The start up of you by reid hoffman book summary and pdf

The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Panocha [Book Summary & PDF]

The Start-Up of You is written by Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of Linked In along with entrepreneur Ben Panocha. The book explains why you need to manage your own career as if you were managing a start-up business. Taking advice from start-ups, and the entrepreneurs who run them, is key to accelerating your career in today's ever-changing and overly-competitive world. Well worth a read if you are looking to take control of your future and career path.





The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman | Book Summary by Paul Minors


Who is this summary for?

The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman with help from Ben Panocha explains why you need to manage your own career as if you were managing a start-up business. Taking advice from start-ups, and the entrepreneurs who run them is key to accelerating your career in today's ever-changing and overly-competitive world. Well worth a read if you are looking to take control of your future and career path.

About the author

Reid Hoffman was one of the co-founders of the successful site LinkedIn. Hoffman sold LinkedIn to Microsoft in 2016 for a decent $26 billion. Hoffman regularly contributes to his blog with articles about entrepreneurship, Silicon Valley, civics, and politics. In 2017 Hoffman was listed on the Forbes list of billionaires and he is currently a partner at Greylock Partners. Initially, Hoffman planned to continue his academic career after graduating from Stanford by becoming a professor, but he was quickly sucked into the world of entrepreneurship and the rest is history. Hoffman lives with his wife in California. Ben Panocha is a fellow entrepreneur and has helped Hoffman with both of his published books.

In this summary

We’ll begin this summary by discussing Hoffman’s thoughts on humans as entrepreneurs before moving on to explain the entrepreneur mindset and the skill set you will require. There are a number of skills that Hoffman covers ranging from being able to plan to adapt, knowing the importance of networking, hustling and taking well-calculated risks. We’ll discuss each skill briefly and identify why they are important. Finally, we’ll conclude the summary with a few final bits of advice from Hoffman.



Hoffman believes that all humans can be considered entrepreneurs. The term entrepreneurship doesn’t only relate to someone who wants to build a product or a company. Rather, entrepreneurship is the desire to create, and wanting to create is something that all humans are encoded with to some extent.

Hoffman explains that it’s important to acknowledge this will to create and use it to our advantage in our careers. It doesn’t matter what field of work you are in, whether it’s being a doctor, lawyer or a teacher. You need to find the capacity to create in order to advance your career.

”To adapt to the challenges of professional life today, we need to rediscover our entrepreneurial instincts and use them to forge new sorts of careers. Today you need to also think of yourself as an entrepreneur at the helm of at least one living, growing start-up venture: your career.”

Forget about the traditional career

Hoffman believes we are living in a new world of work. A place where old, traditional careers assumptions need to be forgotten and replaced with new forward-thinking concepts. Hoffman explains that the reason things have changed (and are still changing) is down to globalisation and technology.

Technology has been rapidly improving and is now a key component in our everyday lives. It’s also overhauled a lot of workplaces and changed the ways that jobs are done. Not only has it affected traditional jobs, it’s also created brand new roles and jobs, ones that never existed ten years ago. And these jobs usually need employees with new, high-level skills.

Another impact that technology has had on jobs is that it’s given people all around the world to do the same job. Hoffman explains that remote working is increasing in popularity and now the competition for a new role isn’t just locals, there can be global competition. It’s also enabled companies to employ workers offshore who do the same work for less money. Hoffman emphasises the importance of acknowledging that the workforce and job market has been significantly altered in the last decade.


Hoffman explains that now is the time to engage your entrepreneurial mindset. It’s time to start treating your career as if it was a start-up. This is required if you want to make the most of the new emerging jobs and to have the opportunity to develop your career.

