10 books that will help you build the next startup unicorn
Guidance and inspiration are two constants in a successful entrepreneur’s life. And while mentors and peers in the ecosystem can provide both in abundance, there is nothing like finding wisdom between the pages of a well-written book.
When the going gets tough and ideas run dry, read the stories of other founders who have been there and done that, waged all the wars you are faced with at the moment, and have found success.
Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things, and Peter Thiel’s Zero to One may be crowd favourites, but let us tell you about 10 other books that you, as an entrepreneur, can seek guidance from.
1. The Startup Playbook: Secrets of the Fastest-Growing Startups from Their Founding Entrepreneurs by David Kidder
Within this around-300 pages of text, you will find author David Kidder’s interviews with hundreds of founders about their path to success and how they managed to build their multimillion (or billion) dollar enterprises. Giving the reader insider access, David details the hard-hitting experiences of some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs and CEOs, revealing their most closely held advice.
2. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
Considered a must-read for those who want to take the entrepreneurial plunge, the book talks about how you can automate and create an income-generator so that you focus on your passion. Author Timothy Ferris believes that entrepreneurship is a great way to get back control of your life and also enjoy life without working 40 hours in a week. This book helps you effectively shun the typical 9-5 job and look at exciting avenues that allows you to live and work from virtually anywhere.
3. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Rework shows you a better, faster, easier way to succeed in business. Sounds too good to be true? Well, founders should read it to know why plans are actually harmful, why one doesn’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition.
4. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
This book by Eric Ries addresses a key statistic in the innovation ecosystem: most startups fail. But the author proposes an antidote of sorts to this truth, stating that many of those failures are preventable. Eric draws from disciplines such as lean manufacturing in the automotive sector to come up with his ‘Lean Startup’ approach to devise new metrics and success criteria for startups. Less is more, and that cannot be emphasised more for entrepreneurship.
5. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't by Jim Collins
Jim Collins in his celebrated 2001 book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't identified seven characteristics of companies that went from “good” to “great”. The first and most telling characteristic relates to people and what the author refers to as the ‘Level 5 Leadership’, which is all about quiet, confident humility and being driven to do what is best for the company as opposed to being lauded and heralded as the “greatest” or “ iconic” – or some other similar – leader. Read this book to transition from the common good to the rare great.
6. Nail It then Scale It: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation by Nathan Furr and Paul Ahlstrom
This book gives the secret sauce to all those struggling startups. In the book the authors explain the ‘Nail It then Scale It’ method, which recognises those patterns and principles that most successful entrepreneurs use. If you are putting in all the hours and the hard work and still unable to find that elusive success, this book just might nudge you towards a breakthrough.
7. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
Compared with the dozens of books addressing corporate innovation or technology startups or small/medium businesses, The $100 Startup has a refreshingly different focus: the ‘solopreneur’ or individual entrepreneurs who strike off on their own or with small teams, and convert ‘passions into profits’ through micro-businesses. In this book, author Chris Guillebeau distils his learnings from conversations with over 1,500 individuals who have spun profitable businesses out of a modest investment of $100 or less. Whoever said you need multimillion-dollar fund-raises to be successful?
8. Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind by Biz Stone
In his book, Biz Stone, the Co-founder of Twitter, discusses the power of creativity and how to harness it through stories from his remarkable life and career. Biz, who is known for his creativity covers pivotal and personal stories from his life in this 224-page book, along with lessons earned and learned the hard way while building one of the top internet companies of our times.
9. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
Author Alice Schroeder gets unprecedented access to one of the world’s noted billionaires: business magnate Warren Buffett. This book provides insider knowledge on the genius behind Berkshire Hathaway. Warren has never written a memoir, nor does he court the media like other well-known billionaires. So grab this book if you want to learn from an astute businessman who always treated his investors as partners.
10. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston
Founders at Work is a collection of profiles of tech company founders such as Steve Wozniak (Apple), Caterina Fake (Flickr), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Max Levchin (PayPal), and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail). Author Jessica Livingston is a founding partner at Y Combinator. This book will tell you how these tech geniuses stumbled upon their winning idea, what they did to nurture it, and how they built successful businesses based on it, despite the many challenges strewn along the way.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)