[Year in Review 2020] The Top 10 Books of 2020 for Entrepreneurs
From the stacks of books received for review this year, here are some of the best titles for startup founders, social entrepreneurs, innovators, and changemakers!
Launched in 2012, YourStory’s Book Review section features over 280 titles on innovation, entrepreneurship, creativity, and digital media. 2020 has been another outstanding year for books on the startup movement, with more of a focus on co-creation, inner dialogues, and business model designs – reflecting the growing maturity of the startup ecosystem around the world.
See our earlier lists of ‘Top 10 Books for Entrepreneurs’ from the past eight years as well: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012. YourStory has also published the pocketbook Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups as a creative and motivational guide for innovators, accessible as apps (Apple; free Android version).
Undoubtedly and unfortunately, the biggest development of the year 2020 was the coronavirus pandemic – with triple shock effects in health, economic, and social spheres. Though a big setback to many firms, a side-effect was a boost to digital adoption and hybrid business models. See our reviews of the books Pandemic Inc. and Coming Back from COVID for insights on business resilience.
The selection of our Top Ten Books this year provides advice for business models, leadership, tech trends, design thinking, startup ecosystems, storytelling, and connecting to a larger purpose. Country-specific titles focus on India and Spain as well.
Click on each title below to see the full book review; also check out our author interview section for more in-depth insights into entrepreneurship.
The global canvas of this book adds to the wealth of analysis on what makes startups succeed. It goes beyond the usual “Silicon Valley gospel” to showcase new business models, leadership strategies, team dynamics, financing models, and ecosystem partnerships. Lessons from the differing realities of startup environments in Asia, Africa, and Latin America enrich us all, and will be particularly useful for the emerging hyper-connected world.
The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What it Takes to Succeed, by Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba
This book shows how it’s not just hard work and talent that determine entrepreneurial success. An unfair advantage is something unique and internal to each person that gives a competitive upper hard, and exists even without having worked for it. Even adversity can be converted into an opportunity, as the frameworks and examples in this book show. The authors’ framework for entrepreneurs goes by the acronym MILES: money, intelligence/insight, location/luck, education/expertise, and status.
Funding your Startup, by Dhruv Nath and Sushanto Mitra
This book provides aspiring founders with a practical guide on choosing business ideas, making them viable, and raising funds from investors. In an engaging, conversational style, the authors document startup successes and failures in India. The framework is based on the apt acronym PERSISTENT: Problem, Earnings model, Risks, Size of the market, Innovation, Scalability, Team, Entry barriers, Niche, and Traction. Each chapter ends with some discussion on the COVID-19 impact on different startups and sectors.
Intel’s former futurist presents a deep dive into tech trends, business responses, and emerging startups. Waves of technology are combining and converging to reshape every industry, and present an ultimatum to business leaders to innovate or perish. The six key strategic technologies for business are artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain, the Internet of Things, 5G networks, and autonomous machines. “Businesses will experience more technology-driven change in the next ten years than in the last forty,” the author predicts.
This book builds on earlier frameworks of design thinking by IDEO and Stanford d.School, and provides case studies from over 50 companies in India. It extends the importance of design thinking not just for product development but to problem-solving in all walks of life. The book combines academic rigour with business practicality, and there is also a handy tear-away poster with a mindmap of the book’s topics. There are recommendations at the individual, organisational and cultural level.
The Invincible Company, by Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Fred Etiemble and Alan Smith
This title is the fourth in the book series by innovation consultancy Strategyzer. Their earlier bestsellers are Business Model Generation, Value Proposition Design, and Testing Business Ideas. The book is packed with descriptions of “the world’s best business models” across categories in stages of ‘explore’ and ‘exploit’, as well as patterns and lessons for cultural transformation in business. The design of the book is outstanding, and the visually-appealing presentation invites browsing as well as in-depth analysis.
The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck, by Christian Busch
Individuals and organisations can make luck favour them by taking conscious steps to cultivate the serendipity mindset and “serendipity field,” according to this book. Luck can be about enabling fortunate connections to happen, and systematically harnessing them – which is also good marketing advice for startups. Success comes from an open and experimental mindset, and not just from a focus on efficiency. From entrepreneurs to scientists, this book features a range of case studies, and a 38-question checklist to assess one’s serendipity.
Once Upon an Innovation: Business Storytelling Techniques for Creative Problem Solving, by Jean Storlie and Mimi Sherlock
Business communication and creativity come together in this handy book for innovators. It shows how story approaches can be embedded throughout the journey of innovation and change. The book describes activities and storytelling tools for each of the steps in the innovation journey: visioning, clarification, ideation, prototyping, stakeholder buy-in, and pitches. There are also suggestions for group activities revolving around stories, right from room setup and props to gallery photos and seating design.
The rise of the social innovation movement in India, along with profiles and roadmaps, is well documented in this book. It draws on 120 organisational examples, and provides useful frameworks and tips for aspiring social entrepreneurs, innovators, academics, policymakers, and impact investors. The analysis of mindsets, business models, organisational structure, sustainability, and scale strategies is particularly useful. The foreword is written by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus.
The Startup Guide series of books, published by Sissel Hansen in Copenhagen, covers the startup ecosystem in over 30 cities, such as London, New York, Berlin, Johannesburg, Cairo, Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo. The publisher and editorial team deserve an award for the entire book series, each of which features interviews with founders, investors, accelerators and educators. We pick this title on Barcelona because it is a showcase of the power of co-creation and also one of the most picturesque startup books around!
We look forward to your comments as well as your suggestions for books to review in 2021. All of us at YourStory wish our readers and partners a happy holiday season and a terrific year ahead in ‘The Next Normal’ – may a million successful startups bloom!
YourStory has also published the pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups’ as a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: Apple, Android).
Edited by Suman Singh