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Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days

Jessica Livingston · 14 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days" by Jessica Livingston.
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Amazon Summary
Founders at Work recounts the early struggles for independence and acceptance of many of modern technology’s giants, through personal interviews that are at times hilarious, at times painful, and always inspiring. As human-interest stories they will interest the same audience that enjoys reading about the Google founders in PEOPLE magazine. These stories are exceptionally interesting, because they're about the early stages, when the founders were younger and inexperienced. Most readers know startup founders only as confident millionaires. As novices trying to find their way by trial and error, they're more human, and easier for the reader to identify with.
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
It's so hard that the few people who can manage it earn billions of dollars. So don't expect an easy recipe for success.

The founding team needs someone who understands the technology very well, and can build at least a prototype themselves. They need to be good at identifying the best people to hire, convincing them to join, and motivating them to solve the important problems for the business. And they need to convince customers to start using a half-baked version 1 so they can get feedback and improve the product.

Founders At Work [] has good stories about how things really happened at several companies.

I agree strongly regarding the book recommendation; it’s a really really good book.
I really enjoyed this one in particular: Founders at Work (

Hey, look at that! It's by Jessica Livingston!

I'm a fan of that book too, and definitely provides some constructive anecdotes.

This said, it's a survey of largely succesful organisations - and focuses in the main on what people did right. This talk was about anti-patterns, that in many cases often led to unsuccessful startups (or at least put unnecessary bumps in the road).

I can completely empathize that it's hard to talk safely about other people's private failures, especially as an investor.

May 29, 2013 · aaronpk on How did you learn to code?
can be kept private. Ideally we can publish the results along with your name.

Think about this as questions that would end up in a book like Programmers at Work.

Well, we do have Coders at Work.

Nice try, netlink02-20.

Here's the link without a referal tag for anyone interested:

I recently started to collect some links off HN that had to do with business books that were somewhat more programmer friendly. Sadly, nothing that matches what you speak of (though that would be very cool!)

some books

Heres a big thread that had many suggestions:

A pretty fantastic book I just started reading is called: "Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days" and you can get it at

Gives you in the trenches advice via a unique interview style that really gets you into the mind of these guys when they were just starting.

I think the best way to learn about startups and funding is to hear what founders have to say. For this I recommend Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston, While this isn't specifically about funding, many of the founders talk about their funding experience, because this tends to be a painful part for many of them.

As mindcrime mentioned in his comment, Brad Feld's Venture Deals is a great book, though focused on raising from VCs.

Another great source is not books but YouTube. The "This week in venture capital" series is usually interesting. For example here is the most recent episode, with Naval Ravikant, co-founder of AngelList: This way you don't only learn about startups and funding, but also about key players in the industry. I'm in the habit of watching those videos daily as I work out on my elliptical trainer... As I learn about a certain investor / founder in one video, I search for more videos of them. Some are more interesting than others. For example Mark Andreesen is always a pleasure to listen to.

If you prefer reading, some interesting relevant bloggers are Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, Chris Dixon and Mark Suster.

I don't see this here yet, but I really enjoyed all of the stories in Founders at Work (

Not sure how helpful it will be, but it is definitely a source of inspiration, and also possibly examples of how things can work. Either way, once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.

The book is definitely worth a read.

I read it as a course book in an entrepreneurial course in the university and I liked it from the beginning. I read it all in 2 days...
I bet she's summarized her take somewhere. But she's also documented in detail how many "roads lead to Rome" (success):

"Founders At Work" by Jessica Livingston

[1] [2]

Thank you. I have that one already and it's top-notch.
read this and then decide for yourself.

My experience is that none of the self-help books ever did very much for me. This includes Steven Covey, Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Zig Zigler, the Secret, etc., etc., etc. Some were entertaining, but that was it. I understand that these books do help many people who need their messages; I'm just not one of them. I prefer books that inspire me and tell me what to do.

My favorites?

How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis.

Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout

Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

The 22 Immutable Rules of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Digitial Aboriginal by Mikela Tarlow and Philip Tarlow

and, of course

Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

Before you do anything else, go to and read all of the essays! I don't want to sound like a shill or hero worshipper for pg, but, understand, these essays are the very best thing out there for anyone on this forum. I am here because of the essays, not the other way around.

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