As cofounder and general partner of one of Silicon Valley's most successful venture capital firms, Ben Horowitz has enjoyed tremendous success. His firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has over $4 billion under management and was an early investor in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, Pinterest, Skype, Box and many more.
But Horowitz spends much of his new book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, focusing on his failures -- or at least his struggles as the CEO of Loudcloud and its software spinoff Opsware from 2001 to 2007.
At the heart of the book is 'The Struggle', which Horowitz describes as "basically what you feel like when your world is caving in."
It's a feeling many entrepreneurs know well and one Horowitz experienced both at Loudcloud, which went public during technology's "nuclear winter" in 2001, and Opsware, which faced intense competition and several 'near-death' experiences before being acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2007.
"There was a time when people thought I was quite a bad CEO and would like to see me removed," recalls a man now widely regarded as a management guru. "The challenge with management books is management turns out to be very situational and dynamic. I tried to say, 'this is what I went through and these are my conclusions' so that if you pick up [the book] you say 'I know why he's saying that.'"
Indeed, the second half of the book is about Horowitz's conclusions and lessons learned during his time as CEO, written as a fairly straightforward guideline for managers.
Horowitz says the book was intended with startup CEOs in mind -- "it would make my job [at Andreessen Horowitz] easier if people read it," he quips -- but there's plenty in there for managers and employees at every level, regardless of the size or age of the company.
One more way this book is different than most self-aggrandizing books by successful managers: All book proceeds go to American Jewish World Services, a nonprofit that helps women fight for basic rights throughout the world.
"In many parts of the world, women today are not that far away from slaves," Horowitz says. "American Jewish World Services does...a very effective job at helping those people, changing their lives and enabling them to get on a path to self determination."
In sum, it's a good book for a good cause.
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