Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days

Everyone has thought of it: How do I start my business successfully? And how has it been done in the past? Have multi-million entrepreneurs ever undergone the start-up journey? In this amazing book by Jessica Livingston, we get to hear the intimate stories of start-up founders and how the journey was for them to get to their millionaire status with firms that employ thousands of employees. From big names such as Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail), Max Levchin (PayPal), and Mitch Kapor (Lotus), we get an inside look at the intricacies of starting a business and watching it grow through all stages- sometimes to levels that they had not anticipated. In simple terms, this is a memoir for all entrepreneurs to take a leap of faith, and who knows, they might ultimately become the next big thing.

This book, published in 2001, has sometimes been referred to as the ‘Entrepreneur bible’ because of just how much impact it has had on different individuals all over the world. It is one of those books that gets you pumped up for your next big business. As an entrepreneur or an aspiring entrepreneur, I would recommend you reading this book before you begin your business. Either way, if you have already kickstarted the business, this is still an ideal place to draw insights from if you want your business to ever be a Billion Dollar Company. There are a few things that stood out for me from the entire book that seems to have cut across all experiences of this millionaire businesspeople and are probably the reasons why this book is a best seller.

  1. Rejection is a must

We have probably heard it before and taken it for granted but all great ideas were at some point rejected. Even these big business names were rejected several times as start-ups. It is amazing just how much investors can be blind to a brilliant idea and this is one of the most reverberated aspects of this book across all the multiple testimonies by the billionaire businessmen interviewed. Therefore, do not expect a smooth sail as a businessman. You will be rejected often, and this book does emphasize it.

2. Perseverance separates the chaff

Another key issue that is highlighted in this book is the need to persevere while you are starting out in your entrepreneurship journey. Most of the testimonials from these billionaire entrepreneurs emphasize on the high probability of almost losing all hope. However, the book reminds us, through the interviews, that when you want to give is, is probably the time you are closest to success. As an entrepreneur, Founders at Work reminds us that you can never really succeed in business if you give up way too easily. The sail is not smooth.

3. Most work happens in the beginning

In all the greatest entrepreneur stories, the founders testify to spending sleepless nights and working sometimes above 20 hours a day. When the business starts in a dorm room or even a tiny office and there are only 3 employees, that is when the work is the most. Compared to a multi conglomerate with 1,000 employees, start-ups have single individuals managing entire departments. Therefore, Founders at Work reminds us that more than just the fancy we see after companies succeed, there is the hard work stage often characterized by exhausted by ambitious individuals.

This great gem by first-time author Jessica Livingston uses one of the most creative ways to get the message home. If you want to understand the entrepreneur journey, what better way to do it than to read words from the horse’s mouth.