These eight must-read startup books are an effective way to leverage the experience of successful founders. If you’re planning on launching a business, check out our top picks to arm you with the knowledge you need to succeed.
The following eight must-read startup books are indispensable to any startup founder, delivering decades of cumulative business insight that will significantly boost your founder IQ. These books in particular provides prospective unicorn startup founders the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants, leveraging the accumulated wisdom of already-successful entrepreneurs to develop and market game-changing ideas.
1. Zero to One — Peter Thiel
The first of our must-read startups books comes from Peter Thiel.
The failure rate of startups is extremely high — only 10 percent of Australian startups succeed in trading through the first few years of business. Peter Thiel’s Zero to One is focused on providing startup founders with the tools required to identify and overcome early obstacles in the startup launching process, revealing a wide range of practices followed by the most successful venture capitalists in the world.
The core axioms of Thiel’s Zero to One focus on risk minimization, advising startups to build for the future, leave nothing to chance, and leverage the power of monopoly. Outright monopolies, argues Thiel, aren’t bad for innovation, and should be strived for. Zero to One is the first book a startup founder should read when aiming to identify and corner a lucrative market niche.
2. The E Myth — Michael Gerber
The success of a startup is often dictated by the roles a founder chooses to let themselves be defined by. The approach taken by a startup founder when launching a business can deliver a host of strengths and weaknesses that can either contribute to success, or result in dramatic failure.
Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It identifies two primary archetypes in business leadership: technical mentality, and entrepreneurial mentality. An entrepreneur, argues Gerber, knows when to delegate, focusing their efforts on the broader scope of business management and growth. If you’re planning on leading a successful startup team, The E-Myth Revisited is a must-read.
3. The Lean Startup — Eric Ries
Startups need to move quickly to succeed. A high-speed, low-drag mentality is critical to rapid growth and profitability. Many highly successful startups “bootstrap” their business by self-funding as much as possible and “growth hacking” their path to profitability. Effective startup bootstrapping, however, means effective planning.
Lean Startup by Eric Reis is widely regarded as the definitive guide to bootstrapping a new startup. In the Lean Startup, Reis breaks down the processes involved in adopting a startup mindset, identifying a sustainable business model, launching an MVP, adapting to market conditions, and optimizing your product. If you’re launching a startup on a budget, the Lean Startup can’t be overlooked.
4. Never Split the Difference — Chris Voss
Negotiation is a critical skill for startup founders. If you’re planning on launching any funding rounds as part of your startup’s financial growth strategy, you’ll likely need to negotiate the distribution of equity at some point. Developing a firm negotiation technique is essential in the competitive startup ecosystem.
Christopher Voss’ and Tahl Raz’s Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It leverages Voss’ former career as an FBI hostage negotiator to deliver insightful and actionable negotiation techniques that translate directly into the boardroom.
5. Hard Thing About Hard Things — Ben Horowitz
Startups seeking additional funding frequently engage VC firms through equity funding — but the benefits of a VC backer aren’t strictly financial. VC funding brings with it the extensive experience of the venture capitalists behind the firm, which can play a dramatic role in accelerating the growth of a new startup.
Ben Horowitz’s the Hard Thing About Things provides startup founders with the same essential advice delivered by VC backers, without the equity cost. Leveraging decades of experience as one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and successful entrepreneurs, Horowitz amplifies actionable business insights with relatable personal anecdotes that arm new entrepreneurs with the tools needed to survive in the competitive startup environment.
6. The Founder’s Dilemma — Noam Wasserman
The next one of our eight must-read startup books looks at some of the decisions founders must make as they begin their startup journey.
The dream of launching a “unicorn” startup — a self-funded startup that achieves a valuation of over $1 billion without distributing equity — is the goal that drives tens of thousands of entrepreneurs to launch their own startups every year. Launching a startup without external funding can dramatically increase the likelihood of failure, however.
VC funding isn’t always the answer, though. Determining whether to offer equity in funding rounds and if so, how much, is one of the most difficult problems faced by startup founders. Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemma focuses on providing founders with guidance on whether or not to bring in co-founders, team members, and investors to accelerate the growth of a new business. If you’re not sure whether to fly solo or build a team and seek funding, The Founder’s Dilemma will help you determine the worth of your business and how to identity or distribute roles.
7. Slicing Pie Handbook — Mike Moyer
Wasserman’s Founder’s Dilemma helps startup founders determine whether they need or want to bring in external shareholders or team members. What happens when a startup decides to go ahead with equity distribution, though? Navigating the complex funding ecosystem can often lead new startup founders astray, resulting in bad equity deals and poor startup performance.
Mike Moyer’s Slicing Pie Handbook educates founders on the best practices for equity distribution. By outlining the basic requirements and purposes of funding, Moyer helps new startups allocate equity in a fair manner that places them in the best position to succeed.
8. Good to Great — Jim Collins
The last of our must-read startup books comes from Jim Collins.
Building a successful business from a startup isn’t a linear process. The most profitable businesses in the world consistently sustain high levels of performance and growth, adapting to market changes and overcoming obstacles to dominate the industries in which they operate.
The key difference between these businesses and “average” businesses, according to Jim Collins in Good to Great, can be clearly defined. Good to Great isolates and analyzes the critical factors that contribute to the success of great companies and distills them into actionable practices that can help new startup founders scale their companies effectively and quickly.
Seeking expertise and advice from experienced startup entrepreneurs and experts can significantly improve the performance. Similarly, effective financial advice can place your startup in the best possible position to grow — if you’re planning on growing your startup, reach out to Fullstack for startup accounting & business expertise today.