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Book Review: 'The Founder's Dilemmas' by Noam Wasserman

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Noam Wasserman is a professor of entrepreneurship at Harvard Business School. His seminal book on entrepreneurship, The Founder’s Dilemmas explores the type and kind of decisions that entrepreneurs have to take to succeed. Starting a new business is a tall task where one finds themselves dealing with a lot of questions on how to go about it, who to do it with, how to bring in others on the journey, and what sorts of people to hire and so on. Navigating such questions essentially makes or breaks a startup. Wasserman studies the common challenges and questions founders face and identifies ways to address them so founders get the best head start, and means to power through towards a success story. Wasserman draws from real examples, such as from Twitter to Pandora, and organizes thoughts based on looking at some 10,000 founders.

Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas explores the decision-making scenarios founders face at each stage of their ventures. One of the issues being the many available options or choices to pick from, which can be daunting. These decisions and choices determine short and long-term implications for the success of the startup. This book offers solutions on how to go about making the right choices, serving as a useful guide for every entrepreneurial aspirant or business owner.

Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas looks into control as a key paradox that entrepreneurs face. Founders are often faced with the dilemma of who is, or gets to be, in control. Is it the founder or the investor? Wasserman’s book uncovers the means to balance this conflicting relationship of power control. Subjects like the art of negotiation and how to make strategic decisions such that the parties involved can find themselves feeling like they’re in control of the startup story that unfolds.

Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas explores the difference between what a career is and what their calling as entrepreneurs are. There are different sets of motivations between these two scopes of interest. Founders are caught between these two scopes of interest as a matter of aspiration versus risk. Founders are faced with the dilemma of finding autonomy and financial success, but the path of founding a company comes with a lot of risk, uncertainty and failures. Wasserman helps readers understand this psychological dilemma and offers solutions to manage the two scopes of interest with the best intention: to script the path to success. 

Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas looks at the decision founders have to take to think about their hiring strategy. What are the strategies to assemble the right type of founders, and what sort of conflicts and challenges that come from having different individuals come together to create a new company that needs to be considered. Forming a team is a complicated process because it has to deal with all sorts of dilemmas: cultural fit, psychological fit, similar or lateral visions, equity allocation, roles and positions, personal relationships and other dynamics are extremely hard to navigate. Wasserman offers case studies and examples to enumerate how to establish a team that works in an aligned, cohesive way, setting up for long-term success.

Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas brings entrepreneurs to tackle the big question of equity allocation, which is often a complex discussion. Founders, between themselves, and amongst investors, often find themselves in conflict with the issue of splitting shares in equity, power dynamics and management, control and strategy.  Wasserman’s book provides a valuable framework for entrepreneurs to navigate the fundamental issue of how to allocate equity and deal with power dynamics, which is a critical aspect in the management of a startup.

Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas highlights the challenges and barriers that come with hiring the right people, especially because people make a company. Making the right strategic decisions with hiring and firing people is essential in the early-stages of a company foundation because it determines the future of a company. Talent management is a fundamental dilemma startup founders face, and Wasserman offers strategies to help establish good talent, and ways to retain them in the long-run.

Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas also analyses the critical dilemma of conflict resolution between founders and investors. Lots of disagreements tend to occur in the realm of finance and accounting. Different types of investors subscribe to different types of maximizing strategies in the split and approach of funds. Lots of debates, strategic implications and trade-off discussions underpin the formation and evolution of a startup. Wasserman’s book provides real-life examples and frameworks for entrepreneurs to tackle such challenges.

The question of when to pivot, evolve, or keep persisting is a fundamental strategic dilemma entrepreneurs face. Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas looks into the list of factors and criteria that help entrepreneurs anticipate issues and navigate challenges accordingly. The book offers several ways to mitigate the strategic impact at every stage.

Noam Wasserman’snThe Founder’s Dilemmas is a great read that covers the ground on all the questions and dilemmas the entrepreneurs typically face, from early to growth to exit stage. It looks into addressing fundamental dilemmas pertaining to issues as wide as team building, raising capital, product development, equity allocation, investor conflict management, competitive challenges, exit strategies, IPO sale, and ways to increase the chances of success at every stage. Get your copy here:



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