Review of Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin
Finished Reading on May 14th, 2018
I've followed and learned from Rand Fishkin since he started writing his exceptionally helpful blog posts for SEOmoz many years ago. I still tune in to his Whiteboard Friday's routinely. I've always placed a great amount of trust in the information he shares as he and I are cut from a similar cloth. I too believe that transparency and sharing information is for the greater good.
There's an undeniable bond that you build with others when you are willing to roll up your sleeves and help them resolve a problem or concern they have by digging right into it and sharing your findings. That's what Rand has done for me personally through his public, transparent efforts. I've never spoke with the man, but I've certainly taken his offerings and used them to improve my work efforts. While I don't rely fully on any source 100% as I've studied SEO heavily for 15 years, I do place a high amount of regard with him and and his work.
We're Both From Seattle and Xennial's - How Neat!
I especially connect with his views towards equality in the workplace and in general his take on how teams can flourish given the right trust or transparency from leadership. I don't know if it's something of our upbringing or age (we're both Xennials!) as we we're raised on the outskirts of Seattle and we are less than a month apart, both born in the summer of 1979, but it's uncanny how our views and philosophy are so attuned with one another. Heck even our Dad's worked for the mighty Boeing, likely at the same time.
His book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World, does an excellent job of demonstrating how a tech company get's off the ground, how it can be funded and what pitfalls and opportunities lie ahead.
He takes a solid hard look at his own efforts and those around him when it comes to reviewing the successful moment as well as failed efforts in the startup effort he created with his mother Gillian, SEOmoz now known simply as Moz.
I'm a client of Moz so the insight into the business was a fascinating read for me that really embedded my trust in their processes. They've learned and adapted and have a great model for their clients, employees and interested parties.
Being a CEO Sounds a Little Less Fun! Thanks Rand!
He shares the knowledge he gained as throughout his CEO tenure at Moz in a real and transparent manner. It doesn't feel like he oversells the hard work, the success or the troubles. Everything felt genuine as I read along. I will be honest, at the start of reading Lost and Founder, I didn't know what VC (venture capital) meant, rarely had heard the term Angel Investor or knew the basic fundamental differences between a privately held company versus a publicly traded one.
I didn't go into reading this book super enthused to learn all of the ins and outs of raising investment dollars and what that all entails (which is a ton in terms of expectations and responsibility) but I am very glad I did. Rand does a fantastic job bringing a strong dose of reality to what I thought I knew about Silicon Valley and startup tech firms in general. I'd only formulated opinions based on what I see in the media. Again, Rand's openness gave me what a feel is a strong picture of how something really is. He did this for me early in my career as we were learning and doing SEO at the same time.
Towards the end of the book Rand hit's home with me when he discusses his own battle with depression. I felt as I was reading this, any maybe you will too, that he was speaking directly to me. I rarely have that total sense of awareness like this person is getting deep here and they are so concerned about me as the reader that they are sharing themselves in hopes that maybe I have a take away from what they've written that will genuinely help me out.
See, that's Rand in my opinion. He didn't write that for me but it absolutely felt that way. He genuinely cares about people. He understands empathy. He wants to share his experiences so others can do better. He makes that clear in his book.
As biased as I was going into this book, if I take those lenses off and think what could make Lost and Founder better, I could only add that I felt he was a bit too harsh on himself for some things. I know that's hardly an admonishment rather it was really just something I observed or felt after wrapping the book up.
From what I've learned, those that care so deeply for others and improving their situation or circumstance can at times fail to see the absolute worth and benefit of what they specifically do for others. I'm not talking about the cause or mission they promote of follow, rather the hands on work and mentoring they provide. It's an admirable quality to be humble and have humility but I finished the book wondering if he realizes his true value? I certainly hope so!
My Final Thoughts on Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World
I absolutely recommend reading it if you're considering founding a startup or working with one, but I also recommend it to anyone ready for inspiration to improve themselves by learning another person's lessons and get a leg up, or in this case a cheat code, on your next big endeavor.
Best of luck to Mr. Rand Fishkin as moves along to his own next big endeavor, SparkToro. I'll certainly be following and rooting for his success.