Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.

-Howard Aiken

This was quoted by Jessica Livingston in the introduction of Founders at Work: Stories of Startup’s Early Days, which I recently read (click here to read all my posts on this book).

I found this quote both humorous and fascinating and it makes me wonder how much truth there is to it.

I would guess that with early-stage technology, which the companies featured in Founders at Work were known for, terrific life-changing ideas would easily be dismissed by critics.

But in other situations, I would guess that the inventors’ and founders’ fear that someone might steal their idea isn’t that far off.

Another quote that got me thinking in this book was the idea that “Companies take shape based on the personality characteristics and human interaction characteristics of the founders” — Ray Ozzie said this in Chapter Seven but the idea was echoed throughout the book. Just one chapter back, in Chapter Six, Mitchell Kapor said, “These types of companies tend to reflect the personalities and interests of their founders. Microsoft is very much cast in Bill Gates’s images; and Apple, Steve Jobs; Borland, Phillippe Kahn.”

I wonder how accurate this observation is.

Anyway, lots to think about after having read this book. No interest in starting a tech company, even after reading the success stories from this book.

In case you’re curious, here’s the Table of Contents:

Foreword ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xiii

1 Max Levchin: Cofounder, PayPal 1
2 Sabeer Bhatia: Cofounder, Hotmail 17
3 Steve Wozniak: Cofounder, Apple Computer 31
4 Joe Kraus: Cofounder, Excite 61
5 Dan Bricklin: Cofounder, Software Arts 73
6 Mitchell Kapor: Cofounder, Lotus Development 89
7 Ray Ozzie: Cofounder, Iris Associates, Groove Networks 103
8 Evan Williams: Cofounder, Pyra Labs ( 111
9 Tim Brady: First Non-Founding Employee, Yahoo 127
10 Mike Lazaridis: Cofounder, Research In Motion 141
11 Arthur Van Hoff: Cofounder, Marimba 153
12 Paul Buchheit: Creator, Gmail 161
13 Steve Perlman: Cofounder, WebTV 173
14 Mike Ramsay: Cofounder, TiVo 191
15 Paul Graham: Cofounder, Viaweb 205
16 Joshua Schachter: Founder, 223
17 Mark Fletcher: Founder, ONElist, Bloglines 233
18 Craig Newmark: Founder, Craigslist 247
19 Caterina Fake: Cofounder, Flickr 257
20 Brewster Kahle: Founder, WAIS, Internet Archive, Alexa Internet 265
21 Charles Geschke: Cofounder, Adobe Systems 281
22 Ann Winblad: Cofounder, Open Systems, Hummer Winblad 297
23 David Heinmeier: Hansson Partner, 37 signals 309
24 Philip Greenspun: Cofounder, ArsDigita 317
25 Joel Spolsky: Cofounder, Fog Creek Software 345
26 Stephen Kaufer: Cofounder, TripAdvisor 361
27 James Hong: Cofounder, Hot or Not 377
28 James Currier: Founder, Tickle 387
29 Blake Ross: Creator, Firefox 395
30 Mena Trott: Cofounder, Six Apart 405
31 Bob Davis: Founder, Lycos 419
32 Ron Gruner: Cofounder Alliant Computer Systems; Founder, 427

Index 447

Don’t be surprised if I post about this book again. I might even buy myself a copy.


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