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The Hard Thing About Hard Things - Ben Horowitz

Wow this book earns a straight 10 on the Z scale of awesome. Caveats would be: it's very American & focused on larger / later stage start ups.

Horowitz stands out by talking about the un-sexy parts of business, like firing people and messing up. It's refreshing to learn from someone's mistakes, rather than having to listen to them blow their own propaganda trumpet.

There is far too much interesting material in here for me to go through in a blog, you really should just read it...

However here are the parts I book-marked:

  • The only way learn what is the right product is to ship and sell the wrong product. From sales pitch feedback you learn what the right product really is.

  • Product strategy is figuring out the right product, it is the innovators job, not the customers. The customer only knows what they think they want, which often isn't what they actually want, or need. Customer feedback is often wrong, and you have to be careful about how you analyse it.

  • Metrics are not a substitute for product vision. It's difficult for metrics to delve deep in to a qualitative user experience. Sometimes you should use common sense / gut feel / vision over data.

  • Sometimes an organisation doesn't need a solution it just need clarity.

  • Sometimes you have to look inside the black box to see how it works. Don't ignore technical debt. How do things actually get made, what impact will short term decision have in the long term or at scale?

  • The knowledge gap between you and your board make their advice almost unusable, only the CEO has all the data and can see the full picture.

  • Give feedback to your team constantly, positive and negative. Feedback should be part of the culture, it's not personal, it's genuine it cuts down politics in reviews.

  • Sales/marketing will always fight operations/product.


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