Top 9 books for launching a startup

The startup environment is hard. Whether you’re looking to launch your own company or hope to work at a startup, it’s critical to understand how such efforts operate at the deepest levels.

Luckily for us, plenty of others looking to solve problems and create value for customers have forged the path. To help you learn from them, we’ve compiled a list of books that we think will greatly inform your own journey. 

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

By Ben Horowitz, 2014

2. The Mom Test: How to talk to customers and learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you 

By Rob Fitzpatrick, 2019

This short gem (138 pages) assumes that asking your mom what she thinks of your business is a bad idea. She’ll lie to you; so will many others. The responsibility of the entrepreneur, according to Fitzpatrick, is to glean the truth from your customers. In keeping with that, he outlines practical advice for obtaining customer feedback that goes beyond compliments and gets to the facts that will actually help your business.  

3. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days

By Jessica Livingston, 2007

From Steve Wozniak at Apple to Max Levchin at Paypal and Caterina Fake at Flickr, each chapter of this book focuses on one company and the founder’s stories—from the first spark of an idea to working with friends, dealing with investors, and other pitfalls. 

4. The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time

By Jim McKelvey, 2020

Jim McKelvey’s story begins in his days as a glass-blowing artist who was frustrated when he couldn’t complete sales to customers with American Express cards. Teaming up with friend and Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, McKelvey created Square. But when Amazon tried and eventually failed to compete with Square, McKelvey started to reflect on what had gone right during Square’s creation, coming up with what he calls the innovation stack. Humorous and insightful, this book will give startup founders new tools for creativity and problem solving.

5. Out-Innovate: How Global Entrepreneurs from Delhi to Detroit Are Rewriting the Rules of Silicon Valley

By Alexandre Lazarow, 2020

Venture capitalist Alexandre Lazarow takes readers through his insights into how startups across the world—some facing hazardous political or infrastructure obstacles—are thriving. He advocates for founders to reconsider Silicon Valley as the standard and to start looking to these global creators instead. 

6. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

By James Clear, 2018

Habit formation expert James Clear delivers a must-read for those who want to fulfill their potential. Clear uses science to divulge how the small things we do every day matter, and he tackles issues such as lack of motivation, environment, and recovering after failure. This is a great read to get your year off on the right track, in business, and in your personal life. 

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

By Steve Blank, 2005

This book is all about the practical. It walks you through starting a business, from the business plan and product to customer development and company building. The main premise: startups are not executing existing business models, but instead are creating entirely new ones—and this offering is the playbook for how to do that. 

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

By Eric Ries, 2011

9. The Remote Facilitator’s Pocket Guide

By Kirsten Clacey and Jay-Allen Morris

This book is short at 96 pages, but it’s jam-packed with stories, tips, and advice helpful for anyone who works remotely or manages teams remotely. The authors take extra care to discuss why teams should take into account different locations, cultures, and personalities when conducting remote meetings. 


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