Hoffman explains that as an entrepreneur building a start-up there are a number of strategies and challenges you face. For example, decisions are made with not enough information, time or resources. He explains that often you are diving in headfirst, taking on risk with no safety nets. The risks you take on as an entrepreneur can be scary, but they are an essential component of the process. A few ways that entrepreneurs deal with the challenges are:

  • Analysing all assets, aspirations and their desired target market with the aim of developing a competitive advantage.
  • Are flexible with their planning.
  • Understand the importance of building a secure network within their industry.
  • Are proactive in looking for breakout opportunities.
  • Understand that taking risks is important but know how to manage the risks.
  • Learn to use the network they have built for business intelligence.

Hoffman explains that these entrepreneurial strategies are exactly what you need to adopt in order to have a successful career.


Having a competitive advantage

Hoffman explains that one of the components of being a successful entrepreneur is being better than all of the competition. You have to aim to be the best, otherwise, you’ll fall behind. Hoffman believes that as an entrepreneur your most valuable assets include your skills, brainpower, and energy.

As someone looking for a job, it’s inevitable that you’ll be facing considerable competition. Any potential employer will interview multiple people, all with similar skills, backgrounds, and education as you. The employers are the ones who have the power to make the decision as to who to employ. This is why it’s so important not to blend in, but to stand out from your competition. You need to figure out what you can offer that others can’t. Are you faster, better or cheaper? Do you have something to offer that’s rare or valuable? Consider these points when applying for positions and be prepared to explain your advantages.

What can you use as an advantage?

Hoffman outlines three key forces that enable your advantage:

  1. Assets: assets are anything that you have at this moment in time
  2. Aspirations/values: what are your goals and core values. What does your future look like?
  3. The market realities: having a clear understanding of the current market is going to be beneficial, you have to be able to use it to your advantage.

”A good career plan accounts for the interplay of the three pieces—your assets, aspirations, and the market realities. All advantages are local: pick a hill that has less competition”

Hoffman explains that in order to strengthen your advantage you need to work on what you currently have and aim to diversify. Learn new skills where you can, expand your knowledge. Another tactic that Hoffman recommends is to select an appropriate niche where your assets can truly shine.

Be adaptable

“Entrepreneurs are told they must be really persistent in fulfilling their vision, but also be ready to change their business based on market feedback.”Click To Tweet

Hoffman explains that you need to be able to follow a plan, but also have the opportunity to adapt your plan. As an entrepreneur, the advice you commonly receive is to build a business around something that you are passionate about. But the entrepreneur must also consider and adapt to their target market’s needs and requirements. There has to be planning involved, but also adaptability. And the best thing to do is understand the market you are entering and take on board any feedback. An entrepreneur who ignores feedback is never going to succeed. This is exactly what you need to do in order to plan and advance your career. You need to have an adaptive career, just as an entrepreneur will have an adaptive start-up.

”It’s important to understand, though, that while entrepreneurial companies and people are always evolving, the choices they’re making are disciplined, not random. There is real planning going on, even if there are no firm plans. We call this kind of disciplined, adaptive planning ABZ Planning.”

ABZ planning

  • PLAN A: this is your current plan, the actions that you planned to take first. You may make a few small amendments to this plan as you carry it out and receive feedback.
    • PLAN B: this is the second installation of a plan. This usually involves a new goal or a new way of reaching the goal. Plan B comes into effect if Plan A isn’t working or if along the way, you’ve found a new opportunity that you want to pursue.
      • PLAN Z: Hoffman calls this the fallback position or your lifeboat. This is the back-up to the back-up. Plan Z needs to be certain, reliable and stable. Plan Z is usually implemented if all other career plans go haywire.


Hoffman really emphasises the importance of networking. It’s not something you can overlook. He explains that all of the best professionals understand the need to build networks and can tap into them in order to help them improve their businesses and reach goals. Hoffman explains that this really isn’t something you can do alone.

If you’re serious about furthering your career then other people are going to be essential. It’s amazing what you can learn from other people, they can often provide important resources, opportunities or information. And sometimes knowing the right people can get you in touch with more of the right people. You really can’t put a price on the power of a great network.

