Recommending “The Founders Dilemmas” by Noam Wasserman

I’ve been recommending The Founder’s Dilemma by Noam Wasserman a lot these days. I like how Wasserman takes a his empirical study of 10,000-ish startups and looks for patterns.

The conclusion: People problems are the leading cause of failure in startups.

The patterns he focusses on are:

  • Career Dilemmas – Should I found? When? Why? With Whom?
  • Wealth vs Control Dilemmas – The finding that drives this is On average, the founders who keep the most control over their company make the least amount of money.
  • Founding Team Dilemmas – Solo vs Team? Friends? Roles? Rewards ( Equity Splits and Compensation), Hiring, Investors, CEO-Succession

Many of us have a few unique experiences in each of these areas, but none of us have this huge array of experiences. It is good to see that we’re not alone in our experiences and that there are other choices to make.

The Wealth vs Control Dilemma is a curious one to me. It really grabbed me when I read Eric Ries’ review of this book last year. It made me think of PMC-Sierra founder Greg Aasen right away. I always thought his “give up control” strategy was unique and only worked for him. But turns out, “it’s a thing”. A good “thing”.

The only “quibble” that I’ve found so far with this book is that “It’s not a practitioner book”. It’s a data driven study of startups. That’s not bad, just is what it is. How one chooses to “interpret” the data always creates some “tension”. It’s also “too logical”, if that makes any sense.

More Stuff

What Does Marketing Do? ( In Theory ) Make Selling Superfluous

Revisiting Drucker’s definition of Marketing — What Does Marketing Do? (Part 1) {2006}. Still Useful.

Here are the highlights.


Let’s start by referring to Drucker. We get the following definition from pages 20 & 21 in “Essential Drucker“.

There will always, one can assume, be the need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superflous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.

Here are some more supporting points from those pages:

  • Business has 2 basic functions: marketing and innovation.
  • Despite the emphasis on marketing and the marketing approach, marketing is still rhetoric rather than reality in far too many organizations.
  • True marketing does not ask, “What do we want to sell?”. It asks, “What does the customer want to buy?”
  • It does not say, “This is what our product or service does. It says, These are the satisfactions the customer is looking for, values, and needs.
  • Indeed, selling and marketing are antithetical rather than synonymous or even complementary.

Discussion — Overall, this is a very tall order.

How many products/services fit this bill? The product that comes to mind quickly is iPod. The iPod, and its ecosystem, illustrate just how difficult it is to get a product to sell itself. It’s iPod, iTunes Player, iTunes Store ( they solved legal DRM problem and got music industry on board), an O/S for multimedia, the CD ripper/burner, and more details. It’s taken ~ 5+ years to get going on all cylinders. It was obvious in the early years that people wanted music on the net ’cause Napster was such a huge thing. But making iPod mainstream, that is a work of pure genius (and loads of hard work). It was a good idea that was refined, refined, refined, and is still being refined. It’s like a non-stop loop of listen & react. ( I think the Japanese have a word for this “kaizen”)

Be Remarkable! ( Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” Still Rockin’ )

Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” Ted Talk is still “remarkable”.

I like how Seth starts with the no-brainer idea of “sliced bread”. Yup “Sliced Bread” sucked for 15 years, it was not an instant hit.

More On Purple Cow Book

He argues that the only way to cut the hyper-clutter of products and advertising today is to innovate something new, unique and remarkable – like a purple cow.

In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to just ignore the ordinary stuff. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. (via Seth)