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HBS prof Noam Wasserman talks about his new book, Founder's Dilemmas [Audio]

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 27, 2012 08:36 AM

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Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman is one of the writers and teachers who best captures the high stakes decisions that entrepreneurs face every day. His new book, out this month, is called "The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup." He teaches the "Founders Dilemma" course at HBS (it was so popular that it had a wait-list of 170 students last year), and maintains a blog called Founder Frustrations.

noam.jpgThe book reads like a catalog of all of the choices that can either sink a start-up, or help it build momentum — choices around how to divide ownership among the founding team, who should serve on the board, and whether to take money from "friends and family" or professional investors. Wasserman has spent hours interviewing the founders of companies like Zipcar, Proteus Biomedical, Pandora, and Twitter, and he shares their experiences in the book, without sugar-coating them.

I sat down with Wasserman last week in his office at HBS. We talked about founder's dilemmas in general (65 percent of them, he said, have to do with interpersonal issues among founders), and some of the specific companies he has studied, including Sittercity (founded by Genevieve Thiers, a Boston College grad), 38 Studios (the gaming company started by Curt Schilling), and Twitter. The audio runs about a half-hour. You can click play, or click "mp3" to download the file for later listening.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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