Interview: Derek Lidow, Author of the Book Startup Leadership

Photo: Derek Lidow, Princeton University entrepreneurship professor, wrote a book on startup leadership. Photo Credit: Courtesy Derek Lidow
Derek Lidow, Princeton University entrepreneurship professor, wrote a book on startup leadership. | Courtesy Derek Lidow

Derek Lidow is a professor who teaches entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity at Princeton, and is an expert on topics of concern to startup founders. met Lidow several years ago, after he first came to Princeton, and we covered his talk at a New Jersey Entrepreneurial Network event that year. Lidow had previously been founder and CEO of iSuppli, a California-based startup he successfully sold to IHS for over $100 million. More about Lidow can be found on his website,

Name of the book:Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises Author: Derek Lidow

Tell me about your background.

My background is a bit unusual because I was the CEO of a large public global semiconductor company, International Rectifier [El Segundo, Calif.], who then retired to start a company from scratch, iSuppli, that went on to become a global leader in the field of market intelligence. So I have experience leading and growing companies both large and small. When my company, iSuppli, was sold in 2010, Princeton invited me to come teach and help expand their entrepreneurship program. I therefore now also have a background as a teacher and researcher in entrepreneurship.

How did you get the idea for this book?

I wrote the book “Startup Leadership” because I knew from having started a company and from having many friends and colleagues who have founded companies that starting a company is relatively easy. Growing a company is an entrepreneur’s far more challenging task. Few people have researched how best to grow ideas into substantial companies, so that prompted me to write the book. And I also should mention that I wrote the book to be fun and memorable to read. I describe how things really work through the stories of others.

How did you go about gathering material for this book?

Fortunately, I have for many years been a student of the best researchers, coaches and teachers on the subject of how you grow ideas into substantial enterprises. That is what I had to do over and over again as a senior leader and eventually CEO of a large global semiconductor company. Unless we were nearly perfect in how we developed the innovative ideas of our teams and turned them into large-scale profitable product lines, we would have been crushed by our competitors. I had to do it well to survive, and I needed the help of the best people I could find. When I got to Princeton, I was then able to supplement what I had learned on the job and from others with additional academic research.

Why were you the right person to write this book?

My unique background as a person that has researched the topic, taught the subject, and actually practiced the subject — in leading large, diverse teams within companies large and small and in a startup and an established company makes me an ideal person to write this book.

Who is the audience you hope to reach with this book?

This book is very valuable for both aspiring and practicing entrepreneurs, as it lays out step-by- step how anyone can become an inspirational leader of innovative and fast-growing companies.

This book is also great for anyone that coaches or teaches entrepreneurs. The fact that this book is based upon research and facts rather than personal opinions makes it particularly valuable and reliable. And it’s fun to read too, making the book very accessible to everyone.

Why do you think “Startup Leadership” will be important to members of the tech entrepreneurship community in New Jersey?

“Startup Leadership” is particularly valuable to the entrepreneurs of New Jersey because our state is home to many small and medium-sized companies that have the potential to be larger. My book will help all entrepreneurs and CEOs grow their companies faster.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about “Startup Leadership”?

I use the real stories of several famous entrepreneurs to illustrate my points. Dean Kamen, Wendy Kopp and Brian O’Kelley feature prominently in the book.

Please give the readers three takeaways from the book, three lessons they will learn by reading the book.

  • Startup leadership is a skill set everyone can master.
  • Leadership is an essential skill set for entrepreneurs because you can accomplish very little on your own.
  •  What is required of a leader in a startup changes dramatically as an enterprise matures. What was great leadership one week may be inappropriate and destructive the next.

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