Friday, 28 March 2014 16:40

Book Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Book review by Fernando Faria

"The Hard Thing About the Hard Things", Ben Horowitz, Co-Founder & Partner, Andreessen Horowitz

I have never read a book this quickly.

"The Hard Thing About the Hard Things" is required reading for any entrepreneur from start-up to pre-IPO and beyond. Written in a rather informal tone, with countless personal anecdotes and rap quotes, this book is a splendid amalgamation of Ben Horowitz's experiences as employee, entrepreneur, CEO (both "wartime" and "peacetime"), and now a high profile Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

As a founding partner of Andreessen Horowitz, Ben has a unique perspective of the tech industry and its evolution from his early years as engineer at Silicon Graphics, NetLabs, Lotus Development and Netscape, where he first met his future business partner Marc Andreessen, to modern day Silicon Valley guru at a16z, how his firm is also known (note: he actually explains how him and Marc came up with the 'a16z' idea in the book too).

The most fascinating chapter in my opinion is called "When Things Fall Apart", where Ben really takes us to places business schools and textbooks rarely do. He talks about the difficult stuff, when nothing goes according to plan. He describes how bad an entrepreneur can feel when all choices they have are bad, when there's no silver bullet to resolve an often life-threatening (in business terms, of course) problem. One very powerful quote Ben attributed to Marc Andreessen can best describe what he means in this chapter: "Remember Ben, things are always darkest before they go completely black".

But it's not all doom and gloom in his book. Horowitz provides terrific insight on how to build, scale and manage successful businesses. Sometimes he provides 'easy-to-follow' recipes as in chapter 5 "Take Care of People, the Products and the Profits - In That Order", but more often he relies on personal experiences navigating uncharted waters in dealing with a variety of stakeholders from board members to strategic clients.

A long-time fan of rap music, Ben opens all chapters with quotes from renowned rappers. In the last chapter, called "First Rule of Entrepreneurship: There Are No Rules", he quotes Kanye West's "Stronger", saying: "That that don't kill me can only make me stronger. I need you to hurry up now, 'cause I can't wait much longer. I know I got to be right now, 'cause I can't get much wronger".

That's entrepreneurship 101 for you. I can't recommend this book enough and hope you like it as I did.