Ben Horowitz is the cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz a very successful and unique venture capital firm that is modeled on the approach Creative Artists Agency, the Hollywood talent agency, created. He is known as an experienced and respected Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is also pretty quirky. That explains why the lifelong rap fanatic starts each chapter with lyrics from his favorite songs. If you’re listening to the book it’s a real hoot to hear a very white man try and embody different rappers 🙂
The book is designed to give advice on building and running a startup—but the real reason to read it is that it provides a lot of insight into the mindset of a CEO and other top-ranking executives who are making decisions (often in a vacuum.) He has a dramatic story to share and that makes this book an entertaining, fast read.
Horowitz was shocked to learn that treating people well was good business which was a surprise. The fact that he called it out really helps you understand the CEO mindset as does the concept of a “wartime CEO” vs a “peacetime CEO.” It explains how Steve Jobs, a wartime CEO, could treat people horribly yet engender loyalty and ultimately success.
He simplifies the job of CEO to a few critical functions: making decisions in absence of all the data, having the courage to stand behind and in front of your decision, and being able to sell others on your decisions. These are important skills to develop regardless of your leadership level.
As someone who prides himself on his authenticity, it was painful to hear Horowitz’s constant referral to the CEO in his examples as a "she." It seems a blatant attempt to be PC and it felt like he's talking down to potential women CEOs, and it eventually becomes insulting.
That said this book is worth reading as an autobiography with interesting insights from the top.