It’s basically lots of interviews with founders of companies that were once startups about what life was like in the early days.
The book’s blurb sells it well:
Founders at Work is a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days. These people are celebrities now. What was it like when they were just a couple friends with an idea? Founders…tell you in their own words about their surprising and often very funny discoveries as they learned how to build a company.
It’s an impressive list of people, too, including:
- Steve Wozniak, founder of Apple
- Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist
- Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr
- Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus
- Max Levchin, founder of PayPal
- Dan Bricklin, founder of Software Arts and creator of Visicalc (the first spreadsheet program)
There loads more too. What I like is the mix of new digital startups and some stories from earlier in the story of the technology based startup, particularly around the time of the birth of the personal computer and software industry.
Funnily enough, as I started typing this post, I got notification that Tim Dobson had written a book review post of this very tome! It’s well worth a read through his detailed notes, but his concluding paragraph sums the whole book up well:
As a book, it comes across as well written, and is full of genuinely interesting interviews. If you’re interested in the history, or how some of these companies and startups came into existence, or you’re interested in learning what people feel they did right… and wrong, then have a read through it.
What is always interesting to think about when reading this type of material is what those of us working in larger organisations can learn from startup culture and the way these scrappy little companies work.
A common theme of Founders at Work is the role that luck can play in the success of a startup. However, equally important is determination – a refusal to accept failure – and linked to that, flexibility – so when one route looks like it won’t work, pick another and have another go.