A Comprehensive Guide to Startup Books: Part 1

August 29, 2013

2:59 pm

Whether you’re already running a startup or want to start building your own company, you can never have enough resources to help you develop your business. There are a lot of startup books out there, but it’s a crowded market; it’s laborious having to go through and find the right books to read for your specific startup issue.

Well, after surveying startup founders and investors on the books they find most helpful (and spending several hours on the glorious Internetz), we’ve finally managed to put together a complete guide to the best books you should be reading to help you develop and grow your company. From marketing and funding to innovation and overall startup guides, our list has got you covered.

Here is Part 1 of our very thorough list of the best startup books around. Part 2 of this list can be found here.

You can also find a copy of our list on Goodreads.

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure

By: Tim Harford
Topics Covered: Innovation, Business Strategy, Management
Market adaptation is absolutely necessary for startup survival. In this startup book, Hartford highlights three essential steps to successful adaptation: 1) attempt new things with the knowledge that some attempts will fail; 2) make sure that you can survive despite some failures, because some of your attempts will inevitably fail; and 3) ensure your own awareness of when you have failed.

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

By: Guy Kawasaki
Topics Covered: Overall Startup Guide
The former Apple chief evangelist and Silicon Valley venture capitalist wrote this startup book for a “Boot-Camp for Start Ups” that he conducted. It’s a comprehensive how-to for launching a startup, covering: the goals of the venture, positioning in the marketplace, business plan, bootstrapping and cash management, recruiting, raising capital, branding, and more.

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

By: Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur
Topics Covered: Business Planning/Strategy, Product Strategy, Marketing, Management, Company Culture
A great startup book for understanding the market, your company, your customers, and the competition. It looks at the business models used by leading companies and organizations, and outlines the “business model canvas,” covering essential parts of a business model: customer segments, value proposition, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, activities, resources, partners, and core structure.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

By: Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras
Topics Covered: Innovation, Company Culture, Management, Business Strategy
Six years of research and analysis of 18 “visionary companies” – among them: American Express, Ford, GE, Nordstrom, Hewlett-Packard, and Walt Disney – led to the production of this book. Collins and Porras compare such visionaries with lesser competitors and look into the characteristics of what makes the companies so successful.

The Crowdfunding Revolution: How to Raise Venture Capital Using Social Media

By: Kevin Lawton, Dan Marom
Topics Covered: Funding
Provides great insight on crowdfunding and how it’s changing the overall funding landscape. Lawton and Marom also provide strategies on how to optimize your crowdfunding campaign(s). It’s a great startup book for those seeking alternative venture capital.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

By: Tony Hsieh
Topics Covered: Overall Startup Guide, Company Culture, Management
The CEO of Zappos lays out a framework for how he has used happiness (and the pursuit of it) to create a compelling set of core values and beliefs for the company. It’s an intensely personal account of how he turns his personal beliefs into actions that have resulted in his own happiness and his company’s success.

Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup

By: David G. Cohen, Brad Feld
Topics Covered: Overall Startup Guide, Funding
The TechStars cofounders team up to provide this great resource for entrepreneurs. This startup book is a collection of advice from startup founders and investors involved with TechStars. It offers some pretty great insight for those wanting to get into tech and Internet startups.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

By: Daniel H. Pink
Topics Covered: Management, Company Culture, Innovation
Pink gives insight into what truly motivates us. He debunks the notion that we’re driven by monetary motivation (citing examples like Wikipedia). Pink argues that you should give employees 1) autonomy, 2) mastery, and 3) purpose, in order to get them to work as hard as a mother.

Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors (But Maybe Not Venture Capitalists)

By: Basil Peters
Topics Covered: Funding, Finance
It offers a pretty great view on how to make an early exit as profitably as possible, while maximizing the returns for all parties. Peters advocates against seeking venture capital because it’s harmful for startups in the long-run – definitely an interesting perspective.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

By: Michael E. Gerber
Topics Covered: Business Planning, Management, Overall Startup Guide, Sales
The “E-Myth” refers to the Entrepreneurial Myth that businesses are started by entrepreneurs seeking profit. This startup book provides great coverage on the phases of business growth (from infancy to maturity), the necessity for entrepreneurs to also play the roles of manager and technician, and other strategies to make your business profitable.

