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020 Ben Horowitz: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

A guide for entrepreneurs to navigate the tough and complex decisions they will face while building and running a startup.

Ben Horowitz: The Hard Thing About Hard Things


The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a book written by Ben Horowitz, co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The book is a guide for entrepreneurs, offering advice on how to navigate the difficult and complex decisions they will face while building and running a startup. Horowitz draws from his personal experiences as a tech entrepreneur to provide insights and practical advice for entrepreneurs facing tough challenges. The book covers a range of topics including building a company culture, hiring and firing employees, fundraising, and dealing with crises.


Title: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Author: Ben Horowitz

Publishing Year: 2014

Publisher: HarperBusiness

Length in hours: 7 hours and 57 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Entrepreneurship is hard, and it's not for everyone.
  2. Building a successful startup requires making difficult decisions and navigating uncertainty.
  3. Culture is critical to the success of a company, and it starts with the CEO.
  4. The CEO's job is to focus on the most important things and make tough decisions.
  5. Great leaders are made, not born.
Ben Horowitz: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

5 funny quotes

  1. "If you don't know what you're doing, don't do it on a large scale."
  2. "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who know they are going to die and those who don't."
  3. "If you see a fork in the road, take it."
  4. "If you're not pissing someone off, you probably aren't making a difference."
  5. "When things break, it's not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It's because a little piece gets lost - the two remaining ends couldn't fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "If you're going to eat shit, don't nibble."
  2. "The hard thing isn't dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare."
  3. "In a fight between a bear and an alligator, it is the terrain that matters most."
  4. "As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried."
  5. "People always ask me, “What’s the secret to being a successful CEO?” Sadly, there is no secret, but if there is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves."

5 dilemmas

  1. How do you balance being transparent with your employees while also protecting the company's confidential information?
  2. When do you decide to pivot the company and change the direction of the business?
  3. When should you fire an executive who is not performing up to expectations?
  4. How do you handle layoffs in a way that is humane but also necessary for the survival of the company?
  5. When do you choose to raise more money for your startup, and how do you balance that with maintaining control of the company?

5 examples

  1. Horowitz's decision to fire a close friend who wasn't able to keep up with the demands of the company.
  2. How PayPal's Peter Thiel and Elon Musk handled a potential fraud crisis at the company.
  3. How Hip Hop artist Nas helped Horowitz realize the importance of culture in a company.
  4. How Horowitz and his team handled a crisis at Opsware, which involved a faulty software release that caused customers to lose data.
  5. How the decision to sell Loudcloud's cloud computing business to Hewlett-Packard saved the company from bankruptcy.

Referenced books

  1. "Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers" by Geoffrey A. Moore
  2. "The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail" by Clayton M. Christensen
  3. "The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses" by Eric Ries
  4. "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu
  5. "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't" by Jim Collins

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"As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried."

Ben Horowitz: The Hard Thing About Hard Things
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