This is a slight update of the review I wrote on Amazon.com. Full disclosure, I own the book, I paid for it and I don’t get anything for praising it. Having said that I’m going to make a strong case that indeed everyone reading this blog post should go read this book. Prof. Wasserman’s book on Founder’s dilemmas is a must read for every aspiring entrepreneur. And by that I do mean every single aspiring entrepreneur. For full disclosure I am an entrepreneur in the biotech industry and have lived many of the choices than dilemmas that Prof. Wasserman has described. I so wish it would have been available earlier to me and my fellow founders. It certainly would have reduced the stress reduce the number of difficult choices we have had to make.
The book is both comprehensive as well as a true reflection of the early start-up world from the human perspective. Nine times out of ten, the “technology” or the “market” or just the “idea” are at the center of the entrepreneurs mind, while the most important, in fact the first and pivotal piece of the puzzle receives too far attention – the founder. No founder is looking further ahead than 3, 6, 9 or 12 months – early stage ventures are simply in too tumultuous a stage of development for that. Furthermore rarely do they think about the strategic interpersonal issues that are so often overlooked – I know I didn’t. But they should. And this book provides an approach that structures the thought process.
Prof. Wasserman has done what few people (certainly not stressed entrepreneurs) could have done: he’s asked the meta questions. Not to sound philosophical but it’s a tough question to ask “why do we do what we do”, and “what do we want [to achieve]“. Even constricted to the startup space it’s still a momentous question to answer but taking a data-centric approach has crystallized at least a framework within which Prof. Wasserman goes about exploring the motivations behind the people. That’s what it’s really about. What do the people (the founders) want?
The power of the framework lies in it’s simplicity: you can be either rich, or you can be in control of your venture, almost never both, notable exceptions notwithstanding.
That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.
Few founders I have spoken to, have had that clear a framework in mind, much less have been able to articulate it (myself included). Eventually one comes to a realization of what it is that one wants, but often than not, one is in a situation that is suboptimal, and could have been solved better if those motivations / questions were properly known and answered.
This is truly a book written for founders. Before jumping in, while jumping in, in between startups or just because you’re curious, read this book!
As an added bonus, Prof. Wasserman was kind enough to lend me his ear for an hour, and I proceeded to proselytize about the differences in Biotech startups versus others. I’d love to in the future see some more detailed analysis of the different (or maybe exacerbated) problems facing biotech founders, who tend to be overwhelmingly academics.
As always feel free to comment and discuss!