Book Notes #015 - Lost and Founder By Rand Fishkin

Rating 4.5/5 ⭐️ (Very Good)

“If possible, build your expertise before you build your network, and build your network before you build your company.” - Rand Fishkin

Book Review

  • Main ideas/information - Great.

  • Examples & stories - Great.

  • Engagement - Good.

The Book In 10 Seconds

A behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a CEO of a startup, Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin is an insightful business book for entrepreneurs packed with practical knowledge, experience and transparency.

Topic: Non-Fiction (Entrepreneurship, Startups and Marketing)

The Key Takeaways


If you are the founder of a startup and you were planning on only doing the work you love, think again.

The real job of a founder (CEO) is to;

  • Manage people.

  • Hold people and your team responsible.

  • Recruit talent.

  • Handle crises.

  • Defining and amplifying the company’s mission, vision, strategy and values.

However, if this is the work you love to do, you have picked the right role for you.


“Transparency is making the choice to reveal even the most uncomfortable truths with relentless candour”

Being open, digging deep, saying what the world normally stays quiet about and refusing to take the easy way out when having conversations with your management team, investors and fellow founders can make a world of difference when it comes to solving problems before they become embedded in your company’s culture and business.


EASY: there is an underperforming team member at your company and you avoid the difficult conversation in the hopes it will get better on its own.

HARD: Think and reflect on why you are unhappy with the team member and document instances of unwanted behaviour. Have a direct conversation with the team member and if necessary coach them or work to find mentorship for them. You may still have to ultimately fire them if they do not learn the skillset necessary to perform the role.

“That is the thing with transparency sometimes the outcome is the same but how you got there and the downside risk is remarkably different.”


As a company, build rules you will follow, a reason why the company exists and what you strive to achieve together.

It is vital that you have a team with a shared culture and shared values as it will almost always, outperform a team without these elements.’

How to identify your core values: “they’re not core values if you’re willing to sacrifice them in exchange for money.”

Values can be the key aspects that make your business different or stand out from the rest. For example, transparency, accessibility, authenticity, generosity, fun, and empathy.


As the founder of the company, your actions and values will greatly influence the company culture and set the baseline that all future employees will follow.

This is why it is so important to understand your strengths and weaknesses and to be prepared and hire people different from you who can see things differently and learn from your strengths and help you develop your weaknesses.

A few questions to learn about your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Write out a list of your previous failures and success in your career.

  • Whatever is not on that list will most likely be your weaknesses as you lack experience.

  • Would you be able to step in to fix an issue on (X topic) when it arises?

  • Build a list of functions that the business performs and see which roles have high retention versus those with high employee turnover. Most likely the high turnover roles are the ones you lack expertise and experience.

  • Look at what roles are easy for your business to recruit and which roles are difficult. This is another way to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a founder.


  • “Great Founders Don’t Do What They Love; They Enable a Vision.”

  • “The Best Leaders Know When to Lead—and When Not To.”

  • “The people who multitask the most tend to be impulsive, sensation-seeking, overconfident of their multitasking abilities, and they tend to be less capable of multitasking.”

  • “We have the power to change the ways we react and the way things make us feel.”

  • “Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.”

  • “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — Reid Hoffman

  • “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs

  • “The myth of “founding a startup so you can do what you love” is at least as enshrined in the tech world’s popular culture as the myth of getting rich.”

  • “When your startup is growing, the tasks and competencies change every six months.”

  • “Startup culture is about one thing: growth. As fast as you can.”

  • “Even Successful Startup Founders Don’t Get Rich (Quick).”

  • “People LOVE change (when it’s about changing others). People HATE change (when it’s about changing themselves).”

  • “Don’t Raise Money for the Wrong Reasons or from the Wrong People.”

Action Steps

1) Picking a Company Name

  1. Be sure to pick a name that has no specific association for example Amazon and is “easy to say and hard to confuse once heard”.

2) Create your company vision.

  1. “Today the world works like THIS [________]. But once the company I build exists and reaches the scale to fulfill its ongoing mission the world will change to THIS [________].”

3) Do some market validation

  1. Build a list of 100 people you expect would strongly want the product or service you will provide.

  2. Interview the people on that list and learn about each of their problems and see how your product/service can solve them.

  3. Develop a simple landing page offer a tease of your product/service before launch and see how many people are willing to signup to gain early access.

  4. Run some ads to your landing page and try to amplify your reach to see how the offer is perceived by a larger audience.


If you are interested in startups, marketing and SEO this book provides you with an honest and vulnerable perspective on a founder's journey towards building the silicon valley dream.

You can expect the author's personal stories and lessons about starting and growing a company with his own mother, and that not everything we wish for would make us happy.

I learned that not everyone should have the CEO role, sometimes you have to step down from the role if that's not what you love or if that is what is best for the overall company, that is what makes good leadership. Most people mistake the founder/CEO role as a dream position when in reality most of the work is to manage crises, make tough decisions and take most of the responsibility for the company's failure and/or success.

- Sophie

Buy the book or add it to your reading list!

  • 📚 Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin- Amazon Link

  • 🎧 Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin - Audiobook