Book Review: Founder's at Work [Thumbs Down]

A couple of weeks ago, I finished up my second book of the year: Founder's at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston. I'll cut the crap and get right to it: this book is horrible. It paints an unrealistic picture of startups, and based on it's age, references older companies - many of which barely have an impact today. The book is full of interviews - back-and-forth with Livingston and the founder - that ask the same questions. And guess what? Many of the entrepreneurs have the same answers. I can sum this book up in one sentence:

You work your butt off, then you get funding, then you exit (with a lot of money).

It's pathetic. That's not true boostrapping, eat-ramen-for-every-meal entrepreneurship. The book is supposed to detail the first six months of the startup. It falls painfully short. I wanted stories, substance, and business lessons. It's hard to learn from people who, for lack of a better term, struck gold. Each founder made their millions - and many gloat about it.

Yes - I hated this book. Believe it or not, between the sleeping and snoring, I was able to learn something. Here's three quotes I enjoyed:

"Much better to figure out where the marketplace is going to be in a few years, focus on providing a solution to that, and let the market forces catch up to you." - Charles Geschke, Co-Founder of Adobe Systems

This quote affirmed why I'm building Gredio. I'm building a product many small food producers don't know they need quite yet. But, it will make their lives easier once they hear about it, and are educated on the benefits.

"I think there's something called BUGtrack. I don't know what they have, what their products are, what their price point it. I could research all that, but I can't think of a single thing I would do with that information." - Joel Spolsky, Co-Founder of Fog Creek Software

I'm always hesitant to spend 100+ hours doing research. When I launched my specialty food company, I looked at a grocery store shelf for about sixty seconds. Then I hit the kitchen to create my product line. I didn't care about price-point, packaging, and all of that. I cared about sending a product to market and listening to customers.

"I think the life of an entrepreneur is a life of setbacks, challenges, disappointments, and failures. It's not how you celebrate the successes, it's how you overcome the adversity and the hardship that determines how the business succeeds." - Bob Davis, Founder of Lycos

Pessimistic? Yes. Realistic? You bet. I'm on my fourth company, and if there's one thing I've learned, entrepreneurship is no vacation. There's rarely a sunny moment. To use my own analogy, entrepreneurship is how you weather the storm and dodge the raindrops.

So that's what I got from this book - not too much. If you do pick it up, read the section on Adobe Systems & Fog Creek Software. Those were the two company profiles I got the most out of.

Have you read Founders at Work? Have a different opinion? Let's discuss.