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The startup reading list | Books that motivate, educate and inspire

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, information or education, Clara’s pick of essential reads has it covered. These books by thought leaders and industry experts cover top startup issues, innovative management methods, techniques to foster creativity and much more.


 Document icon  Contents

1. The Founder’s Dilemmas

2. The Lean Startup

3. Creativity, Inc

4. Shoe Dog

5. Venture Deals

6. Start with Why

7. The Startup Playbook

8. The Hard Thing About Hard Things



1. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup 

By Noam Wasserman

Have you ever looked back on your entrepreneurial journey and thought ‘What if?’. Eliminate regret by harnessing the power of hindsight, with a book that lays out some of the major pitfalls encountered by founders. Wasserman focuses on the cause of many issues in startups – people. He examines whether co-founding with friends or relatives is wise, and whether going it alone could be a better choice. From equity splits to CEO exits, all the important decisions are handled here, along with personal stories from successful founders like Evan Williams of Twitter. Essential reading for those wanting to follow in his and other superstar founders’ footsteps.



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

By Eric Ries

Described as a “must-read” by many in the startup scene, The Lean Startup outlines an innovative approach to company-building. Ries takes inspiration from ‘lean manufacturing’, a systematic method focused on minimising waste to maximise productivity. This book will encourage you to leave assumptions at the door, embrace uncertainty and challenge your current business plan. In addition to sharing his personal business story, Ries uses case studies to demonstrate how the principles of lean manufacturing can be applied to any startup.  Discover how rapidly shifting gears in response to customer feedback and adapting quickly to changes in circumstances can propel your startup to success.



3. Creativity, Inc.

By Ed Catmull

The path to true creativity can be hard to find, and even harder to follow, but Creativity, Inc. certainly does a very good job of showing us the way. As co-founder and president of Pixar, Catmull draws on nearly twenty years of experience of building a creative culture, outlining the illusive formula for prize-winning originality in a business setting. Get the inside story on his working relationships with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, and how the unique environment at Pixar led to the creation of some of the most-popular animated films of all time: the Toy Story Trilogy, Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. to name a few.



4. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike 

By Phil Knight

Nike is the ultimate startup success story. From selling shoes out of the back of his car to annual sales of over $30 billion, Knight’s journey is one that ambitious founders can learn a lot from. Shoe Dog details the risks Knight took along the way, his setbacks and his wins, revealing the story of that famous tick for the first time. Knight’s drive to create something standout, dynamic and different is an inspiration for any founder, and his team’s dedication an example of how a deep belief in a shared mission can go a long way.



5. Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist 

By Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

The venture capital (VC) process can be daunting, especially for first time founders. This book acts as a guide to navigate every stage of startup funding, drawing on the authors’ fifty-plus years of experience. Providing multiple angles on every topic, Venture Deals enables founders to view issues from an investors’ perspective, and vice versa. From breaking down the venture capital term sheet to top tips for effective negotiations, Feld and Mendelson use their expansive experience investing in early-stage technology companies (at their VC firm the Foundry) to help aspiring entrepreneurs make the right deals in the right way.



6. Start with Why 

By Simon Sinek

Based on his hugely popular TED talk ‘How great leaders inspire action’, Simon Sinek’s Start with the Why is a must-read for anyone keen to inspire, lead and change the world. Drawing on the stories of figures such as Steve Jobs, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King, Sinek examines what makes a leader and a game-changer. According to Sinek, by starting with the ‘why’, and understanding the reasons behind our actions, we can reach dizzy new heights of success, and consistently meet our goals. This book will push you to consider your motivation and use it to propel your business to the top.



7. The Startup Playbook 

By Will Herman and Rajat Bhargava

Often described as “the Bible for startups”, this tome uses the statistic ‘9 out of 10 startups fail’ as the springboard for teaching founders how to defy the odds. A how-to guide to building a startup from the ground up, Herman and Bhargava’s experience as founders put them in the perfect position to dish out top tips and advice for those keen to replicate their success. The authors share their wins and losses, and the lessons they’ve learned, in a digestible way. They cover topics such as the importance of building a positive company culture, the basics of fundraising and how to turn risks into opportunities.



8. The Hard Thing About Hard Things 

By Ben Horowitz

As you may have already discovered, starting a company is far from easy. This book gets honest about the difficulties founders face bringing their ideas to life and building a thriving startup. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is based on the author’s popular ‘Ben’s Blog’, which provides founders with useful tips on hiring, business culture and general career development. The book goes further, delving into leading and scaling a startup in more detail, amplified by Horowitz’s own personal experiences. Each business lesson is highlighted with a rap lyric – Horowitz uses his lifelong passion for hip hop to talk about these topics in an engaging, thought-provoking way.

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