The Founder’s Dilemmas Book Summary - The Founder’s Dilemmas Book explained in key points
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Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls that Can Sink a Start-Up

4.2 (72 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

"The Founder's Dilemmas" by Noam Wasserman explores the challenges that entrepreneurs face when starting a company, including personal conflicts and team dynamics. It offers insights and solutions to navigate these obstacles and build a successful business.

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    The Founder’s Dilemmas
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    Entrepreneurs are motivated to strike out on their own to achieve power, influence and autonomy.

    Different things motivate different people. For some it’s prestige, while for others, it’s financial gain or autonomy.

    So what’s the difference between someone who wants a career and someone who wants to be an entrepreneur? While employees or career-oriented people find it challenging to give up a steady job and start a business, entrepreneurs find it hard to conform to desk life, and thrive on the risk and challenge of doing their own thing.

    A difference of motivation is really what separates these two worlds. For career people, security, prestige, financial gain and affiliation are the top four motivations. For male entrepreneurs, financial gain and control – in the form of power, influence, autonomy and managing people – are what moves them.

    Such motivations are expressed in interesting ways. The male founder of Blogger, Evan Williams, knew that his main motivations were power and autonomy. So much so that he turned down a buy-out offer worth millions of dollars, just so he could retain control of his company.

    Similarly, the female founder of Sittercity, Genevieve Thiers, was working at IBM in her 20s when she realized she felt stifled, like a cog in a machine. Realizing that autonomy and influence were what she craved, she quit her job to start her own company.

    Interestingly, the top motivations for female entrepreneurs are mostly the same as they are for male entrepreneurs: autonomy, power, influence, managing people and altruism. Note, though, the addition of altruism and the fact that financial gain has left the list. For female career people, in contrast, the top four motivations are recognition, affiliation, security and lifestyle.

    The first step toward becoming a successful entrepreneur is looking at yourself and defining your motivations. Have you figured out whether you have an entrepreneurial character? If so, read on.

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    What is The Founder’s Dilemmas about?

    The Founder’s Dilemmas (2013) reveals exactly what it takes to become the founder of a start-up company. Drawn from the author’s research and case studies, this step-by-step guide will help you navigate the rough waters of your company’s early stages.

    The Founder’s Dilemmas Review

    The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman is a fascinating exploration of the challenges faced by startup founders and the decisions they must make. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with real-life stories and extensive research, it offers valuable insights into the choices founders encounter and their long-term effects.
    • By uncovering common pitfalls and providing strategies for overcoming them, the book equips entrepreneurs with the knowledge to navigate their own dilemmas.
    • Its detailed analysis of founder dynamics and the impact on the success of a venture keeps readers engaged, ensuring that the book is anything but boring.

    Best quote from The Founder’s Dilemmas

    Employees of small companies are more likely than employees of large companies to leave and become founders of their own companies.

    —Noam Wasserman
    example alt text

    Who should read The Founder’s Dilemmas?

    • Budding entrepreneurs ready to start a new business
    • Experienced business owners ready for a new challenge
    • Investors looking for advice on evaluating start-up companies

    About the Author

    Noam Wasserman is a professor at Harvard Business School. He won the Academy of Management’s Innovation in Pedagogy award in 2010 for the course he taught based on The Founder’s Dilemmas. It was also named one of the top entrepreneurship courses in the country by Inc. Magazine in 2011.

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    The Founder’s Dilemmas FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Founder’s Dilemmas?

    The main message of The Founder’s Dilemmas is that founders face various challenges that can impact the success of their startups.

    How long does it take to read The Founder’s Dilemmas?

    The reading time for The Founder’s Dilemmas can vary, but it generally takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Founder’s Dilemmas a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Founder’s Dilemmas is worth reading as it provides valuable insights into the dilemmas faced by founders and offers practical advice for navigating them.

    Who is the author of The Founder’s Dilemmas?

    The author of The Founder’s Dilemmas is Noam Wasserman.

    What to read after The Founder’s Dilemmas?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Founder’s Dilemmas, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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