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Top 10 Startup Books You Should Read

For startup leaders, books are one of the many ways to get inspired, find proven strategies and advice that can help to overcome the current and upcoming challenges of building a business from the scratch. 

There are thousands of great business books out there focusing on strategies, marketing, team building, etc that can offer immense value. However, today I am going to share the names of my top 10 favorite books that specifically focus on startups. I will also provide a short brief of what each book is about so that you can choose according to your need.

Let’s Start!

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The ‘Lean Startup’ book provides the largest impact on the thinking of methodology to build a successful startup. 

This is a foundational and mandatory reading for entrepreneurs. The Lean Startup offers a semi-scientific, real-world approach to building a business by using validation, finding a profitable business model, and creating a growth engine. I have written a detailed review on this book in ‘Future Startup’ back in 2019, please check that out as well.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

This #1 New York Times Bestseller is directly from the famous venture capitalist Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Palantir Technologies, Founders Fund, and the first outside investor in Facebook. 

Dive deep in this book to take a look inside his philosophy, thinking process, approaches to business, and strategy for making your startup a success.

Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Sean Ellis

This is the ultimate playbook of growth hacking - from none other than Sean Ellis, who first coined the term ‘Growth Hacking’. 

And this book is naturally top on my list since my doctoral research focused areas are Growth Hacking and Startups.

Sean shared tons of tactics and examples from the early days of the startups like Dropbox, Airbnb, Netflix, Uber, Facebook, Amazon, etc. Get your hand on it and implement the growth hacking framework in your company to open the door of exponential growth!

The Startup Owner's Manual by Steve Blank

Recognized as a thought leader on startups and innovation, Steve Blank was named one of the top management thinkers and recognized by the Harvard Business Review as one of 12 Masters of Innovation. 

His Harvard Business Review cover story defined the Lean Startup movement. This book provides detailed, step-by-step instructions on building successful, scalable, profitable startups. The Startup Owner's Manual will guide you, step-by-step, as you put the Customer Development process to work. 

The Great CEO Within by Matt Mochary, et al.

I have recommended this book to numerous founders in last few years. 

Becoming a great CEO requires training. There is little time for a founding CEO to complete that training, especially at the helm of a rapidly growing company. From this book, you can learn how to efficiently scale your business from startup to corporation by implementing a system of accountability, effective problem-solving, and transparent feedback. 

Do please also read ‘Entreleadership’ by Dave Ramsey, another great one for entrepreneurs.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

I just loved this book the first time I read it back in 2014 and was so sad when Tony passed away (and the unfortunate details that lead up to his death). In Delivering Happiness, the Former Zappos CEO explained how mega online shoe retailer Zappos built a unique company culture and customer experience worth remembering, which turned it into a billion-dollar business. Don’t miss this one.

Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

Brad and Jason are the founders and driving force behind the Foundry Group ― a venture capital firm focused on investing in early-stage information technology companies. Their investments range from small startups to large Series A venture financing rounds. 

This book attempts to show fledgling entrepreneurs the inner workings of the VC process, from the venture capital term sheet and effective negotiating strategies to the initial seed and the later stages of development. Along with This book, I would also recommend ‘Mastering the VC Game’ Jeffrey Bussgang, et al..

Measure What Matters by John Doerr

This #1 New York Times Bestseller by legendary venture capitalist John Doerr reveals how the goal-setting system ‘Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)’ has helped tech giants from Intel to Google achieve explosive growth—and how it can help any organization thrive. 

Being a long-time advocate of OKRs, I have seen several tech startups in Bangladesh successfully implementing the system, and many are picking up. (Please check out my writeup on OKRs in Future Startup). Whether your company is scaling up and eyeing 10X or more growth, or whether it is already stable and you want to continue steady growth - OKR can be the right tool you need.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone, et al.

This is the definitive story of Amazon, one of the most successful companies globally, which forever changed the way we shop and the richest person globally - Jeff Bezos. 

Recently I have decided to do more in-depth study on Amazon’s business model, culture, strategy and thus started reading several books on Amazon (e.g. Bezonomics, Amazon Unbound, Think Like Amazon). Actually, I decided to write this book suggestions post, but anyone can read The Everything Store and get a profound insight into the company that is now a trillion-dollar company that started in a home garage.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings

I just started reading this book a few days back, haven’t finished it yet (because I was watching too much Netflix :p)...but still wanted to include this in my list. 

Published in 2020, Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings reveals for the first time the unorthodox culture behind one of the world's most innovative, imaginative, and successful companies. 

He started the book with the incident of how ‘Blockbuster’, then a $6 billion giant flatly rejected Reed’s offer to buy out ‘Netflix’ with $50 million. Then he talked about how Netflix’s culture brought the company where it is now (a $30 billion company) and about the famous 127 slides ‘Netflix Culture Deck’. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, reportedly said that the Culture Deck “may well be the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley.” 

Well I am continuing to read and inviting you to pick up the book as well…

Keep Reading, Founders!

Surely, there are lots of more startup-related books out there, and more are coming. But with this list, I assure you your time will be well spent on the best of the best.

If you can’t find a book you want to read or discuss a book, please reach out. I will be really glad to help, anytime!

Which other books would you like to include in your top 10 startup book list? Please let me know, I would love to read your recommendations.

Mark Anupom Mollick is an experienced Software Engineer, MarTech & Business Strategy Consultant. Currently, he is also a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) Candidate in IBA (DU), where his research areas are Startups and Growth Hacking. Anupom is a strong believer of maximizing output, achieving geometric growth and continuously improving performance. Feel free to reach him at markanupommollick@gmail.com or contact via LinkedIn.

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