I am sure there are numerous articles that talk about “Must Reads” for entrepreneurs, in fact I have read a few myself, but I still decided to write this post based on my own experience.
These are some of the books I’ve personally read and have gained a lot. In fact, these are some of the books that can be “loosely” called our course material. These are the books that we recommend to each entrepreneur that get selected to TLabs.
The Lean Startup is the closest to my heart, I wish Eric Ries had written this book earlier in 2005 when I started my first venture, I am sure we would have done much better and would have increased our chance of success. Once searching on the net I stumbled on this presentation by Eric Ries, we had made the same mistakes (and some more), he talked in the “A good plan?” slide. The presentation made the memories of my first venture flood my brain again and I decided to read the book.
I would strongly recommend all entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to read this book, I would even go ahead and say every CEO and top management of big corporates should read the book. Believe me, it is an eye opener.
2. do more faster: Lessons to accelerate your startup – David Cohen
I first read “do more faster” after I came to TLabs and have gained invaluable knowledge and insights into how to accelerate a startup. I frequently quote from the book and ask our startups to follow the advice in the book.
3. The Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development - Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlashkovit
This book is also called “The cheat sheet” to the Four steps to Epiphany a book by Steve Gary Blank (actually a series of lectures notes of the business classes he taught at Stanford University and UC Berkley). I must add (rather sheepishly) that I have not read the Four Steps to Epiphany. That said, I have immensely enjoyed reading “the cheat sheet”, if you are running a startup, you simply cannot skip this one.
4. Getting to plan B: Breaking through to a better business model - John Millins and Randi Komisar
You will find a few reference to this book in others like The Lean Startup. This books talk about switching to a better business model, perseverance is a double edged sword, you have to measure where you are going, compare, learn and switch to something that will work and mind you it is an on going process, it never stops. This book defines two very important concepts of comparing your business to other companies – analogs and antilogs and helps you systematically measure your leap of faith.
There comes a time (for some several) in the life of an entrepreneur when he is sitting across a VC and gets his first “term sheet”. I had no idea what I was looking at when I saw my first term sheet. The “terms” in the term sheet seemed to have been penned down by aliens, and no I am not digging at lawyers, it was just too hard to understand and over the years I have seen a lot of distorted faces when they get their first one (esp true for hackers). I would recommend everyone of you to read this book before you go to face a VC, remember what dad said “don’t sign on anything son, unless you understand each word”, well at least my dad did. This book demystifies the definitions and explains the the meaning of most of these terms in a fun and simple way.
6. Pitch Anything – Oren Klaff
Even before you get you first “term sheet” you will need to pitch, right? Whether you are pitching to 2 VCs in a closed room or demo days or a TV show (it is a gimmick but you may have to do it to get some free marketing), you need to understand the audience. Oran Klaff puts through a series of examples on how to bridge the disconnect between the audience and the pitch. A must read for everyone who frequently pitches not just for entrepreneurs.
I had started out writing 5 (it sounded like a good round number then) but I ended up writing about 6 books, I would recommend Entrepreneurs to read these 6, as I said earlier it has helped me a lot personally. A word of caution, I don’t think you become a great entrepreneur if you have read these books, these are advice and tools that you will use to build your product or service, remember it is the team and people that applies the gained knowledge to build a successful company.