The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

“Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, “That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.” The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those “great people” develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things. The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.

The problem with these books is that they attempt to provide a recipe for challenges that have no recipes. There’s no recipe for really complicated, dynamic situations. There’s no recipe for building a high-tech company; there’s no recipe for making a series of hit songs; there’s no recipe for playing NFL quarterback; there’s no recipe for running for president; and there’s no recipe for motivating teams when your business has gone to crap. That’s the hard thing about hard things— there is no formula for dealing with them.”

This is how begins The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz [see page ix]. After a first chapter about his experience in start-ups (Netscape, LoudCloud), Horowitz gives advice to entrepreneurs. And it is not business school-like advice indeed.


Marc: “Do you know the best thing about startups?
Ben: “What?
Marc: “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria, and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.

[Page 21]

Marc is Andreessen, the founder of Netscape, with whom he co-founded VC firm Andreessen Horowitz ( in 2009.

“People often ask me how we’ve managed to work efficiently across three companies over eighteen years. Most business relationships either become too tense to tolerate or not tense enough to be productive after a while. Either people challenge each other to the point where they don’t like each other or they become complacent about each other’s feedback and not longer benefit from the relationship. With Marc and me, even after eighteen years, he upsets me almost every day by finding something wrong with my thinking, and I do the same for hi. It works.” [Page 14]

I plan to come back with comments about this book when I am finished, but let just me finish for now with my usual start-up cap. tables. here Netscape and LoudCloud.

Click on picture to enlarge

Click on picture to enlarge

2 thoughts on “The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

  1. Wonyoung Kim

    In Netscape’s cap table, what happened to Marc Andreessen when his 50% founder ownership suddenly dropped to 3.8%? It seems they started equally, but Marc Andreessen for some reason got diluted much more than James Clark.

  2. Hervé Lebret Post author

    You are absolutely right and I was shocked the 1st time I saw this. But then you have to see that Jim Clark invested a lot of his own money. So he was a founder and an investor which explains why he was not diluted as much as Marc Andreessen. I am not sure to be clear enough. Is my answer understandable?


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