Found in 26 comments on Hacker News
Jessica is Jessica Livingston. From Paul Graham's tribute [0], Livingston was a shrewd judge of people, which was an essential complement to the rest of the team's skillset. She is not a self-promoter. Her YC bio mentions her book [1], Founders at Work. The story from Sam Altman and Paul Graham is that diverse talent and decency was necessary for YC's success, and I would say the sentiment on thread here is that that is neither necessary nor sufficient for replication of YC's success. My view is that decency is under valued in business. Perhaps if it were easier to measure ...



mtmail · 2019-03-19 · Original thread
I don't have a good failure story. I'm a semi-regular reader of though so I think there might be a market. At least if you can identify a couple of patterns (e.g. filters in the left pane of In the interviews I often see entrepreneurs pointing to (marketing?) their new projects which might get outdated fast.

I did enjoy Founders At Work ( 5 years after it got published. Not sure if a list of company names on the cover would work for failures.

nostrademons · 2019-01-18 · Original thread
It's a book (of the dead-tree sort), not an online article:

Author is a co-founder of the site you're posting this on, BTW.

asaph · 2018-08-24 · Original thread
This is discussed at length in the first chapter of Founders at Work. The chapter is written by Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal) and discusses his bitter feud with Elon Musk over Musk's desire to convert systems over to Windows. Interestingly Musk is never mentioned by name.

Hates_ · 2018-06-01 · Original thread
"Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days" is a good collection of stories:
gjkood · 2017-01-30 · Original thread
I know you didn't ask for books but here are some interesting ones. The first two cover individuals and the last two cover the works of others.

Coders At Work (

Founders At Work (

Architecture of Open Source Systems (

Architecture of Open Source Systems - Vol 2 (

jpm_sd · 2016-06-09 · Original thread
I really enjoyed this one in particular: Founders at Work (

Hey, look at that! It's by Jessica Livingston!

mbesto · 2014-08-07 · Original thread
Slightly meta here - but I think everyone here (including myself) is just being pedantic about the article. If you want to know what makes successful businesses reading 1 or 2 articles about one on globally distributed publications is not going to give you the whole picture.

Founders at Work is a good example of painting a better picture ->

chdir · 2014-07-02 · Original thread
Intriguing choice of topic. For visitors of this thread, to read about the prequel to these lives, try "Founders at work"

Sadly I don't really read quite as much as I used to; but following are the books I read this year (though none of them were released this year).

- Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days

Excellent book covering interviews with founders of companies that became really big. I thought this book was really insightful and inspirational.

- Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming

I just started this book, but already like it - the format is the same as the Founders at Work book but on the developer side of things.

- World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It

It was a good book, but not as inspirational as the Founders at Work book. Some of the stories are good, but since the majority of the people are not in my sector, the book just wasn't as interesting to me.

- Ready Player One

An excellent story that really made me nostalgic to my younger years - definitely recommend this one.

- The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death: A Novel

I have a weak spot for Charlie Huston books - he's not the best author (sorry Charlie), but his books are really easy to approach. This is one of his best ones and is about crime scene cleaners - a nice departure from all the Joe Pitt vampire novels.

- World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

It's OK... I read it half way through and then once I got busy I just couldn't get myself to pick it up again. I will finish it eventually.. just not yet.

- Hyperion

A friend recommended this book to me - I could not get past the first chapter.

MattRogish · 2012-12-19 · Original thread
"Incidentally, this is one of the reasons that crunch time is a failed development methodology, as I’ve mentioned in past posts on this blog; developers get tired and start making stupid mistakes."

Totally. Strangely enough, Founders at Work ( is chock full of startup founders extolling the virtues of overwork. Is this some survivorship bias or does overwork in startups really lead to shipping sooner and achieving product/market fit faster?

It's never been my experience that sustained overwork of software developers leads to actual, measurable productivity increases due to the "two steps forward, one step back" phenomenon. Yeah, you can ship a feature "sooner" but it'll be buggy and disappointing to the end users (probably causing them to hesitate to pay - are you really achieving product/market fit with a buggy product?)

