Personal Blog of Michael Erickson Facchin. Founder &

Book Notes & Review: Lost & Founder by Rand Fishkin

Published 6 years ago in Book Notes & Reviews - 0 Comments

I’m already a Rand Fishkin fan. I started this book after watching dozens of Whiteboard Fridays over the years. He was an inspiration in helping me find my own voice when it came to speaking. I regularly recommend this post on speaking.

So when I found out he wrote a detailed, full length book – I immediately grabbed the audiobook.


This is probably my favorite business book of 2018. It’s fun, insightful, and the storytelling is amazing. There were moments where I teared up, and moments where I was inspired. As someone who also worried about money, who battled with depression/anxiety, who also loves the craft of online marketing, who also tries to do business “the right way”, and who also has a service & SaaS in the industry (mine is PPC, and his is SEO) – this book is near & dear to my heart. You might not have million dollar breakthroughs (although you very well may…), but you will definitely be a bit more inspired to be a better entrepreneur.

I gave Lost & Founder 5 stars on GoodReads.

Lost and Founder: The Mostly Awful, Sometimes Awesome Truth about Building a Tech StartupLost and Founder: The Mostly Awful, Sometimes Awesome Truth about Building a Tech Startup by Rand Fishkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews



My book notes are by no means a comprehensive summary. They are often dictated and captured by my cellphone. 


  • Starts up by using the great analogy of cheat codes and how if you know that you codes you can avoid some of the common pitfalls that people fall into for example raising your prices every year but grandfathering in existing customers is a great way to inspire loyalty and boost profits
  • He talks about how Moz is a middle-of-the-road tech startup which didn’t have billion-dollar exits isn’t Lyft or Uber or Tesla but instead is a B2B SaaS
  • Rand talks a lot about how most material written on startups is fantastical, over-the-top, and only talks about the 1% of edge cases – incredible successes or incredible failures. Most of the time, it actually not what media makes it out to be. Most people aren’t college dropouts. Most people who start startups are in their 30’s and 40’s. 
  • …the value of transparency and how sharing things that normally aren’t meant to be shared like business financials gross how talks with investors are going didn’t those things are typically pretty private but by making them transparent and sharing it with people it creates a much better culture it’s a great cheat code
  • When the Moz blog first launched, he was sharing a ton of information for insiders so that they could learn SEO then he found that the beginner’s guide to SEO was one of the most valuable pieces of content that he had ever
  • Content, community, and reach… Rand really loved working with people helping them educate them 
  • Gross margin on software 70% vs service at 20%
    • 1-2x on service multiple
    • 3-8x on software
  • Services are great
    • Low capital risk
    • Cheaper salaries
  • Investors in saas
    • You will get diluted with load of investors and even if you are 3x bigger you may own 30% less
  • services have a much higher survivability 
    • 40 percent vs 20
  • Want to start a product?
    • Start with your consulting
    • Let your service fund your software
  • In generally talks about how service businesses are easy to get started don’t require loads and loads of marketing don’t require loads and loads of capital to get going and even in a lot of ways service businesses have the opportunity to be incredibly profitable for the calendar and not only that you can own more of a small business as opposed to owning less of a busy bigger business
  • Enable a vision
    • Rand loves SEO, but a CEO is a shitty job
      • Doing less than 5% of his time was actually SEO
    • Discusses e-myth ( the idea that if you are passionate about your industry -, becoming CEO let’s you do that….it doesn’t)
    • “I want to do something that changes the world this way.” Is there way to look at bring CEO.
      • Rather than do the work I want to do..
    • When he was CEO, no one knew what to do, no one was communicating effectively.
    • Moz new CEO improved their systems massively
    • It took 6 years to get product planning right at Moz. 
    • CEO is a role of problem solver
  • Beware the pivot
    • Pivots only happen when things aren’t going well
    • Few work.
    • Moz started by blogging, but picked a lot of good variables inadvertently…..seo is hugely popular. Start with the right ingredients instead of switching later
    • He spent at least 1 hour a day writing
    • Execution is more fungible then the ideas
  • Companies carry their founders baggage
  • He wants people to think long and hard about receiving investment
    • Investors goals are almost never aligned with yours. Most don’t want you to build a profitable business. Most want to you sell. 
    • They may have a fund that they need to 3x over the next 10 years. Most start ups fail, so even a 5x ROI in your business won’t make them thrilled. They want massive exits only. Usually when things don’t go well, they replace founder
  • Growth hacks are hacks
    • They did a one time offer and it distracted them from long term growth
    • Stop growth hacking and start relying on repeatable Evergreen marketing flywheels one that is a little bit difficult to get started but then ultimately will operate in a frictionless environment
      • But importantly get better and more powerful over time
  • Values don’t make money
    • But they’re incredibly valuable
      • TAGFEE
      • Find people with the values already, people will not adapt
    • Diversity is a valuable advantage
      • To cultivate diversity, have a better hiring process, and support organizations that give underprivileged communities a chance. Like mom’s, and women, and minorities
  • Moz analytics
    • He wanted to unite everything with an analytics platform
    • Had to replace engineering team, be released a version that was buggy and incomplete, and it wasn’t what customers wanted.
    • Had 90k emails, thought 5% would convert
      • 97% delivered
      • 30% ctr
      • 18% free trial
      • 41% converted to paid
      • Only 2.3% paid for at least one month
    • Mistakes
      • Instead of small pieces first and scaling, they instead built mega software and then released
    • He was confident in his ideas, but never validated outside of himself
    • Always pare back into one element and then iterate on the fundamentals
      • Only release it broadly when that starting group loves it
    • CEO swap
      • He swapped with seer interactive
    • UpHe watched how seer used their tools
      • He thought that an all in one tool was good, but he was wrong
      • Reality was incredibly different than what he assumed
      • It was so humbling
    • He not uses competitor to to try to understand everything
      • He wanted to consult. He really wanted to get his hands dirty.
      • Not he works with non profits or friends
      • I.e. FB not showing old photos of a dead child
    • Do more consulting it keeps you close to your customers
  • Do more lean startup stuff
    • But also don’t create a useless piece of crap
  • Rand mentions Catch-22 where if you sell your startup your cell out and that if you don’t sell you rewarded and he often thinks about the email or turn down a 20 + million dollar offer
  • Psychological safety is one of the most important factors in teams
  • They lost focus and it less to out of control spending and then led to layoffs
    • If he could do it again, he would have found a path to increase retention
    • They did 1on1 sessions and it was a dramatic improvement in retention
    • Multiple products dilute your brand
      • They didn’t have traction with main product, but then expanded to another product
    • Simplicity is powerful when you start
      • Really this is an attention strain on the metrics
  • Cheat codes for next time
    • The highs are worth the lows
    • Branding : picking a better name for next time
      • Pick an easy name
      • Avoid confusion with any other company
    • Investment options are better now.