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The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup Hardcover – Mar 25 2012


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The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup + The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company + The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 25 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691149135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691149134
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 816 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #100,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While The Founder's Dilemmas is based on a sexy but narrow subset of start-ups (healthcare/biotech and tech), it offers great insights into the potential consequences of choosing either available path to take when an entrepreneur faces anyone of the numerous forks along the road to start-up success. Having been a successful co-founder and CEO of a VC backed biotech, I learned a lot from this book and I think you will too, which is why I am happy to recommended to current and prospective entrepreneurs in high potential ventures. After you read this book, it will help you see the foggy road to start-up success a whole lot clearer!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Is helping us deal with issues that friends tend to gloss over in the early days of startups. Wish I had read it before my last startup.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 75 reviews
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Not Your Typical Book of Start-Up War Stories March 17 2012
By Jeff Bussgang - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Noam Wasserman teaches a class called "Founder's Dilemmas" at Harvard Business School that has become a "must-take" session for aspiring entrepreneurs. This book is the outgrowth of Noam's research and that class. It outlines a series of make-or-break decisions that founders make when embarking on their ventures. Noam analyzes the fundamental trade-offs such as when to found a company, who to found it with (if anyone), how to determine roles and responsibilities, equity splits and many more sensitive issues.

This is a serious book for a serious endeavor: creating a company from scratch that can be a world-beater and life-changer. Analytical, insightful and even a bit wonky at times, Wasserman's story arc is less about war stories - although the books is chock full of them, featuring the founders of Twitter, Pandora and others - and more about the decision tree every founder must climb. Rather than having these decisions happen by chance, Wasserman's book is a towering guide to making these decisions thoughtfully and purposefully.

Every founder should read it - and take the time to digest its rich data and lessons.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Moneyball for Entrepreneurship March 16 2012
By F. Nazeeri - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
What I like most about this book is the hard analytical analysis of the key decisions that a founder faces when launching a new venture. I read a lot of books on entrepreneurship and none come close to this in terms of quantitative detail to back up key recommendations. That alone would make it a great book, but Wasserman also addresses the softer, qualitative side of entrepreneurship and shows how it fits into the big picture.

I think you'll find that Founder's Dilemmas is an incredibly valuable addition to the literature on entrepreneurship that you will find yourself referencing on a regular basis whether you're a founder, early employee, investor, business person, government official or just overall fan of entrepreneurs.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Finally! A startup book based on actual research! March 16 2012
By Daniel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As an entrepreneur, I read a ton of books about startups. Most of them are pretty entertaining, but I've always felt hesitant actually implementing any of what I read. For the most part, the advice tends to be something along the lines of "I started this company when I was 14 with $50, and now's it's a $1bn company and here's how I did it- you should do the same." Umm, yeah, but does that apply to MY startup?

The Founder's Dilemma's is different. By drawing on some serious research (serious, like, crazy 10-year datasets on entrepreneurs and their companies), Wasserman identifies the key "decision points" any startup faces and then proposes different solutions. Two of my favorite "dilemmas" were 1. How should I split equity with my co-founders? and 2. Should I even have a co-founder?
These are interesting questions, but you can really bank on the proposed solutions because they're based on empirical data. Very few startup books I've read go this far.

This is definitely a lengthy book that requires a decent time investment, but after reading all the one-liners in tech blogs and exaggerated advice other startup books, reading this was super refreshing and just amazingly helpful. Founders, don't miss out!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I've been teaching this material for years, and it is great March 16 2012
By Not a Kansan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I've been teaching Noam's material at the MBA level for a couple of years now. The course is very popular because it addresses some of the key issues students - or any founders - face when starting a company. It seems that most of what is written is about how to build a business plan, how to choose a business model, etc. But this book is all about the TEAM.

Of course there is no shorter of bloggers and ex-entrepreneurs who will tell you their opinion, or their personal story, of what they think should work. What Noam has done here is conducted real research to get beyond anecdotes and case studies to more general patterns. But he introduces the topics with familiar examples that set the stage for the quantitative analysis.

What I think is most important about this book is the blind spots it identifies. Too many entrepreneurs give these issues short shrift until it is too late - until they have painted themselves into a corner. I'm quite sure this will be required reading!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Extraordinary Book About The Dilemmas Founder's Face May 6 2012
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Founder's Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman is another book that belongs on every entrepreneur's bookshelf. It's excellent.

I met Noam for the first time last week when I was at HBS. I was on a panel of VCs (me, Mike Maples Jr., Kate Mitchell, and David Frankel) talking to a room full of HBS alumni who are VCs. Noam and I had exchanged several emails over the past few months and he sent me a review copy of the book but it got lost in my infinite pile of books to read. After seeing him and talking to him briefly, I decided to put it on the top of the stack. I laid on the couch all day yesterday with Amy and the dogs and demolished a pair of books. The Founder's Dilemmas was the first.

I get asked endless questions about founder dynamics, solo founders, optimal number of founders, equity allocations between founders, roles of founders, alignment between founders, and investor - founder relationships. I've been involved in many conflicts between founders, transition in roles between founders, emotional struggles with founders as businesses grow and change, investor conflicts (other than me) with founders, and the list goes on and on and on.

I've never seen a book before that was particularly helpful - to a founder - about the wide range of issues a founder will face. There are plenty of books lots with stories, anecdotes, and suggestions, but none that are particularly systematic about going through all of the issues. Noam's book is the first I've read - and he totally nails it.

He covers it three ways - with data, with analysis, and with stories. He's done a ten year quantitative study that he follows up with his own analysis and then intermixes this with actual stories from a set of founders, including two that I know reasonably well - Dick Costolo (FeedBurner - I was on the board), Genevieve Thiers (Sittercity - we looked hard at investing but ultimately didn't) and many I know from a distance. As a result, I was able to back test the stories and anecdotes and they were completely factual in contrast to many other books like this where the qualitative stories are embellished to fit either the ego of the participants or the point being made by the author.

Noam systematically marches through all of the major dilemmas I could think of for founders: career, solo-vs-team, relationship, role, reward, hiring, investor, failure-vs-success, founder-CEO succession, and wealth-vs-control. I believe he'll coin several new reference phrases, including my favorite around wealth-vs-control ("do you want to be king or want to be rich?") He looks at each of these from all sides (e.g. yes - you can be king and rich, but there are other options that may get you where you want to go faster and with a much higher chance of success) and uses a great blend of data, analysis, and anecdote to make and support his points.

If you are a founder, or considering being a founder, a board member, or an investor, buy The Founder's Dilemmas right now. One of your goals should be to do everything you can to maximize your chance of success. This book will help a lot and you won't regret the time you invest in it.

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