Noam Wasserman, the Jorge Paulo and Susanna Lemann Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business, debuted his new book “Life is a Startup: What Founders Can Teach Us About Making Choices and Managing Change” last month. The book intends to educate readers about the basics of launching a successful start-up company.
Since Tuesday, Wasserman has been traveling the West Coast on a book tour, speaking with founders, CEOs and executives about his research and tips for building a successful company.
As the founding director of USC’s Founder Central Initiative, a business program for entrepreneurial education, Wasserman has been dedicated to researching and writing about the characteristics of failed and successful companies.
“Natural inclinations and the human biases are going to cause problems for [people] as they try to go through life,” Wasserman said. “At key inflection points, it’s important to have [people] tune into all of those ahead of time, so that they can be proactive.”
Wasserman said the inspiration for his book came from a student he had when he was a professor at Harvard University, where he taught a course on the founder’s dilemma, a phenomenon in which entrepreneurs must decide to relinquish control of their company in order to attract investors.
“[The student] said that as he was going through the founder’s dilemma course, he was seeing all the ways in which founders grapple with the same kinds of challenges … that he and his spouse were going through … and he was taking some of those best practices and bring them into the household,” Wasserman said.
Upon hearing the student’s story, Wasserman realized that many of the problems business owners face are actually based on blind passion and inexperienced decision-making. He also realized these shortcomings are actually quite analogous to real-life situations.
“When we look at the issues that we face in our lives … We don’t face them in the extreme that founders do. We can go and usually put Band-Aids on them,” Wasserman said. “Founders are dealing with the same human issues but much more frequently and much more intensely and it forces them to go and get beyond the band-aids to go and find real solutions.”
USC Founder Central Initiative Executive Director Michael Rivera said the book covers many important questions aspiring business owners must consider when launching start-ups.
“We cover many topics, for example, how do we network?” Rivera said. “How do we make friends in the professional setting within our company, within other companies to help set us up so that we have a beneficial professional network as well, all the way down to how do you negotiate?”
As a former investor himself, Rivera said that his expertise, along with Wasserman’s, was crucial to the new perspectives the book addresses.
“We both benefit from having been founders, having worked with founders in the real world and then transitioning into the academic,” Rivera said. “This influences how we speak to founders, and how we speak to students who are going to be founders.”
Wasserman hopes his book will teach readers to balance their personal lives and entrepreneurial work in a healthy way.