Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days / Edition 1

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Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days 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 like Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal), and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail) tell you in their own words about their surprising and often very funny discoveries as they learned how to build a company.

Where did they get the ideas that made them rich? How did they convince investors to back them? What went wrong, and how did they recover?

Nearly all technical people have thought of one day starting or working for a startup. For them, this book is the closest you can come to being a fly on the wall at a successful startup, to learn how it's done.

But ultimately these interviews are required reading for anyone who wants to understand business, because startups are business reduced to its essence. The reason their founders become rich is that startups do what businesses do—create value—more intensively than almost any other part of the economy. How? What are the secrets that make successful startups so insanely productive? Read this book, and let the founders themselves tell you.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590597149
  • Publisher: Apress
  • Publication date: 1/26/2007
  • Edition description: 1st ed. 2007. Corr. 2nd printing 2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 500
  • Sales rank: 1,058,896
  • Product dimensions: 1.06 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Jessica Livingston is a founding partner at Y Combinator, a seed-stage venture firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Mountain View, California. She was previously vice president of marketing at investment bank Adams Harkness. In addition to her work with startups at Y Combinator, she organizes Startup School ( She has a bachelor's degree in English from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
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Table of Contents

Foreword ix Preface xi About the Author xiii Acknowledgments xv Introduction xvii Chapter 1 Max Levchin: PayPal 1 Chapter 2 Sabeer Bhatia: Hotmail 17 Chapter 3 Steve Wozniak: Apple Computer 31 Chapter 4 Joe Kraus: Excite 61 Chapter 5 Dan Bricklin: Software Arts 73 Chapter 6 Mitchell Kapor: Lotus Development 89 Chapter 7 Ray Ozzie: Iris Associates, Groove Networks 103 Chapter 8 Evan Williams: Pyra Labs ( 111 Chapter 9 Tim Brady: Yahoo 127 Chapter 10 Mike Lazaridis: Research In Motion 141 Chapter 11 Arthur van Hoff: Marimba 153 Chapter 12 Paul Buchheit: Gmai 161 Chapter 13 Steve Perlman: Web TV 173 Chapter 14 Mike Ramsay: TiVo 191 Chapter 15 Paul Graham: Viaweb 205 Chapter 16 Joshua Schachter: 223 Chapter 17 Mark Fletcher: ONElist, Bloglines 233 Chapter 18 Craig Newmark: craigslist 247 Chapter 19 Caterina Fake: Flickr 257 Chapter 20 Brewster Kahle: WAIS, Internet Archive, Alexa Internet 265 Chapter 21 Charles Geschke: Adobe Systems 281 Chapter 22 Ann Winblad: Open Systems, Hummer Winblad 297 Chapter 23 David Heinemeier Hansson: 37signals 309 Chapter 24 Philip Greenspun: ArsDigita 317 Chapter 25 Joel Spolsky: Fog Creek Software 345 Chapter 26 Stephen Kaufer: TripAdvisor 361 Chapter 27 James Hong: Hot or Not 377 Chapter 28 James Currier: Tickle 387 Chapter 29 Blake Ross: Firefox 395 Chapter 30 Mena Trott: Six Apart 405 Chapter 31 Bob Davis: Lycos 419 Chapter 32 Ron Gruner: Alliant Computer Systems, 427 Chapter 33 Jessica Livingston: Y Combinator 447 Index 455
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 21, 2010

    You too can have a good idea! TWC Student

    Anybody can have a good idea is the most important message one can get from reading Founders at Work. This book is a must read for anyone who has thought of starting a business from scratch, whether it be in IT or any other industry. If you ever thought the most successful founders were just lucky, you'll be amazed to know they had more than just luck. All these founders had confidence, unyielding determination, and passion. Great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2013

    Enjoyed it but have a few comments

    Having all these interviews in one place is inevitabely a great source of theoretical experience, wisdom, and inspiration. I enjoyed reading most of the experiences.

    However, it could get boring at times for those that are thinking of starting a startup that is not tech-related. I personally thought it would have more startups being a 500+ page book.

    Instead of going into the details of the technology, I would have preferred gking into the details of the business related problems they had.

    I was also expecting to read about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ... etc. I am not sure why the author did not interview these founders.

    Again, I enjoyed it and gave me a lot of insight.

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  • Posted November 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Human Resource Professionals - take note!

