I am loving this new book that I picked up. Founders at Work, by Jessica Livingston, is a collection of interviews with the founders of some of the most famous technology startup companies. I am about 1/2 through the 472 pages, and my favorite stories so far have been about how Paypal and Hotmail got started. At the end of chapter 1, after reading the following quote by Max Levhin, I knew I had picked up a good read:
I think the hallmark of a really good entrepreneur is that you’re not really going to build one specific company. The goal – at least the way I think about entrepreneurship – is you realize one day that you can’t really work for anyone else. You have to start your own thing. It almost doesn’t matter what that thing is.
Yep, you could say that struck a cord with me! It has been interesting to hear the stories how some of these companies happened by accident. Hotmail for instance was started with a completely different context in mind, and then they needed a way to share emails and data while one of them were still at work … hence, webmail was born. It is also fascinating to hear about these brilliant teams of people that have come together, all with different skill sets, strengths, and weakness, and that is what helped them to succeed.
Having started at Iris Associates in 2001, it was interesting to hear about the “old days” from the words of Ray Ozzie. Having started just before IBM aquired Iris Associates, the original founders had already moved on, yet their names and stories continue to be spoken legend around Westford 5.
I am really enjoying the interview style format, where in each chapter Livingston talks with a founder from a different company. It makes it a quick read, and one that you can put down and come back to quite easily. I am getting a lot out of this book, overall. Not only is it inspiring to hear stories of these great successes, it is helpful to hear about the bumps in the road they hit as well, and to try to gain perspective from their experiences. Big Blue always placed much emphasis on its mentoring program, and this reads like an entrepreneur’s mentoring manual. Livingston asks the good questions, and I am soaking up as much as possible!