What biography is both inspiring and relevant to a modern technology startup?


Who have you enjoyed reading about most? Which biography has provided the most insight and perspective into a brilliant founder's mind?

I have really enjoyed Founders at Work, by the way - even though I don't think it counts as a biography.

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asked Jul 17 '11 at 01:41
134 points

6 Answers


The great thing about reading biographies is that they indirectly teach you ways to think and act in business that leads to success.

With this stated, you may be amazed to find that biographies from individuals in other fields might be just as effective to read as biographies from superstars in your specific industry.

For example:

Field: Business in General

Your Field of Interest: Internet

Relevant field or Industry: Steel mining.

To be more specific, I have read biographies from superstars in one industry (like Edward de Bono -Psychology and thinking) and used their methods in a completely different one with great success.

There is however a pattern that I found in all biographies worth reading which is that the person being read about was both competent (in their industry) - which lead to being respected - as well as assertive.

The ways in which they are assertive vary but it is a key element in getting the results they desire.

Biographies (or similar) I have read that may be relevant in your search for answers may include:

Business at the speed of thought - Bill Gates
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_@_the_Speed_of_Thought The Google Story - David A Vise
http://www.thegooglestory.com/ How Dell does it - Stevan Holzner
http://www.amazon.com/How-Dell-Does-Steven-Holzner/dp/0072262540 Loosing my Virginity - Richard Brandson
http://www.amazon.com/Losing-My-Virginity-Survived-Business/dp/0812932293 Another resource for good biographies:
http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2010/06/15/25-fascinating-biographies-every-college-student-should-read/ Another great book on learning how to be effective
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Assertiveness-Work-Practical-Handling-Situations/dp/0077114280 Hope this helps, enjoy the read and good luck with your future.

Hope this helps with your search for answers.

answered Jul 17 '11 at 16:21
181 points


I just finished Anything you Want by Derek Sivers. It's interesting, compelling and takes less than an hour and a half to read. Check it out.

answered Jul 17 '11 at 05:06
Andy Cook
2,309 points


I just finished Ted Turner's Autobiography. It was a great book. Beware I got the sense that the guy is very egotistical! However, He is completely confident and did whatever he could do to win.

Call me Ted.

answered Jul 18 '11 at 02:42
Martin Floreani
51 points


Mixergy.com has like 400 1 hour (video/audio) business biographies with successful tech entrepreneurs. And Andrew the interviewer often digs for great details that you wouldn't get in an auto-biography, necessarily.

Its like Founders At Work as a video podcast.

If you want to stick to books, Sam Walton's biography is great.

answered Jul 18 '11 at 09:52
446 points


Biographies have the ability to show you your own potential. Ralph Waldo Emerson advocated for the use of biographies in this way. "Biography finds us connections with others that open us to our own possibilities." -R.W.E.

More meaningful biographies that help cultivate new perspectives: R.W.Emerson, Peter Drucker, Ayn Rand "Fountain head", Larry Bossidy "Execution: The discipline of getting things done"

Additional sources for biographical stories: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders on I-tunes, Feld/Suster/Wilson blogs, as well as asking the people you know and who you meet "what fascinates you about what you are doing?"

answered Jul 18 '11 at 20:45
314 points


I am not sure how useful this question is and Founders at Work is probably the best thing I can recommend.

However, you might also try:

  • "Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder
  • "Fire in the Valley"

I don't think your premise about a "brilliant founder" is useful or accurate - more often than not successes are defined by perseverance rather than a single brilliant person/idea.

The podcast from Stanford called "Entrepreneurial Thought leaders" is great for what I think you are looking for.

Also the book "The millionaire Next Door" is good in that it describes why some people are driven to be entrepreneurs - many times because they find no one else will hire them.

answered Jul 17 '11 at 12:02
Tim J
8,346 points
  • Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is good; I also listen to Venture Voice. *'I don't think your premise about a "brilliant founder" is useful or accurate'* Does this community not share the belief that "there are brilliant founders"? – Brian 13 years ago
  • sure there are brilliant founders - but there are probably more non-brilliant successes in business. In fact, usually the brilliant people are NOT the entrepreneurs. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • Just as true, usually the average people are not entrepreneurs – Brian 13 years ago
  • Actually, they are. The studies done in "The millionaire next door" are pretty enlightening. – Tim J 13 years ago

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