10 Books on Startups that Will Make You a Better Founder the First Time

Startups success needs to have better odds. Even if you plan on starting a lifestyle business or a billion-dollar business. This list, created by listening to a ton of Tim Ferriss podcast guests, reading what others have recommended and then trying to boil it down to the best 10 books. This list will help founders increase his startup RBI.

At 10, this isn’t a comprehensive list. Nor is it a list that will answer any and all questions about building your plane as you fall off the cliff. It is, however, a list to point you in the direction you want to go. VC funded or not.

Smart people were meant to build things is the title of a book. It captures why to go your own way. Similarly, in The Odyssey, we see Odysseus stuck on the island where he resides with the nymph Calypso. Calypso refuses to let him go. He spends his time looking out at the water crying in despair. Odysseus knew he needed to be elsewhere. You might feel the same. Stuck in a 9-to-5 yearning for the sea. It’s time to build and sail your ship. This list aims to help you get off the island.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

the four hour workweekThis book shows up on almost all book lists for startups, building a company or even career advice. From the start of the book, it’s not hard to see why so many people list this book as the inspiration to dive into entrepreneurship. You’ve most likely already heard a lot about this book. Maybe you’ve even picked it up. Even after 10 years in print, this book is a force.

Covering start-up strategies and tactics, Ferriss persistently advises founders or owners focus on building systems to take over the basic operations by outsourcing low value-add activities. This frees up the owner to focus on higher-level activities. Ferriss has mentioned The E-Myth Revisited influenced a lot of his thinking around the idea of outsourcing his first business.

Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

Anything You Want“Derek Sivers chronicles his accidental success and failures into this concise and inspiring book on how to create a multimillion dollar company by following your passion Sivers details his journey and the lessons learned along the way of creating CD Baby and building a business close to his heart”

Anything You Want is must reading for every person who is an entrepreneur wants to be one wants to understand one or cares even a little about what it means to be human.

The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company

startup owners manual“The Startup Owner’s Manual guides you, step-by-step, as you put the Customer Development process to work. This method was created by renowned Silicon Valley startup expert Steve Blank, acknowledged catalyst of the “Lean Startup” movement, and tested and refined by him for more than a decade.”

“The goal of customer discovery is to refine a business model enough to test it on a larger scale in the next step, customer validation.”

The Lean Startup

the lean startup“Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched.”

“The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation.”

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

zero to one: notes on startupsIt started as a class Thiel taught. One student took detail notes. Those notes made their way online. Once online the notes went viral. After it went Viral, Thiel enlisted the student Blake Masters to create this book. Thiel’s best advice involved avoiding competition entirely by saying, “All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.” It’s the Blue Ocean Strategy for startups.

“Zero to One every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.” Peter Thiel in Zero to One.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

originals: how non-conformist rule the world

Would be entrepreneurs sometimes have this idea of starting a company and like the Alamo, fighting for the idea until the end. In Originals, Grant looks at Warby Parker to illustrate just how wrong the guns blazing approach is. There’s a long list of huge business started by founders avoiding risk at all cost. They approached their company as a series of tests to validate the idea.

On top of that, Grant dives into how leaders can build cultures welcoming dissent. It’s how companies can continue to be original and innovate with ideas that traditional managers would kill. Finally, Grant explores the science of timing. Interesting, “timing accounted for forty-two percent of the difference between success and failure.” Deciding to test an idea, wait for the right time, and have an original strategy increases the odds far past the 95% failure rate of startups.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers“While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in.”

“Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz’s personal and often humbling experiences.”

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

obstacle is the wayStarting a company, it’s not going to go your way. Fate is going to laugh at the plans. This book will help start the practice of seeing every roadblock as an asset. The book is inspired by the quote from Marcus Aurelius, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” It’s about taking perceived problems and turning them into massive opportunities.

“Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” It’s more about consistent progress towards a goal–even as those obstacles are thrown in the way. As you build a startup, there’s almost 100% guarantee that things will go wrong. This book will help practicing seeing those wrong turns as the way forward.

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days

founders-at-work“Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days is a collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days. These people are celebrities now. What was it like when they were just a couple friends with an idea?”

“But ultimately these interviews are required reading for anyone who wants to understand business, because startups are business reduced to its essence. The reason their founders become rich is that startups do what businesses do―create value―more intensively than almost any other part of the economy.”

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

Founders Dilemmas -- avoiding the pitfalls that can sink a startup“Often downplayed in the excitement of starting up a new business venture is one of the most important decisions entrepreneurs will face: should they go it alone, or bring in cofounders, hires, and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising venture lay the foundations for its eventual ruin. The Founder’s Dilemmas is the first book to examine the early decisions by entrepreneurs that can make or break a startup and its team.”



This is part of a Real World MBA curriculum. Other parts of the curriculum include Management, Decision Making, Strategy, Execution, Career Success, Finance, Dealing with People, Communicating, Ethics, Biographies and Marketing.