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  • Writer's pictureBusiness Books New Curator

Book Review: 'Founders at Work' by Jessica Livingston

Updated: Mar 29

Get your copy here: Jessica Livingston’s Founders at Work is a book that looks into the essence of startups, from the point of view of their founders. It looks at the power of delivering value as a means for startup founders to find their ground. Livingston looks into a range of startup founders: Apple’s Steve Wozniak, Flickr’s Caterina Fake, Lotus’ Mitch Kapor, PayPal’s Max Levchin, Hotmail’s Sabeer Bhatia and so on. She finds interesting and surprising stories that have influenced the foundation of these startups. Such as, what was the first idea, how did they go about pitching it to investors, how did they convince investors to show interest, back them with personal and professional support, the things that went wrong along the way and how they managed to recover and keep it.

This is a book that inspires all sorts of people, and especially entreprenuers and technical people, whose passions and ideas can lead to the founding of startups. It goes into the stories and mechanics of starting and setting up a startup from ideas to execution and all the selling in between. It’s a book that inspires people to get a grip on how startups are put together, from scratch, for a simple idea. And to get a strong basic understanding on business, and on how businesses create value and achieve success strategically and financially. It brings the stories from the founders point of view, so it’s a real guide.

Livingston’s Founders at Work takes readers on an inspiring journey, through the lives of startup founders, shedding light on their personal stories that each of us can relate with. These stories connect with us in such a way they give readers a lot of hope and aspiration. Livingston presents a variety of interviews that delves deeply in the founding scenarios, on the trials and triumphs and the lessons learnt along the way. It’s a great overview on starter stories.

Livingston’s Founders at Work is a refreshing read, start to finish, as it contains personal experiences that give readers a real glimpse into how things began, the frustrations and real life challenges that founders faced at each stage, and how they made it through. 

Livingston’s Founders at Work spotlights the power of determination. The act of keeping at it, from the early days of struggle, conceptual stages, product testing, securing funding, managing the product execution to scaling the business. These stories, by stages, give readers a good grip into why perseverance is a driving factor in successful business startups, and that it’s available as a resource for each of us to tap into with will.

Livingston’s Founders at Work is a book that considers the human factor. Entrepreneurship can seem daunting and slightly machine-like because of the tasks at hand. But Livingston, by looking at the personal lives of founders, brings out real motivations and human sacrifices that inspire readers to put themselves in their shoes, and join along on the spirit of human endeavor. She humanizes these individuals and explains the real issues and hopes they went through to manage the course. So the book feels very genuine in how it expresses the journey startup founders take to pursue their dreams, and is something for the rest of us to be inspired by.

Livingston’s Founders at Work highlights the power of community and mentorship as an ingredient for startup success. In looking into these founders, one theme remains: most startup founders have someone to lean on, and take advice from. They find support from mentors or even other entrepreneurs with some form of experience and perspective as a guiding force. Building a network around people with similar enthusiasm, and like-minded professionals, she suggests, is a great way for startup founders to draw insight, inspiration and support. 

Livingston’s Founders at Work is compelling in her wide range of interviews and stories presented. She gives a good range of diverse entrepreneurs who come from all walks of life, with all sorts of educational backgrounds, financial situations. By considering such a broad variety of founder stories, and their variety of passions, enthusiasm and life situations, the book is a good read for every type of entrepreneurial aspirant or a potential business owner.

Livingston’s Founders at Work also touches on a key element of business success: failure. A lot of entrepreneurs, in dealing with challenges along the way, have to consider and pivot accordingly to manage failure. In many cases, only after failing a few times, will success be achieved. This isn’t something to be bogged down by, but Livingston’s stories offer pragmatic truths about starting and succeeding as a startup founder, without making readers feel things are out of hand. She explains that failures are part of the story, and that without failure, there is no success and people have to see failure as a stabilizer or a springboard, not a dampener. 

Livingston’s Founders at Work also touches on the new legs that technology allows, which enhances and fast tracks the propensity to succeed as a startup founder in today’s world. She brings the observation that technology isn’t just a means to find solutions for many unmet modern needs, but that with technology, creating and scaling products and services are a lot easier than it was in the past, allowing entrepreneurs to consider a whole world of interesting possibilities and opportunities to tap into. 

Livingston’s Founders at Work offers a lot of practical advice that entrepreneurs can take, at any stage of their journey. Whether that is at the beginning, when looking at which market to target, all the way to maintaining effective leadership, to staying focussed and inspired. It’s a book that anyone can read, and come out wanting to make a mark on the work. To start their own business today. It’s a book not just for entrepreneurs, but for anyone interested in technology, and using it as means to make something, and take it to the wider world. This book helps readers draw from their underlying motivations, while giving them the confidence and tools to consider starting their own business. Get your copy here:



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