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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
Written by: Ben Horowitz
Narrated by: Kevin Kenerly
Length: 7 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (164 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup - practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular ben’s blog.

While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.

Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz’s personal and often humbling experiences.

©2014 Ben Horowitz (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers

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    1 out of 5 stars

CRAP! Save your money and time and skip this one!

Save yourself the time and money and skip this one. While you may be thinking this author has accomplished a lot in his career, this is not the case with this book. His book is more about wanting to write a book than needing to. There is about 10% that is worth one's time in this book. The rest is mundane, boring, not very valuable in general, even less valuable as a cross over to anyone's personal needs, and strangely peppered with odd and vulgar hip hop verses that prove to illegitimate the author. Strangely fascinated with trash music and thinking rap music has some sort of valuable lessons to be learned other than an awareness of it's vulgarity and sensationalization of violence, moral and unethical life short cuts, exploitation of women and people who can be used for one's benefit in a zero sum game sense, the author is wildly inconsistent with his views and stances about life, ethics, morality, and intelligence. I thought this guy was a thought leader. No I just think he's more luck than intuitive thinking of any kind. The book reads more like a boring HR manual than any kind of unique or even useful insights into business and certainly has almost nothing of value when in the realm of start Ups and tech. If you want what you came for here, read 'Zero to One' by Peter Thiel. Now that will satisfy an intelligent and motivated person's mind and spirit. This contribution to man falls heavily short and will be forgotten as "A mediocre at best but still disappointing book on basically nothing other than the author wanting to be an author of anything he can scribble down". I waited patiently for something worth listening to but as the chapters went by I realized I've been duped by a guy who is essentially a one hit wonder. If you are looking for dry business talk that does nothing for you, then this is the book for you! Enjoy. Have more credits than you know what to do with than this is the book for you! Want some 'noise' that will assist you in sleeping during a particularly severe bout of insomnia then put away the zopiclone and listen to this rambling incoherent mess. Caution: This read does come with it's side effects. The patient will become suicidal if you try to get through it with bouts of nausea, bleeding from the ears, and being turned off on business to the point of acute erectile dysfunction. Gimme back my business woody you soul stealing thief!

A whole section of the book uselessly devoted about profanity and gangsta rap. That was when I realized this book was by and large a useless cash grab to wanting my money back for buying it! and I have zero respect for this clown now. I don't give a shit how much money he has.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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amazing

in a world where everyone wants to be an entrepreneur very few people are talking about the challenges and the heartaches associated with starting and running a company. it is all done by sharing stories which makes the book very informational but also fun!

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Must list for entrepreneurs and startup executives

Epicly written with griping details and superb narration. Great lessons that i will keep revisiting always. Life is a struggle.

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What a bold way to present a buisness book!

Fantastic read. Didn't get bored at all! common use of profanity makes it feel authentic!

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Puts struggle into perspective

I'm not planning on running a tech company in my future, but this book kept me engaged. The methods portrayed reflect the battles of Silicon Valley tech companies to stay alive. The principles, however, can be applied to all facets of life. If your mind can dream something great, it will take something great to achieve it. Something great often envoles three aspects: 1) You and your companies values and how well you stick with them; 2) The vision/outcome/dream; and 3) Belief that against all odds the vison can be achieved!

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Great eye opener to the startup world

#Audible1 this book really put things in perspective for me. it set the tone for how founders should conduct themselves.

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great book.

great narrator. amazing book. definitely worth a listen for anyone who wants insight in entrepreneurahip

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book, worth reading

Highly recommend reading this book. Lots of great stories and insights about hard things... Do it.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book

Interesting story and great lessons for start ups and managers alike. Always nice to learn from those who have gone through incredible experiences. If you're not interested in start ups or management, then this book is probably not for you.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Meh

Did not enjoy. Would not recommend. Still need to write nine more words for this

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • bigdatamark
  • 2014-09-03

Exciting and insightful view of a "wartime CEO"

Any additional comments?

First of all, I have to warn you that the author, Ben Horowitz, apparently likes gangster rap, and there are quotes at the beginning of chapters and sections that are relevant, yet have foul language and try to be offensive. Ben Horowitz interestingly, uses swear words, but only for great impact.

Second, Kevin Kenerly, the narrator, has a great style. It's hard to explain, but it's like he's speaking directly to you, and only to you. Some people might be annoyed by it, but I thought it was very appropriate for this book.

Third, there was a lot of really interesting and dramatic insight into how Horowitz handled an almost impossible to believe string of disasters by seeking good advice from his mentors, from experts, and by making hard decisions. Although I don't agree with some of the ways he treated people, his methods did get results.

41 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 2014-03-18

For large company managers, not startups

Horowitz's formula for "building a business" is to get hundreds of millions of dollars from venture capitalists, then take your the company public and get hundreds of millions more dollars. Then buy companies that have products you need. The author has lots of advice about laying off employees, firing executives, and giving bad news to investors. There's a good chapter about the importance of training your employees.