“Furthermore, relationships matter because the people you spend time with shape who you are and who you become.”

Building a network

When looking to build your network there are a few things you need to consider. Hoffman explains that context does matter when it comes to building professional relationships. If you have shared business goals and interests, then you are more likely to be able to build a stronger relationship and network. Consider colleagues, customers, allies, business advisors and even people like accountants and lawyers. It’s important to ensure that there is common ground among everyone in your network but also remember to have some diversification.

”You need good intelligence to run the start-up of you. And, you need business intelligence. You get it by talking to people in your network. It’s people who help you understand your assets, aspirations, and the market realities. They will help you vet and get introduced to possible allies and trust connections. It’s people who help you track the risk attached to a given opportunity.”

Building relationships

Hoffman compares building professional relationships to the world of dating. Just like going out on a date you need to asses whether you like and get on with a person. You should be considering their ability to help you reach your goals and build upon your assets. Are they going to be able to help you and give you a competitive advantage? Hoffman explains that it’s also important to recognise whether you can help them in the same ways as well. After all, relationships are a two-way street.

Hoffman encourages you to consider what connections and relationships you already have. Is there a capacity within your existing network to meet others?

”Your network is influencing you as we speak, changing how you think and act, and opening and closing certain career doors—sometimes without your even knowing it.”

Pursuing opportunities and curiosity

”In order to accomplish something significant in your career, you need to focus on finding and capitalising on those great career opportunities: the opportunities that will extend your competitive advantage and accelerate your Plan A or Plan B.”

Curiosity is one of the key characteristics of a true entrepreneur. Hoffman explains that when some people see problems and issues to complain about, an entrepreneur will see an opportunity and potential. Hoffman believes that carrying this curiosity into your career can be incredibly helpful when it comes to finding potential opportunities. Keep an open mind, and if you see or hear people venting their frustrations, try and look at it from a new perspective, see what the opportunity is rather than dwelling on the negative.

However, it’s important to remember that opportunities will not simply present themselves to you, and they will often be disguised. You have to be active in looking for opportunities in order to find a breakthrough. People often assume that they will simply stumble across the right person or idea, that it will be presented on a platter. But the reality is that you need to be actively engaging with people and researching ideas whenever possible.

Hoffman explains that one of the best ways to be actively looking for opportunities is by connecting with other people and groups. People have the power to provide opportunities whether it be who they know or what they know. So don’t be afraid to get out there and meet as many people as possible, join multiple groups and encourage conversation that may lead to new opportunities.


Hoffman emphasises the importance of ‘doing the hustle’. He explains that it’s inevitable that you will be faced with difficult situations and decisions in your career. There will be times that you feel stuck and as if you are making no process. This is where hustling comes in, you have to recognised the need to move forward and begin the hustle. There are two key components of hustling; being resourceful and being resilient. Hoffman explains that being resourceful is incredibly important. If you don’t have something or something isn’t happening for you right now, it’s up to you to make it happen. Resilience is just as important, in Hoffman’s own words; “when the naysayers are loud, turn up the music.” You can’t let other peoples doubts or opinions prevent you from pursuing opportunities and furthering your career. There are times when things may seem impossible and inconvenient, but the reality is if you up your resourcefulness and resilience, you’ll be able to push through.


Hoffman talks a lot about taking intelligent risks.

”Risk isn’t the enemy—it’s a permanent part of life. In fact, being proactively intelligent about risk is a prerequisite for seizing those breakout opportunities. The constant presence of risk is why every career Plan A should be accompanied by a Plan B and Plan Z.”

Part of taking risks means that you need to learn how to assess the level of any given risk and learn how to manage them. This isn’t an easy task but is a crucial element of intelligent risk-taking. Here are two things that you need to remember about risks:

  • Taking a risk can be personal and situational. Hoffman explains that you might feel that something is significantly risky, whereas someone else in a different circumstance may not perceive the same action to be a risk.
  • Risk is also fluid and dynamic, never static. Something may be a huge risk to you right now, but your circumstances can change and the environment can change, consequently decreasing the level of risk over time.

