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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Instructive tales from a tech survivor: A Silicon Valley entrepreneur tells what he learned the hard way.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Well Structured
  • Engaging


Ben Horowitz guided Loudcloud through life-or-death struggles before selling it to Hewlett-Packard for $1.65 billion. He argues that no formula can promise entrepreneurial success. Horowitz is a first-rate storyteller and a refreshingly irreverent teacher who uses allusions ranging from Jay Z to Clint Eastwood to Dr. Seuss. Any business leader will find worthy guidance in this exhortation to persist through “the Struggle.” getAbstract recommends Horowitz’s part autobiography, part tip sheet to anyone building a company.


Loudcloud, Opsware and “the Struggle”

Every start-up encounters the Struggle. Your product turns out to have costly flaws. Your cash runs low, and your venture capitalist tells you fund raising seems unlikely. A loyal customer leaves you. A valuable employee walks away.

There’s no way around the Struggle and no formula for fixing your problems. Your company might not make it. Entrepreneurs who make it share one characteristic: They don’t quit.

Netscape veterans Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen founded Loudcloud, a cloud services provider, in 1999 and soon hit a rocky road. Seven months after they launched Loudcloud – its name marked the first time “cloud” had been used popularly to describe a computing environment – Horowitz and Andreessen had booked $10 million in contracts. They were hiring so fast – 30 employees a month – that workers had to sit in the hallways.

Then came the dot-com crash of 2000; the NASDAQ fell by 10%. Loudcloud needed capital but faced long odds. After Horowitz pitched one set of prospective backers, a colleague told him the skeptical investors “thought you were smoking crack.” Loudcloud raised a total of $120 million, but with so...

About the Author

Ben Horowitz is a co-founder and general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Comment on this summary

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    P. H. 9 years ago
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    J. P. 9 years ago
    This was one of the greatest books ever written for a high tech CEO. This summary certainly does not do it justice.
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      8 years ago
      Agree it is a great book and this summary does not include some best lessons learned of the peaks and valleys of Mergers and Acquisitions especially the story illustrating the CEO responsibility with the IPO and closing price of Baidu on Day 1.