Lost & Founder - By Rand Fishkin

Book Review by Thomas Høgenhaven

Entrepreneurs are celebrated everywhere

But too many people are becoming entrepreneurs for the wrong reasons. And end up deeply regretting it.

Rand Fishkin's quest is to tell how it really is to found and lead a tech company in the US. To tease apart myths from reality. To create transparency in a secretive world.

Pursuit of growth or happiness?

Entrepreneurs are happy rock stars, right? Guess again. By detailed describing his own depressions, regrets and even self-loathing for failing product launches, Fishkin helps other current and future entrepreneurs understand they are not weak or alone:

"Personal happiness and successfully raising venture capital are rarely correlated"

Fishkin's Cheat Codes

In Lost & Founder you'll find a number of cheat codes - or tactics - to help founders skip through unnecessary pain in critical business and personal situations.

The business and personal challenges might seem very different at first glance, but herein lies a fundamental point in Lost and Founder: in a startup, the founder and business are so intertwined that they traits and issues are flowing back and forth.

Business Cheat Codes

The business related cheat codes include detailed suggestions on:

  • Handling investors
  • Choosing the right growth channels
  • Developing new products without ruining your brand

Personal Cheat Codes

The more personal cheat codes adress how to deal with hard topics such as:

  • Depression.
  • Physical pain
  • Lost opportunities
  • Personal debt

Ship Yourself

Many people - founders or not - do not truly understand their own strengths and weaknesses. This lack of self awareness causes problems in the startup as the characteristics are passed on. This might be fatal if not properly understood and addressed by changing personal behaviour and/or building out the executive team with people with contrasting traits.

It could be worse

Throughout Lost and Founder, Fishkin comes through as highly value driven and a strong humanist that firmly believes in diversity and empathy.

When he tells the stories about intimidating situations, he is taking the time to reflect that said situations are even worse for women and minorities.

Fishkin describes how VC offices are set up to intimidate founders like him. Fishkin concludes the story with this powerful reflection: "I can't imagine how doubly intimidating it would be as a woman founder or a founder of color to see only white (and a few Asian) men on the staff, in the magazines of the coffee table, and celebrated on those walls highlighting great exits."

A book for you?

Fishkin is doing a great job shifting between first hand experiences and general reflections on the tech industry. The first hand stories alone - which can’t be conveyed in book review - make it well worth the time to read the book. Through great storytelling, Fishkin gives the reader sufficient empathy to understand how life truly is in a US startup. These stories will help the reader decide if and how to found the next generation of businesses.