    Founders at Work is one of the most inspirational books I've read regarding entreprenurial technology startup companies. This book highlights the passion and perseverance of people like Tim Brady of Yahoo, Sabeer Bhatia, Cofounder of Hotmail and Steve Wozniak, Cofounder of Apple along with 29 other smart companies. These brief, well written personal interviews highlight the ups and downs of the rocky paths these brilliant people walked to see their ideas become a reality. Author Jessica Livingston does an excellent job captivating their personalities and bringing their stories to life through her questions.
    The guts and the glory of their stories are sure to encourage and inspire anyone interested in bringing a dream to fruition - the very least it will do is help you appreciate the many modern conveniences available because of a lot of hard work from these founders and their staffs. The stories detail how individuals got funding, the good and bad of dealing with Venture Capitalists and how companies became profitable even when surprisingly - many were not in it to become rich -only to develop something useful for themselves! Many of the stories relate about how painful and difficult it was when the companies grew. Besides being packed with interesting facts about how the companies began, this book should be read by all human resource professionals. Since this book deals with 32 of the most successful companies - many a lesson can be learned about what works and what doesn't when hiring people and forming a company culture. On page 131, Tim Brady of Yahoo remarks "We hired a lot of friends and friends of friends. You always hear, "Never go into business with friends. But with the first 20 hires everyone knew each other. Consequently there was a high level of trust."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2010

    Great ideas at work

    If you work in "Corporate America" you are familiar with how long it takes to get an idea or product off the ground. This book offers a fresh look at how many successful and some not so successful businesses got started. It is interesting to see how these entrepreneurs with a simple idea could expand and move forward to create profitable companies. A dream read for anyone with innovative ideas and wondering how to get it off the ground.
    The book is written in interview form so the answers are directly from the founders of companies. The interview format can be monotonous at times but there is great stuff if you stick with it. There is very helpful insight from a variety of "Founders at Work." Interesting.

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  • Posted November 21, 2010

    Fascinating read...

    I really enjoyed reading this book about the many Silicon Valley start-ups who flourished during the dot-com boom of 2000 (though the book's stories are not only limited to this period of time). Livingston does a great job interviewing the founders who share with her their successes and failures and all the challenges faced in between. It's a fascinating read if you are curious about entrepreneurship and the hard work it takes to create a company.

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  • Posted November 21, 2010

    Check it out

    I found the book interesting. To find out how startups "started" and the ups and downs they had, for example the Founders had problems with venture capitalists and some within the company itself. I liked a few of the startup founders, and disliked some as well. My favorite people were Steve Wozniak from Apple and another surprise was Craig Newmark from Craigslist. I had to read this book for a class but if I would have read it under a different circumstance with more time to go through it, I would have gotten more out of it. However, I do not regret reading the book; it's a great title for even the casual reader who wants to know more about how technological startups actually began.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2010


    This book is a great source for the individual going into IT or pursuing an IT start-up. I also feel there are some wonderful tips for those with an entrepreneur spirit. There are great tips to avoid failing as you go into business for yourself. If business and IT isn't one of your career goals, then search for the underlying commonality among each of these founders. I found that collaboration and teamwork was a common tool/skill that each of these founders had, because they made it with the help of others, and didn't go at it alone. Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe Systems gives this word of advice for someone wanting to do a start-up. He says "if you aren't passionate about what you are going to do, don't do it. Work smart and not long, because you need to preserve all of your life, not just your work life." The down side to this book would be the IT language the founders speak in their interviews. If IT isn't your area of expertise, then some of these interviews can clearly go over your head, and it makes for a hard read. It would have been helpful if Jessica Livingston would have included a "Terms to Know" guide in the introduction, and this would have prepared some readers of the verbiage used in the interviews.

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  • Posted November 20, 2010

    Interesting and informative

    This is a very interesting book that contains lots of helpful information about what it is like to found a startup technology company. Livingston interviews founders of some very famous startups and some not so famous startups and each one has insight into what it takes to run a successful business. She asks pointed questions about not only the good parts of founding a business but the difficult parts as well. Some of the interviews are more interesting than others; in particular I liked : Max Levchin (PayPal) Steve Wozniak (Apple) Paul Bucheit (Gmail) Mike Ramsay (TiVo) Mike Lazaridis (Research In Motion) Caterina Fake (Flickr) Joel Spolsky (Fog Creek Software) I read this book as a textbook for a course I was taking so after awhile, I did get a little tired of the same interview questions and I did not enjoy the last chapter which is an interview with the author herself, it just felt strange to me to have that at the end of the book. I did learn some important lessons about running a business: 1. It is important to be flexible (many founders started with a different idea than what their finished product was and how they got to that point was very interesting). 2. The importance of a good team, if you don't have good team members or people you trust, it can ruin your business. 3. Think ahead of the curve - the ability to see future trends/needs is what will make you successful 4. Build a quality product and listen to your customers - your business success hinges on this. It is a very informative book it is amazing how far technology has come in the years since this book was written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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