How to get super rich and never have to work again

(Well, not really. Keep in mind that you’re reading a post by someone who is not rich and works like a dog almost every day.)

Here’s an interesting book if you’re curious about how successful technology companies get started: Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston.

Founders at Work is a collection of interviews with 32 people who started, or helped start, super-successful companies like Adobe, TiVo, Blogger, Yahoo!, and more. It also includes interviews with people who founded not-very-successful-but-made-the-founders-super-rich companies, like Hotmail and Lycos. (Yes, I know, some people will disagree with me about those companies not being successful. Hotmail has had serious problems, and I think Lycos’ domain name expired yesterday. Just be glad I didn’t put Apple on that list!)

These types of books always interest me, because I am one of those individualist entrepreneur types. I don’t ever expect to “hit it big,” because my focus is always on narrow niches, but it’s still fun to read about people who, often enough, created extremely successful businesses without really trying to.

For example, PayPal began as a PDA application and initially told customers they didn’t want it to be used to pay for auctions. They eventually abandoned the initial goals of PayPal and now everybody uses it to pay for auctions.

Then there are the companies that almost collapse under their own initial success, like Blogger. Prya Labs didn’t set out to create a new “sphere” (as in blogo-), but when it did, had lots of users and no way to make any money off them. They had to lay off practically the entire company and run on fumes until someone with lots of money (Google) came in and made the one guy who stuck around super wealthy.

There are, of course, several companies represented in the book who did exactly what they set out to do. But that’s boring.

And there’s the occasional founder who was so wrapped up in what was happening to him that he doesn’t know what was going on around him: like Steve Wozniak (aka the Woz) who is still convinced that the Apple II set all sorts of records that it didn’t, and thinks Commodore passed on acquiring Apple when in fact Steve Jobs tried to push Jack Tramiel too hard and lost the chance. But I digress.

I can certainly recommend reading this book. At the very least, you’ll learn that nobody ever got rich because of a book or blog post they read, and most of the ones who do get rich don’t stop working after their bank accounts overflow.

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