Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Founder's Dilemmas

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Founder's Dilemmas

Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

Princeton UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If you want your business start-up to fly, not flop, read this book before takeoff.

auto-generated audio
auto-generated audio

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Most people admire self-made men and women – the Bill Gateses and Anita Roddicks who establish successful companies and reap a multitude of rewards. However, the path to start-up success is fraught with roadblocks, detours, washouts and dead ends. Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman identifies the common “founder’s dilemmas” and details their short- and long-term consequences. More specifically, he exposes the tacit tension that exists between creating wealth and maintaining control. This isn’t a quick read; it’s an in-depth, intelligent analysis based on 10 years of extensive research. At times, you may find yourself wishing for a bullet-point list. Yet getAbstract encourages would-be founders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to keep reading: You’ll find Wasserman’s insights and solutions well worth your time – and they may make the difference between your start-up’s success or failure.


“The Founder’s Dilemmas”

Creating a business from scratch is difficult, even when your dreams and passions guide and motivate you. The decisions you face along the way – when to launch, whom to bring on board, where to obtain financing and how to share equity – have short- and long-term ramifications. Many founders operate by gut and intuition rather than by assessing every option with careful consideration. A decision you make to avoid conflict in the present may create difficulties in the future or put your start-up on an unintended path. Founders’ optimism and commitment can blind them to harsh realities, such as scarcity of resources or unrealistic timelines. Naive entrepreneurs don’t know the dilemmas they will face regarding growth, hiring decisions and long-term control.

If you’re a budding business mogul, start by asking yourself three questions:

  1. “Should I become an entrepreneur?”
  2. “If so, when should I make the leap?”
  3. “How can I dispassionately evaluate my idea?”

Individuals often choose to become entrepreneurs when their backgrounds, families and cultural influences steer them in that direction...

About the Author

Noam Wasserman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, based his book on his award-winning course, “Founders’ Dilemmas.”

Comment on this summary