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What to Read: Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston, a Review by Jay Troutman

October 01, 2013
What to Read
Jay Troutman

If you are a founder or were part of a startup you will identify with this book – like a reunion with a good friend.  If you are in the midst of a startup, you will meet others that have been in your place. Your story might be in a future edition of Founders at Work.

I like stories, case studies, hearing about someone’s experience when they created, built and birthed something significant – before it was obvious.  These are their stories, before they were acquired, went public and became household names.

It is a great read – a collection of 32 interviews with the founders of some of our most successful technology companies. The interviews are a treasure, 10-15 pages each, done skillfully by entrepreneur and author Jessica Livingston.  You can pick and choose (about 30 minutes each) or just enjoy them all. The stories are packed with history, insights and lessons for anyone in business.  

If you read books by certain authors because of their writing style, this collection falls outside that template. Each interview reflects the style of the founder. The questions asked and topics developed are often similar but the answers are conversational and more varied than a book written by any one author with a consistent writing style.

I started with TripAdvisor, loved it, and found something of value in every story I read. With names like Apple, CRAIGSLIST, PayPal, Gmail, TiVo, Flickr and Six Apart (to name a few), there is an interesting range of selections. Even the less familiar names will expand your appreciation of our technology landscape and the pioneers who shaped it.

With a book like this I tend to graze rather than read front to back. Each vignette stands on its own. If you don’t take an interest in one, move on to another – a nice feature when reading a packed 450-page book.  

These first-hand interviews with the founders will take you through the most productive and creative periods in their history. It is often a very different picture than you will find in future chronicles of them as more established businesses. These are unique snapshots, meant to be enjoyed, shared and digested. Most will engender appreciation for the founders.

There are only a small number of people who have lived and experienced what happens in those early months of our most successful startups – these are their stories. We can all learn something from Founders at Work.

Click here to view this article in the digital edition of Hospitality Upgrade .

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