5 Book Recommendations for Startup Founders

Riya Pant,   Blog   19 May 2022
5 Book Recommendations for Startup Founders

Being a startup founder and CEO is difficult. Having a vision and creating a prototype is one thing. Building it into a successful, scalable business is entirely another. There is no playbook for doing that. Most startup founders are first-time founders, doing things and making decisions on the go. Taking the first step can seem and is ridiculously daunting and complicated. Leading a team and making sure everyone is doing their part requires a lot of training. This is why CEOs of large companies are oftentimes groomed over the course of years for the position. There is no ultimate answer, the ultimate guide to everything. The best you can do is learn from others’ lessons and implement them in a way that is relevant to you.

The best way to get new information was and remains a book. Begin with the following books in this very field. These books are written by experts who either guide or have been startup founders. The books give important entrepreneurial tips and trials.

Here is our list of 5 books for startup founders.

  • The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

Most startups don’t start out with tons of extra capital. This is where The Lean Startup comes into play. The book targets “fast, risk-free and successful startup companies” and tells you how to develop a startup with minimal resource costs in terms of maximum constraints and a large number of potential challenges. The book is inspired by Eric Ries’ own startup experiences. He explains the concepts of “validated learning”, rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that actually shorten product development cycles. You will learn how to measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics and learn what customers want.

If you want to learn how to use capital efficiently and leverage human creativity while on a budget, this book is one of the best startup books for you.

“A startup is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.”
  • Zero to One – Peter Thiel

You probably already know Peter Thiel as one of the co-founders of PayPal, Palantir and Founders Fund. Undoubtedly, no one is more equipped to give startup advice than him. Zero to One is full of challenging ideas backed up by compelling justifications that are hard to ignore. He makes some worthy claims, for example, that monopolies should be welcomed and are actually the basis for innovation. He then presents an optimistic view of the future of progress and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

While this guidebook is aimed at those building a technology startup more specifically, there are plenty of lessons to learn regardless of your industry. Read this book to challenge your preconceived notions about startups and how to go about it.

“The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.”
  • Measure What Matters – John Doerr

John Doerr has been a venture capitalist since the 1980s. He invested nearly $12 million in a startup that had amazing entrepreneurial ambitions and technology, but no real business plan. He then introduced the founders to OKRs and with them at the foundation of their management, the startup grew from forty employees to more than 70,000 with a market cap exceeding $600 million. That startup was Google.

In Measure What Matters, Doerr explains this concept of objectives and key results (OKRs). Objectives define what we seek to achieve and key results are how those top-priority goals will be attained. In this book, he shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies, with narrators including Bono and Bill Gates. You will learn how to collect timely, relevant data to track progress – to measure what matters.

“Leaders must get across the why as well as the what. Their people need more than milestones for motivation. They are thirsting for meaning, to understand how their goals relate to the mission.”
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz is one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs. He knows how to handle crises. In this book, he talks about his experiences as founder and CEO, and also how fast a favourable wind can turn for a company. He explains how he managed to save his company from bankruptcy. His tips are based on what counts in turbulent times. Every startup is bound to face turbulence in its journey. Whether you're a veteran entrepreneur or just getting started with your first startup, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” offers plenty of advice to help you make the difficult decisions that you’ll have to face while operating your new business.

With great humour, wit and ease, the book teaches you how to handle or execute dismissals in a fair manner too.

“The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed.”
  • The Culture Code – Daniel Coyle

There are times when things go smoothly in a workspace; the teams are coordinated, communication was effective and everyone feels empowered. And there are times when it feels like the team is falling apart and members failed to have a shared understanding. In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle explains how everything has to do with the culture of the team. He takes us inside some of the world’s most successful organizations – including Pixar, the San Antonio Spurs, and the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six – and reveals what makes these teams great.

By reading this book you will learn what makes teams successful and how you can help create the culture necessary for all of your teams, committees, and groups to succeed as a whole.

“Hire people smarter than you. Fail early, fail often. Listen to everyone’s ideas. Face toward the problems. B-level work is bad for your soul. It’s more important to invest in good people than in good ideas.”


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