We encourage every developer to find a sustainable pace (it's different for everyone) with the guidance that it's almost always less than 50 hours a week. Why is it that software companies think that overworking software developers is a net positive?

c250d07 · 2012-05-11 · Original thread
I recently started to collect some links off HN that had to do with business books that were somewhat more programmer friendly. Sadly, nothing that matches what you speak of (though that would be very cool!)

some books

Heres a big thread that had many suggestions:

motti_s · 2012-04-04 · Original thread
I think the best way to learn about startups and funding is to hear what founders have to say. For this I recommend Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston, While this isn't specifically about funding, many of the founders talk about their funding experience, because this tends to be a painful part for many of them.

As mindcrime mentioned in his comment, Brad Feld's Venture Deals is a great book, though focused on raising from VCs.

Another great source is not books but YouTube. The "This week in venture capital" series is usually interesting. For example here is the most recent episode, with Naval Ravikant, co-founder of AngelList: This way you don't only learn about startups and funding, but also about key players in the industry. I'm in the habit of watching those videos daily as I work out on my elliptical trainer... As I learn about a certain investor / founder in one video, I search for more videos of them. Some are more interesting than others. For example Mark Andreesen is always a pleasure to listen to.

If you prefer reading, some interesting relevant bloggers are Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, Chris Dixon and Mark Suster.

olalonde · 2011-04-09 · Original thread
- The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Blank. [1]

- Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days by Jessica Livingston. [2]



pg · 2011-02-13 · Original thread
The book I've learned most from is Founders at Work:
PaulJoslin · 2010-08-02 · Original thread
While I'm at it. I'll tell you about some other's I have read.

- Getting Real by 37 Signals - Rework by 37 Signals

These are great and really get your mind thinking about alternatives to what most people believe.

- Sarah Lacy's Once your lucky, twice you're good.

This isn't a technical book, but can really get you motivated to succeed reading the stories of previous successes! It also gives a bit of an insight into the internal workings of a start up in the early stages. It highlights networking as an important factor!

- Start up success guide -

This book was quite good, but felt a bit dated in comparison to Rob Walling's 'Start up book'.

Finally 'Founders at work' is definitely worth a read.

FluidDjango · 2010-02-10 · Original thread
I bet she's summarized her take somewhere. But she's also documented in detail how many "roads lead to Rome" (success):

edw519 · 2010-01-19 · Original thread
My inspiration is Steve Wozniak. To this day, I try to write software with the same thinking he used when he built the Apple II. Get a clear picture of what you want, keep it as simple as possible, stand on the shoulders of giants but build your own tools when you have to, and keep all the details in your head. (This last one has made a huge difference in my work.)

You have no excuse not to read about this because Chapter 3 of Jessica Livingston's "Founders at Work" is one of the best treatments of Woz and is on line here:

Then check out


"Founders at Work"

edw519 · 2009-04-24 · Original thread
Nice article. I think a better topic would be, "How Woz Got Things Done." For a quick read, try Chapter 3 of "Founders at Work", which is well worth the price of the whole book.

This is Jessica Livingston's (of YC) interview of Woz. Specifically I love the way he talked about designing the Apple II. Even though it was hardware, it totally applied to the design and development of software. Perfectly suited to natural optimizers (aren't we all) who want to keep their finger on the pulse of every detail of their project.

This changed the way I treated my own work. No detail is too small and there's always plenty of room in my personal memory for whatever I need to remember. It's made a big difference.

edw519 · 2007-10-28 · Original thread
My experience is that none of the self-help books ever did very much for me. This includes Steven Covey, Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Zig Zigler, the Secret, etc., etc., etc. Some were entertaining, but that was it. I understand that these books do help many people who need their messages; I'm just not one of them. I prefer books that inspire me and tell me what to do.

My favorites?

How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis.

Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout

Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

The 22 Immutable Rules of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Digitial Aboriginal by Mikela Tarlow and Philip Tarlow

and, of course

Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

Before you do anything else, go to and read all of the essays! I don't want to sound like a shill or hero worshipper for pg, but, understand, these essays are the very best thing out there for anyone on this forum. I am here because of the essays, not the other way around.

Fresh book recommendations delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday.