le 23 avril 2014
Ben Horowitz is a very well known name in the Silicone Valley circles. A veteran of tech industry and a very successful entrepreneur, Horowitz is a cofounder of Andreesen-Horowitz, one of the most dynamic and successful high-tech venture capital firms. Those credentials, impressive as they are, would not in-and-of themselves distinguished Horowitz in the place that is teeming with incredibly talented and incredibly successful individuals. What really makes Horowitz one of the most admired figures in the world of high-tech startups are his unique willingness and ability to share the hard-earned insights from his experiences with others who are embarking upon the same path of building a successful company. For many years Horowitz has shared many of those insights via his blog. In “The Hard Thing About The Hard Things” he’s distilled some of those insights into an engaging and extremely informative book.
Writing a blog may seem like a great way of accumulating enough material for a book: you write when the fancy strikes you, you don’t have any writing deadlines to deal with, you don’t have to worry about the stricture of the written material, you get immediate and ongoing feedback from your readers which can help you correct and refine your ideas, etc. However, from my experience, most blogs that have been turned into books tend to be a failure. The fragmentary and disjoined nature of blog writing is at odds with the clear and unified structure that we’ve come to expect from books. Horowitz manages to overcome that barrier, and the book the book that comes out of his blog is remarkably coherent and smooth. The individual chapters do feel like they came out of separate blog posts, but transitions between them are smooth and there is an overall sense of coherence and continuity that neatly ties everything together.
I’ve read many books on various topics pertaining to business, careers, leadership, etc. Most of them fall somewhere between completely useless and utterly vacuous. It’s almost impossible to find any concrete, actionable advice in any of them. I have pretty much given up on the whole category. Fortunately, Ben Horowitz’s book is as far from those other books as they come. Each chapter deals with a very concrete experience and/or problem that Horowitz had encountered in the world of startups. The experience is then distilled into the most important insights, and those in turn are oftentimes channeled into very clear, actionable steps that others can take if they find themselves in a similar situation. Most of the advice makes a great deal of sense, but even if you are not totally convinced by some of it, at least you know what is the reasoning behind. This can greatly help you come up with your own set of ways to deal with the similar set of problems.
As already mentioned, Horowitz was a very successful CEO of high-tech startup(s). The experience and the advice in this book are clearly aimed at other CEOs or people in a leadership positions within their startups and companies. The book will clearly benefit all of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but in my opinion there is a wider business audience that could find many of the insights in “The Hard Things” invaluable and well worth the read. Anyone who has ever had to hire or fire employees, change an important business or organizational strategy, or dealt with uncertain business and market forces, would appreciate a very candid and straightforward account of what are truly hard thing in the business world and how to deal with them.
In the end, the most important insight from this book, and one that anyone irrespective of their professional background can take, is that what really matters in business and life are people. The most important decisions that you will ever make are the ones that affect many other people, and the greatest satisfaction in all spheres of life can be found in helping other people flourish. These insights can oftentimes be lost or overlooked in the hypercompetitive technologically-obsessed world of Silicon Valley, but that’s why they need to be repeated and proclaimed whenever possible. For this insight alone Ben Horowitz’s book is a must-read for anyone who works in those circles.
le 16 avril 2015
A very interesting book from an obviously very experienced man. Every piece of advice is well thought and the situations described are indeed tough ones.
I would say that this book is more directed towards CEO's of big corporations than towards wannabe entrepreneurs or startup founders. Horowitz describes situation of incredibly high pressure, where an infinity of interests are at stake. While not groundbreaking, some ideas are good, like practicing one-on-one meetings with every employee and asking them to define the agenda themselves.
I didn't finish the last 20 pages, the book gets a tad repetitive near the end, you get the point before this.