Trachtman
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Noam is the expert when it comes to founders and what makes them successful (or not). He is a pioneer in identifying the dilemmas that founders encounter and his writing is a "how to" for anyone considering founding or who has already founded a business. I've never met a founder who couldn't benefit from this book. Everything he has written is backed by extensive research. The facts speak for themselves.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development: A cheat sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany
  • Do More Faster: Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup
  • Venture Deals
  • Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster
  • The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
  • Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works
  • Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City
  • Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want
  • Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup
  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
  • UX for Lean Startups
  • Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-And Revolutionized an Industry
  • Startup CEO: How to Build a Company to Success
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
  • The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win
  • Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
  • Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love
  • Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model
See similar books…
“A friendship built on business can be glorious, while a business built on friendship can be murder.” 2 likes
“IT’S UNFORTUNATE BUT TRUE: IF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS A BATTLE, most casualties stem from friendly fire or self-inflicted wounds.” 2 likes
More quotes…