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Founders at Work

This book is a collection of 32 interviews with founders of IT startups. The interviewer is Jessica Livingston who herself is a founding partner of Y-Combinator. The interviewees are:

  1. Max Levchin (Paypal)
  2. Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail)
  3. Steve Wozniak (Apple Computer)
  4. Joe Kraus (Excite)
  5. Dan Bricklin (Software Arts)
  6. Mitchell Kapor (Lotus Development)
  7. Ray Ozzie (Iris Associates, Groove Networks)
  8. Evan Williams (Pyra Labs – Blogger.com)
  9. Tim Brady (Yahoo)
  10. Mike Lazaridis (Research in Motion)
  11. Arthur Van Hoff (Marimba)
  12. Paul Buchheit (Gmail)
  13. Steve Perlman (WebTV)
  14. Mike Ramsay (TiVo)
  15. Paul Graham (Viaweb)
  16. Joshua Schachter (del.icio.us)
  17. Mark Fletcher (ONEList, Bloglines)
  18. Craig Newmark (craigslist)
  19. Caterina Fake (Flickr)
  20. Brewster Kahle (WAIS, Internet Archive, Alexa Internet)
  21. Charles Geschke (Adobe Systems)
  22. Ann Winblad (Open Systems, Hummer Winblad)
  23. David Heinemeier Hansson (37signals)
  24. Philip Greenspun (ArsDigita)
  25. Joel Spolsky (Fog Creek Software)
  26. Stephen Kauffer (TripAdvisor)
  27. James Hong (Hot or Not)
  28. James Currier (Tickle)
  29. Blake Ross (Firefox)
  30. Mena Trott (Six Apart)
  31. Bob Davis (Lycos)
  32. Ron Gruner (Alliant Computer Systems, Shareholder.com)

Most of the interviews follow this line:

  • Getting started.
  • Interactions with VCs.
  • Some of the more intense moments.
  • Turning Points.
  • Things that were surprising.
  • Felt like quiting at any time ?
  • Advice for people looking to start a startup.

Most of the interviews were good, a few were boring and a few came out to be outstanding. I dont want to specify which ones bored because you will be prejudiced in case you are planning to read it. The interviews I found most interesting were the ones with Steve Wozniak, Dan Bricklin, Mitchell Kapor, Craig Newmakr, Charles Geschke, Philip Greenspun, Joel Spolsky and Blake Ross.

Most of these startups had more than one founder and they all swear it would have been impossible to do it alone. There were one man shows also, albeit few. Another interesting fact is that most of these people knew each other during their college period or previous jobs. It makes one wonder whether you need to be in an elite circle to rise above the ordinary.Many of these founders came from Stanford or MIT and several of them previously worked at HP. It seems that HP used to be the ultimate dream company for engineers.

Another fact which might not surprise you is that most founders were young when they cut all the safety ropes at went for it. This shouldnt be surprising because that is the time when you have boundless energy and you dont have a family to take care of so there is less risk. Ofcourse there are exceptions to the young founder phenomenon, but very few.

In the interview with Blake Ross he talks about his new company called Parakey which was developing a new application which was under cover at the time of the interview. It turns out that they were developing an application platform for web and desktop – providing applications the framework to work online and offline. Parakey was bought by Facebook recently.

This book follows the style of a 1986 book from Microsoft Press called Programmers at Work. Interestingly Dan Bricklin and Ray Ozzie are interviewed in that book also.

My rating 8/10.

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