The Founder's Dilemmas
Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup
A guide to the early decisions that can make or break startup ventures
Often downplayed in the excitement of starting up a new business venture is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will face: should they go it alone, or bring in cofounders, hires, and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising venture lay the foundations for its eventual ruin. The Founder's Dilemmas is the first book to examine the early decisions by entrepreneurs that can make or break a startup and its team.
Drawing on a decade of research, Noam Wasserman reveals the common pitfalls founders face and how to avoid them. He looks at whether it is a good idea to cofound with friends or relatives, how and when to split the equity within the founding team, and how to recognize when a successful founder-CEO should exit or be fired. Wasserman explains how to anticipate, avoid, or recover from disastrous mistakes that can splinter a founding team, strip founders of control, and leave founders without a financial payoff for their hard work and innovative ideas. He highlights the need at each step to strike a careful balance between controlling the startup and attracting the best resources to grow it, and demonstrates why the easy short-term choice is often the most perilous in the long term.
The Founder's Dilemmas draws on the inside stories of founders like Evan Williams of Twitter and Tim Westergren of Pandora, while mining quantitative data on almost ten thousand founders.
People problems are the leading cause of failure in startups. This book offers solutions.
In this seminal work on the startup phase of the entrepreneurial venture, Harvard Business School professor Wasserman shares his findings from a decade of research on common issues faced by founders. The author not only addresses the traditional issues of entrepreneurship such as startup capital, equity agreements, and compensation, but also delves into human capital issues, tackling meaty topics, such as founder motivation, early influences, and the pros and cons of starting a business with a family member, significant other, or friends (as well as the probability of success under various scenarios). With a research-driven approach and scholarly tone, this hefty text escapes the tediousness that characterizes some academic works through the use of anecdotes about real-life founders, each very different, whose stories are woven through the chapters. Also peppered throughout are observations of such well-known entrepreneurs as Apple's Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and Microsoft's Paul Allen. Sure to be required reading in business school curricula, this illuminating and captivating read will also appeal to aspiring entrepreneurs or founders who want to make better decisions in existing ventures.