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11 Books to Read for Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

Whether you are a startup founder or entrepreneur – or just rub your shoulders with such people and want to become like them – you should definitely spark your knowledge by reading some books.

Which books to read?’ – you are asking yourself.

In an era where entrepreneur books are a super-popular and super-hyped thing on Amazon, it is hard to choose which ones to pick. Even though are thousands of them on the market – not all of them live to your fullest expectations and most of them are a ton of paper waste…

If you want to find the right one for your needs and skip the 300 pages of ‘reading’ that can be easily summed in 1 page, you should focus only on books that are bringing immediate value and giving you valuable lessons you can apply to your company or startup.

To help you on this mission, I am listing down all the greatest books to read for (to-be) founders, entrepreneurs and like-minded professionals under several categories.

We’ll tackle four most important for startups areas: 

  • Business in general 
  • Bootstrapping 
  • Sales
  • Inspirations

BUSINESS for Startup Founders & Entrepreneurs

#1 “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” – Peter Thiel & Blake Masters

There will be no new Facebook, Windows or Apple. Every new disruptive company goes from 0 to 1, building a monopoly over years of disruptive business. This book is about how to create disruptive businesses and become a new Facebook in a completely different field.

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Review excerpt: “The title means “create true newness.” If you go from 1 to n (n being an integer), generally, you create incremental value (like faster solar charging or curved screens). Even if you make a product that’s a 3x improvement over a market leader, you aren’t creating anything truly new, and well-funded competitors are likely to catch up.

Going from 0 to 1 means starting at ground zero and building a new foundation. This is similar to Blue Ocean Strategy, but discussed at a more fundamental level.”

Video Summary: “Zero To One” by Peter Thiel – VIDEO BOOK SUMMARY

#2 “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” – Chris Anderson

How to make money by giving away things like music, electronics, phones, t-shirts, DVDs, software and more for free. Many interesting case studies to learn how to grow your business and money in the bank by giving stuff for free.

Review excerpt:“Great book. Very insightful. It brings to light many of the ways in which astute entrepreneurs have leveraged free as a way to amass large audiences and open up ancillary (but significant) revenue streams. If you’re an entrepreneur looking for the right business model, I’d highly recommend reading this book.”

Video Summary: Chris Anderson – Free: The Future of a Radical Price

#3 “Built To Sell: Creating A Business That Can Thrive Without You” – Chris Anderson

Top tips for entrepreneurs at each stage of their business. All you need to know about creating a unique product, setting up processes and building teams, automating your business. Learn how to create a valuable and sellable business that runs without you.

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Review excerpt: “I wish I had this book back in 2005 when I was offered $3.1 million for my company and decided to hold out for more. With the 2008 housing market crash, my company crashed with it and became essentially worthless from a sellable standpoint. After a complete rebranding last year and implementing the methods used in this book, we are now looked up to as the leading company in our niche industry and have even run one competitor completely out of town just by doing business the right way. I highly recommend this one.”

Video Summary: Built To Sell: Creating A Business That Can Thrive Without You

#4 “How to Win Friends and Influence People” – Dale Carnegie

A book that sold more than 15 million copies and the first book by Dale Carnegie to become a bestseller. It practically teaches people how to balance their personal lives when climbing the ladder to success. If you want to learn some valuable principles that help you achieve your maximum potential over the course of your career in today’s age, this book is for you.

Review excerpt: “This book has taught me the importance of staying in control and how beneficial it is to be in control of our behaviors and act in a way of service to others. The examples described in the book made it simpler to understand the concepts that Dale is teaching. I recommend this book if you would like to improve your skills with people. This book is especially beneficial for those who are working on their businesses and close relationships.”

Video Summary: How to Win Friends and Influence People

INSPIRATION for Startup Founders & Entrepreneurs

#5 “Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography” – Walter Isaacson

This book is a biography of the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. It perfectly balances his professional and personal life, his view on things and principles – all inspired from three years of exclusive interviews that the author, Walter Isaacson has had with Jobs as well as his family members and key co-workers.

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Review excerpt: “Writing a biographical insight into an extremely complex genius like Steve Jobs was never going to be easy, but this is surely the best one, even if it gets a bit labored at times. It seeks to capture the highs and lows, successes and failures of Jobs business and personal life and as such is a fascinating read.”

Video Summary: Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography

#6 “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” – Ashlee Vance

The world knows Elon Musk as a great innovator and a similar spirit to Steve Jobs. This book sums up his extraordinary lifestyle, principles and approaches on things, as well as his determined focus on making technology better, easier and more accessible for everyone. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectrum of ideas from the founder behind PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity and how he leads the world to a new future.

Review excerpt: “The best thing I have read on Elon Musk so far (and from what I understand, the only one that he has participated in himself). Vance is an excellent writer, and you may or may not be familiar with him from Bloomberg Business and other high profile writings. I loved the insight into Musk and how he operates, and you get a very broad and complete picture of Musk as a driven visionary that is absolutely set on delivering some of the most aspirational goals of any human in history.”

