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Ask Jessica Livingston: If Founders at Work were written today, who'd be in it?
124 points by tzury 41 days ago | hide | past | web | 29 comments | favorite
First of all, sorry for the medium, but I think it is fair enough for YC community to take part in this conversation.

I've just packed the book to my upcoming 24 hours flights (2 connection stops) and looked at the list...

As we observed so many successful startups in the last 12 years or so, let alone YC companies, I wonder who are the founders you would have find inspiring to interview for the book.

Being at there, I wonder, is there a chance we will get a "second edition" in the foreseeable future?

And you guys and gals, HN readers, do you have your own list?

(The title was rephrased many times to fit into the 80 char. limit)




I loved Founders at Work. However, it suffers from (somewhat severe) survivorship bias [1]. The next time around, it would be great to hear from more companies/founders that were "supposed to make it" but didn't for one reason or another.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias


I thought the best chapter was on Phillip Greenspun of ArsDigita. Phillip was forced out of his own startup by his board and he eventually maneuvered behind the scenes to regain control.

If there's a "Founders At Work 2.0", more stories about failures, mistakes, and how people learned from those failures+mistakes would be super helpful. Most startups aren't an overnight success or a unicorn with "rocketship" style growth. Learning more about the non-sexy, non-linear successes can be just as useful than reading about the unicorns.


Unfortunately, to the extent that Greenspun regained control at all (which is questionable, given the out of court settlement that gagged him), it was much too late, most of the company's value had been destroyed, and seemingly so had Greenspun's taste for founding/running a company.

In some alternate universe, Philip Greenspun's ArsDigita became the leading platform provider for developing and deploying Application Service Providers (what we would call SaaS today) and their main competitor is Zimki founded by Simon Wardley.


Failed startup stories are indeed pretty interesting. I went to an Irish Wake for Dead Startups once and it was great. That event was organized as an investment/business promotion by Ireland's government, but someone should organize more of them.


I think the problem with your request is that there are way too many failed startup stories.


She could take a look at the most hyped startups of 2008 (when the book was published) and see where they are now. Most will probably have failed by now, and there will be some interesting stories there!


As I sit here wearing a Pebble watch, I'd certainly like to know more about that collapse.


She could also focus specifically on YC companies and their success and/or failure stories.


Perhaps. Although you could apply something like matching techniques [1] to find startups comparable to the big successes.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matching_(statistics)


I'd love a second edition of Founders at Work. It's one of my favorite books and I recommend it to other founders regularly.


Which YC companies are successful?

I'm asking because, in order for the new data to be useful, it must include both successes and failures, which would allow Jessica to test her hypotheses.


Here is a list - http://yclist.com/

You can filter for "Show Exited" and "Show Active"


Cool! Thanks. It'd be interesting add a column for "total raised so far" to that list. For example, a $20M acquisition of a company that raised $40M would be a failure.


Crunchbase has a good deal of data here - it is incomplete particularly for smaller companies, but is pretty good for larger investment rounds.


Nice list.

I didn't know Justin TV was funded by YC, it should be classified as exited (as Twitch) or dead, I think.


That was a good class ('07). 5 listed exits, and in addition: Dropbox, JustinTV, Disqus and Cloudant.


JustinTV was winter 07. Dropbox and Disqus were summer 07

The cloundant you are thinking of was much later. The S07 cloudant sold their domain

(I was in S07)


I stand corrected.



That's a good point. We also need data on how successful they were: IPO, big acquisition, growth flatlining into steady business (does this happen for YC?), failed but acquired, or failed with total loss.


I'd love to read another edition of Founders at Work -- it's one of my favorite books.

Some of the companies I'd be thrilled to see included:

Airbnb Stripe Uber Lyft Slack Robinhood Palantir Snap Instacart SpaceX GitHub DraftKings Warby Parker OfferUp


If Founders at Work were written today, would they please research the opening paragraphs about sprinters, because they accrue speed the further they get from the blocks. [ Former sprinter here, who couldn't read any further, amazed at the book opening incorrectly. ]


Relevant, too: Programmers who defined the technology industry: Where are they now? (2010) http://www.itworld.com/article/2826737/development/programme....


More profiles beyond the SV Bubble.

Ben Chestnut Co-founder and CEO of @mailchimp (aka mailkimp aka mailshrimp), seems a worthy subject. > https://twitter.com/benchestnut?lang=en


The one thing I felt was slightly lacking was interviews with founders of enterprise/B2B startups.

For the most part, the stories were great but all revolved around folks who growing consumer/developer-focused companies.

I'd buy the 2nd edition in a heartbeat.


B2C focus is arguably an established trend in incubators/kickstarter/hardware startups in general as well.


Agreed - I just felt that that there's not much I can find about how long enterprise/B2B startups take before they find their first customer and how different the sales process could be, etc.


My list:

Min-Liang Tan Paul Eremenko Travis Kalanick Ben Chestnut Daniel Stewart


> Which YC companies are successful?

I dont know the founders but the idea that you could start the apts section of craigslist that out values real established businesses itself is a huge motivator.

Of course with close examination, nothing more than a repeat of near zero interest rate capital flooding a crowding market.

Some will strike the lotto, most will not. Hindsight bias is not at all being discussed here.




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