Evaluating risk

Hoffman explains that any risk will have multiple outcomes, there’s no set way that you can accurately map all the possibilities that could occur. You can set yourself the task of considering all the pros and cons but you’ll likely never address them all. Hoffman has 5 key points to consider when assessing any new risk:

  1. It’s likely that the risk you are considering isn’t actually as risky as you think. It’s common for people to over-estimate significantly when it comes to risk. Use this to your advantage, others may perceive something as too big a risk and reject it, consider this an opportunity for you.
  2. Consider the absolute worse case scenario. Can you handle it if this is the outcome?
  3. If you go ahead with taking the risk, will there be an option for you to change or reverse the plan half way through? Is plan B a reasonable back-up plan?
  4. Don’t confuse risk with uncertainty. Just because you are uncertain about something doesn’t make it a risk. Certainty is incredibly rare.
  5. Remember that risk is fluid, consider the effect of the risk on you in a few years from now. Would you still consider it a risk?

”Pretending you can avoid risk causes you to miss opportunities that can change your life. It also leaves you exposed to a huge blow-up in the future. What’s more, you can never perfectly anticipate when inflection points or any other career-threatening event will occur.”


”So start tapping into your network. Start investing in skills. Begin taking intelligent risks. And start pursuing breakout opportunities. But most of all, start forging your own differentiated career plans; start adapting these rules to your own adaptive life. For life in permanent beta, the trick is to never stop starting. The start-up is you.”


Key takeaways

  • We are living in a new world of work. A place where old, traditional careers assumptions need to be forgotten and replaced with new forward-thinking concepts.
  • The reason things have changed (and are still changing) is down to globalisation and technology.
  • We need to adopt the entrepreneur-mindset in order to advance our careers. Treat your career as if it was a start-up.
  • It’s important to have a competitive advantage. You want to stand out from the competition, not blend in.
  • You need to be able to plan well, but also be adaptable and listen to feedback.
  • Networking and building relationships is critical in furthering your career.
  • Always be looking for opportunities and be curious.
  • You’re going to need to take risks, but it’s important to know how to manage and assess these risks.
  • Who you know is what you know.
  • It’s important to be curious and look for opportunities. Opportunities will not simply present themselves to you, you need to be actively engaging with other people in order to find what you are looking for.
  • Risk taking is a necessary component.
  • Remember that most people over-estimate risks, often a risk is not nearly as risky as you think.
  • Another thing to note is that risks are situational and personal. Their severity can also change over time as your circumstances and environment change.

Further reading

Another must-read for any entrepreneur is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Ries defines a scientific methodology for running startups and launching new products. This new approach has been adopted around the world within startups and established organisations. Regardless of your role or company size, this is a must-read for entrepreneurs, marketers, developers and business leaders.

Everyone and I mean everyone can learn something from How to Win Friends and Influence People. The principles in the book are simple, but something a lot of us fail to use or remember. This book will help you to convince people to your way of thinking, avoid arguments and become more like. If you're in a leadership or sales type role, I strongly recommend this book.

The Dip by Seth Godin is another great read for entrepreneurs. If you’re a budding entrepreneur you’re probably full of fantastic ideas for new business ventures. The challenge that so many face is deciphering when you need to push through the hard times, and when you need to quite and move on. This book is the perfect read for anyone that’s ever had a business idea and wants to learn a little bit about navigating the new-venture ‘dips’.

Action steps

  • Invest time into your relationships. Consider the people you already know and see if they can do anything for you.
  • Going business groups and be actively engaging.
  • Always look for opportunities.
  • When you’re feeling stuck, consider how you can be resourceful and resilient in order to move forward.
  • Learn how to assess risks following Hoffman’s advice.
  • Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.