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days

By: Jessica Livingston
Topics Covered: Overall Startup Guide
Jessica Livingston is a founding partner of seed accelerator, Y Combinator. Each chapter of this startup book features a different story from startup founders, featuring interviews from people like Charles Geschke (founder of Adobe Systems), Steve Wozniak (cofounder of Apple Computer), and Paul Buchheit (creator and lead developer of Gmail). They cover topics from risk taking and Silicon Valley, to implementation and venture capital.

The Founder’s Dilemma

By: Noam Wasserman
Topics Covered: Overall Startup Guide, Business Planning, Equity Split, Management, Ownership
Noam Wasserman teaches a class by the same name at Harvard Business School. His startup book outlines a series of key decisions that a founder encounters when launching a new venture. Wasserman analyzes factors such as when to start a company, whether to start it on your own or with someone else, how to determine roles and responsibilities, and splitting equity. You can read his article about some of these issues or listen to this audio podcast.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win

Four Steps to the EpiphanyBy: Steve Blank
Topics Covered: Overall Startup Guide, Marketing, Sales, Business Development
Blank outlines a step-by-step process (his famous Customer Development process) for how to think about aspects of marketing, sales, business development for a new product or startup, and how startup companies differ from mature and more-established organizations. It’s an important distinction, and this book provides in-depth strategies on how to run your business accordingly.

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?

By: Seth Godin
Topics Covered: Innovation, Motivation
It’s a book about creating meaningful work that affects others in a significant way, while also allowing you to benefit financially from it. More of a book to motivate entrepreneurs to pursue their art/passion and to create new, bold ideas that spread and connect the world.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles

By: Peter F. Drucker
Topics Covered: Business Planning/Strategy, Innovation, Marketing, Management
“Business, because of its purpose, has just two functions, and only two: MARKETING & INNOVATION. Marketing & Innovation make money. Everything else is a cost.” First published in 1993, Drucker’s mechanics for starting a business still resonate today. This startup book is made up of three parts: 1) the practice of innovation; 2) the practice of entrepreneurship; and 3) entrepreneurial strategies.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business

By: Clayton M. Christensen
Topics Covered: Overall Startup Guide, Innovation, Product Planning, Management
A professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Christensen wrote this book to articulate his theory of disruptive technology – technologies or innovations that changed the way different markets worked. He outlines specific examples from history, such as Intel’s 8088 processor, which played an influential role in the creation of IBM’s model 5150 Personal Computer, the first true “PC.” Christensen outlines ways through which entrepreneurs and managers can become innovators themselves.

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

By: Jeffrey Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen, Clayton M. Christensen
Topics Covered: Innovation, Management, Product Strategy, Business Planing
The result of extensive research – stretching over eight years and over 100 interviews – this book looks into the five essential skills that enable innovative entrepreneurs and executives to generate breakthrough ideas: 1) associate, 2) question, 3) observe, 4) network, and 5) experiment. It gives practical advice on how to integrate these five habits into people, processes, and your company’s philosophy.

The Innovator’s Guide to Growth: Putting Disruptive Innovation to Work

By: Scott D. Anthony, Mark W. Johnson, Joseph V. Sinfield, Elizabeth J. Altman
Topics Covered: Innovation, Business Strategy, Product Strategy, Management
A practical and comprehensive guide to implementing innovation, setting management expectations, and growing your business. This startup book is broken down into five sections: precursors to innovation, identifying opportunities, formulating and shaping ideas, building the business, and building the supporting systems and structures.

Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath in Your Industry

By: Stephen Denny
Topics Covered: Brand Strategy, Marketing
While it can’t guarantee your startup’s competitive position, Denny provides a framework for challenging well-established firms in the industry. Each of his ten strategies (diverse in terms of scale and industry) are illustrated through anecdotes.

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

By: Eric Ries
Topics: Overall Startup Guide, Product Strategy, Innovation
This book has essentially become standard reading for anyone wanting to get into the startup community. It’s a primer on Ries’s “lean startup” strategy, applying lean thinking to the process of innovation in startups. Ries encourages startups to start small, and to develop their product through constant learning, testing, measuring, and rapid innovating (a Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop).

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

By: Chip Heath, Dan Heath
Topics Covered: Innovation, Marketing, Business Strategy
The Heaths borrow Malcolm Gladwell’s “stickiness” notion from The Tipping Point, focusing on the traits that cause ideas to make the leap from small to large groups – what makes an idea catch on or “stick?” For an idea to stick, it has to be useful and lasting, and this book offers a lot of great insight on how to do this successfully.

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.