Review of “Founders at Work”

By the time I finished shutting down Objective Advantage in March, 2009, I was seriously burned out on the idea of entrepreneurship.  Starting a company is difficult.  Selling off the bits and shutting it down after 11+ years is tougher.  When I sat down and considered my future career path I really figured the only way forward was to go back and be an employee again – no more 70 hour work weeks, no more agonizing over the payroll and fewer sleepless nights.  Sure, I’d lose some freedom and some financial upside, but the tradeoffs seemed like a no-brainer.  I even turned down an opportunity to own a piece of a company that bought some of the IP from my former company and instead joined them as an employee.

Then I read “Founders at Work”, a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies.  As I read through the stories, the few embers left over from the fire that had kept me self-employed for almost 20 years started to glow hot again.   Each page felt like a personal conversation with one smart founder after another.  My old heroes with their garage-startup VC war stories were all there —  Steve Wozniak (Apple) and Dan Bricklin (Creator of VisiCalc) were two of my personal favorites.  There were also great stories from Web 2.0-style founders that self-funded their companies like Joel Spolsky of Fogcreek.  Every founder gave me a useful lesson.  Every founder reminded me of something I liked about startups.  By the end, the flame of entrepreneurship was burning hot in my gut once again.

How often do you find a book that inspires you?  If you have ever considered starting a company or even joining a startup, this book is a must read.  Just be careful; The inspiration, as Thomas Edison famously said, is only 1% of what it takes.

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