This book is not for startups. "The Lean Startup," by Eric Ries, is a better book for entrepreneurs. Horowitz's book is for executives managing large companies.

205 of 224 people found this review helpful

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  • A. Yoshida
  • 2018-01-29

Book for Entrepreneuers

The book is a combination of an autobiography and entrepreneurial advice. The first three chapters are about the author's start in the business (as if he's a recognizable name in the tech industry). Few people probably even heard of the companies that he co-founded, Loudcloud and Opsware. Also, it was self-indulgent of the author to start each chapter with a quotation from rap music (reciting lyrics from Kanye West as if they were words of wisdom to a businessperson).

When the author finally gets to recounting the struggles of running a company and giving advice on how to avoid the mistakes he made, the book then starts to fulfill its intent of "Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers." The author described the actions he had taken and explained his thought process. He gave the "what", "how", and "why" for his actions. Many of the suggestions are specific to entrepreneurs (like hiring an executive team, how to run a startup company, and when to sell the company). There is some business management advice (like having regular 1-on-1 meetings with direct reports and giving clear, honest feedback), but you'll have to prod through a lot of the entrepreneurial content.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott Wozniak
  • 2015-03-03

Strong, insightful, and a bit vulgar

Ben Horowitz has been there and done that--that being starting a tech firm and leading it through chaos and surprise and heartbreak to success. He isn't sharing leadership theory, he's sharing his life lessons.

As such, he offers specific examples and actual numbers for each of his principles. And his principles are insightful and practical. A few are powerful, like the idea of management debt: you can delay making a hard decision but you incur "debt". The problem didn't go away, you will have to pay it later--with interest. So pay now and reduce the cost. Also, don't hire a stereotypical executive, hire the one that fits the exact situation of your company. For example, there's a big difference between running a large company and building a large company. The first is more about managing lots of pressure--reacting well. The second is about creating growth through aggressive action--without anyone pressuring you to do it.

I give 4 rather than 5 stars to this strong leadership book because of the large amount of foul language. Not only is there a section where he decided as CEO to allow a tech culture norm of expletives (that was strategic at least), but he cusses every couple of pages. I guess he's being authentic but it is distracting.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • L
  • 2015-08-17

Once you learn to deal with Horowitz narcissism, it finally gets to the meat

The voice was miserable. It might have been a low soothing voice, ideal for radio, but the person didn't keep it interesting in inflection. Like a lazy professor a couple years after being tenured.

Horowitz takes a while to get to the real information of his book. When he does get there it great. Before that it is too slow.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • m.a.
  • 2014-06-16

Great book - surprised by all the vitriol

Any additional comments?

Those who focus their review on the fact that there's hip hop references or the fact that the author is so raw in his language are clearly missing the f*cking point (since the book is full of expletives). This book explained the agony and euphoria I saw on many of my own CEOs, going from tiny companies to being acquired for millions of dollars. Of course, a good counter part to this book is Lean Start Up by Eric Ries (and that book is dry, boring, methodical, lean on interest yet good since it's the strategy to being a lean, agile start up). Horowitz doesn't mince his words and speaks sincerely about the realities of tech start ups. As Mitch Joel says so eloquently in CTRL-ALT-DELETE - the business world is in a state of purgatory. I'll add that technology is the extreme game of survival of the fittest. A must read for anyone working in tech. And leave your pearls at home. Business is cutthroat, it won't say please and thank you.

19 of 22 people found this review helpful

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  • gm050
  • 2015-08-18

Sound advice, amateur writing and narration

The narrator enunciates so aggressively and with such over-animation it made me flinch. And the excessive use of rap lyrics and other extensive references to pop culture gave the book and story a very amateurish feel. The excessive use of the pronoun "she" when referring to hypothetical CEOs also presented an odd juxtaposition with the fact that every single reference to living CEOs was to male ones (Jobs, Bezos, Schmidt, Campbell, Gates...)

However, when the actual advice of the book came out (not until the last half or maybe even quarter) it was clear, concise and to the point. Definitely got me thinking. Wish the whole book had been as such.

24 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Jesse Ashton
  • 2015-07-08

Hard to listen to

The narrator is awful
There are several examples given in the book where the author gives numbered examples, "one...(long pause, explanation)......two ..."
I listened to on 2X speed and it was very dry.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Vizzi Kindle
  • 2017-10-27

This book aint what I thought

aint what i bought
i got sold but what
i wanted aint what i got
Sounds like a description of the hardest thing about hard things and how to deal with the hardest things in your business
But it's not
its some guy telling a lot of stories about his experiences as a ceo from one narrow point of view. Very little fresh perspective.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Hal
  • 2016-09-10

Hard truths no fluff, a gut check for founding CEO

If you need to know how paranoid you needed to be before considering being the CEO of a startup, then this is a must read. Not too long, great insight into the dread, critical, life altering decisions that you must make as a forms prime leader.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Olivier
  • 2019-04-24

Great book

The book is excellent but the narrator's has a strong American accent. Audio can be improved too. The volume is very low.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful