Ben Horowitz (of Andreessen Horowitz)


The Hard Things About Hard Things

Building a business when there are no easy answers

by Ben Horowitz (of Andreessen Horowitz)

Note: This book is non-programming specific, about general management, and focused on CEOs

Warning: This book contains hip-hop (more like rap) lyrics that can be quite colorful in language for reasons I cannot discern.


  • I was surprised to find this book fully focused on CEOs, and not technical leadership, given its place in Silicon Valley VC handouts. There was also surprising little overlap (he even goes into detail about why CEOs should be opposite in many ways from other executives)
  • This book starts off slow and very anecdotal, but picks up speed and becomes useful. It hits its stride about mid-book when it starts talking about Culture and one-on-ones.
  • This book is a good way to build appreciation for a CEO's role when you have no perspective on what that is.


This book does a decent job at putting what is typically under wraps on display: building a business is hard and often ugly, meaning that you are almost never choosing a right answer, but the least wrong, and you only know 10% of what is required to make a good decision.

Who should read?

Compared to High Output Management, I would probably read that twice before recommending this (and even he says similar high praise about it in the book), but this book does actually place Andy Grove in context, which can be helpful, and this book does not romanticize...anything. This is being a CEO in the dirt.

Important concepts

  • Ones and Twos: Ones are those comfy with making decisions in vague circumstances, but struggle creating processes. Twos thrive on process, but can be paralyzed by analysis. CEOs are typically ones, while the rest of the exec team are typically twos.
  • There are some cool VC-specific things he shares, like:
  • You should be striving for a tech product ten times better than the current leader or you shouldn't start.
  • If you are not very early on in a very large market, or you do not have a good chance of being the market leader, you should consider selling your company.