Book Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

hard-thingsHorowitz, Ben. The hard thing about hard things : building a business when there are no easy answers. Harper Business, 2014.

In 2007 when Blair Sheppard was Dean, he asked me to make him a list each quarter — a list of 5 books that he could recommend to CEO’s.  This task turned out to be a hard thing to execute, more difficult than it seemed at first hearing.  To find the 5 best books, you must read a great many.

One book that would definitely be on the list is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, the cofounder of an ongoing Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz and cofounder/former CEO of the software company, Opsware.  Horowitz draws on his experience as software engineer, entrepreneur, CEO  and venture capitalist to offer advice to technology entrepreneurs on hiring and managing talent, programming company culture, taking a company public and more.

In this engaging book, Horowitz tells his personal story against the backdrop of technology history after 1990, distilling the business and life lessons that he learned along the way.  Early in his career, Horowitz is at Netscape in charge of their web server product line.  During his tenure there, Microsoft releases Internet Explorer, challenging Netscape in a war for survival.  After Netscape is sold to America Online in 1998, Horowitz starts another company, Loudcloud.  Following the 2000 dot-com implosion, the company is sold to EDS but Horowitz keeps the software, Opsware, which is eventually sold to Hewlett Packard in 2007 for $1.6 billion.

Not everything goes as planned.  As Horowitz takes his companies from founding to going public to sale, he experiences both great success and near bankruptcy.  He uses his struggles to advise readers on how to lay people off and how to tell the truth when things fall apart.  He also offers advice on leading during uncertain times and on scaling a company.  In the end, Horowitz begins a venture capital firm to help technology company founders run their own companies.  And he writes a very readable book for entrepreneurs.  Recommended.

Also available in Kindle e-reader and online audiobook format.

© Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply