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  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Beliveau

A Startup Survival Guide: Why Every New Entrepreneur Needs 'The Hard Thing About Hard Things'

In the entrepreneurial world, where the highs are sky-high and the lows can be crushingly deep, having a guide can make the difference between making a costly mistake and steering your venture to success. Ben Horowitz's "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" is one such guide. As a seasoned entrepreneur and the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most influential venture capital firms, Horowitz doesn’t shy away from the brutal realities of running a company.



Why I Swear by This Book:

Having founded and led Knowledge to Practice, Inc, I’ve faced a myriad challenges that tested my resolve, skills, and vision. "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" has been an indispensable tool for me. I’ve read it not once but 5-6 times, each time uncovering new insights. My copy, filled with channel notes and highlighted excerpts, sat prominently on my desk, serving both as a handbook and a reminder of the relentless spirit needed to thrive as an entrepreneur.


Key Lessons for Founders and CEOs from the book:


  1. Embrace the Struggle: Understand that struggle is not an indication of failure, but a part of the journey toward excellence.

  2. Focus on What Really Matters: Prioritize problems that threaten your mission and address them head-on.

  3. Hire for Strength: Choose team members for their potential to contribute uniquely, not merely for their lack of weaknesses.

  4. The People First Doctrine: Build a culture that supports your team, and they will build your business.

  5. Leading by Example: Set the tone and standards through your actions.

  6. The Primacy of Input Over Output: Focus on the inputs and the outputs will take care of themselves.

  7. Sharing the Load: Utilize your network of mentors and advisors to lighten the inevitable burdens of leadership.

  8. Efficient Decision Making: Make the best decision possible with the information available, without waiting for perfect clarity.

  9. Honesty as Policy: Maintain transparency with your team, especially in times of crisis.

  10. Understanding Sacrifices: Know what you can compromise on and what you must preserve at all costs.


Startups are often romanticized in media portrayals, with their stories of rapid success and innovation. However, the reality is that they require a kind of tenacity and resilience that is not suited to everyone. "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" does not glamorize the startup life. Instead, it prepares you for it in the most realistic way possible, making it an essential read for anyone brave enough to embark on the entrepreneurial journey.


I encourage every new founder and CEO to not just read, but study this book. Keep it close at hand and refer to it often. The lessons it contains are invaluable at every stage of your entrepreneurial path.

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