Video Summary: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

#7 “Shoe Dog: A Memoir By The Creator of NIKE” – Phil Knight

This memoir paints the picture of the founder and CEO of Nike, a company that is widely known as the giant in sportswear. In this book, you are able to see Nike as a startup and its evolution to one of the world’s most iconic and game-changing brands. Moreover, you will read about how Paul Knight borrowed $50 from his father to create a company with a mission to invent low-cost athletic shoes from Japan.

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Review excerpt: “This will be a great read for anybody, but if you’re thinking about starting a business, especially a business that you expect to grow, this book belongs on your must-read list. You’ll learn things that you won’t learn anywhere else and you’ll learn things that you can only learn from a story.”

Video Summary: Shoe Dog: A Memoir By The Creator of NIKE

BOOTSTRAPPING for Startup Founders & Entrepreneurs

#8 “The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” – Chris Guillebeau

Best-described as a guide but also a book you can take valuable lessons from, this masterpiece will help you take all the lessons you have learned to actual practice. ‘The $100 Startup’ is more than just a story – it is an approach where Chris Guillebeau tells you exactly how many dollars his group of unexpected entrepreneurs required to get their projects started, how they began and what were the key mistakes they made from start to finish.

Review excerpt: “In this book, Guillebeau provides a blueprint on how to produce a quality product or service that consumers will value enough to pay for. What I really enjoyed about the book is that the author interviewed real business owners that met his criteria. This includes a unique business model, using no more than $1000 in startup capital, and no special skills.”

Video Summary: The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

#9 “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” – Eric Ries

In this book, Eric Ries defines the startup as the organization which focus is to build something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. It is a book that has a unique approach to companies that are both capital efficient and leverage human creativity more effectively.

What it does is help readers learn some of the most counter-intuitive practices when running a startup and a way to test their vision continuously and throughout time.

However, there are many reviews pointed to this book about being too tech and software-oriented and being ‘an essay that uses complex words without actionable information’.

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Review excerpt: “The Lean Startup model focuses on creating a minimum viable product for the market and receiving customer feedback along the way to improve the product. Oftentimes a rough draft of a working product is enough to gain valuable feedback and ideas that would never have been thought of if the project had been refined to death by its developers.”

Video Summary: The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

#10 “The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch” – Dan Norris

Whether you have your own startup or are on the mission to building one, this book will serve as a valuable asset to you in many ways.

From generating ideas to getting your first customers, it is a true bestseller that teaches you how to evaluate your ideas, choose a business name fast, build a website for your startup, market it quickly and a lot more.

Review excerpt: “A short – a very valuable resource for anybody starting, considering starting or who’s failed with an Internet startup.

The book distinguishes itself by sharing Dan’s experience and comparing the theories about launching against the (very different) reality. It’s insightful and(I’m ashamed to admit) sometimes humorous when Dan followed traditional advice and failed miserably because of it.”

Video Summary: The 7 Day Startup: You Don’t Learn Until You Launch

SALES for Startup Founders & Entrepreneurs

#11 “Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com” – Aaron Ross

From the creator of the world’s leading CRM management tool named Salesforce, this book teaches you all about sales and growth of revenue.

However, it is far from teaching you actual techniques like how to cold call or close deals. Instead, it leads you to another perspective of your future sales machine and lectures you on the best ways to make your sales team generate as many high-qualified and new leads as possible.

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Review excerpt: “Ross did an amazing job helping Salesforce.com generate its opportunities, and this book tells his story of building the lead generation function from scratch and gives some great examples of his leadership style.

I would have liked it to have been more specific, but it still fully deserves a 5 star rating for being the course on “Bay Area Lead Gen Scaling 101.”

Video Summary: Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com

Final word

I hope you enjoyed this wide selection of books – just as I hope it will help you fulfill your mission and kick start your successful career.

Resources:

  • https://www.amazon.com/Zero-One-Notes-Startups-Future/dp/0804139296 (image)
  • https://www.amazon.com/Built-Sell-Creating-Business-Without/dp/1591845823/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500541171&sr=1-1&keywords=built+to+sell (image)
  • https://www.amazon.co.uk/Steve-Jobs-Exclusive-Walter-Isaacson/dp/034914043X (image)
  • https://www.amazon.com/Shoe-Dog-Memoir-Creator-Nike/dp/1501135910 (image)
  • https://www.amazon.com/Lean-Startup-Entrepreneurs-Continuous-Innovation/dp/0307887898 (image)
  • https://www.amazon.com/Lean-Startup-Entrepreneurs-Continuous-Innovation/dp/0307887898 (image)

Matt Warcholinski

Matt Warcholinski is the COO of Brainhub (a software house building awesome node.js web and mobile apps) who loves to build startups and play guitar.

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