Have you ever looked for the best startup books before?
If you have, then you’ll know there’s hundreds, if not thousands of options out there, making it somewhat of a slog to find those that are actually worthy of your time.
And time is everything to startup founders, especially during the early stages of business where you’re still finding your feet. At this stage in the game you need all the information you can get, which is where the best books for startup founders come into play.
A quick ‘best startup books’ Google search will give you a decent starting point, but there will always be omissions. In other words, relying on Google will almost always skip some of the best options.
You’ll find that our list of the best startup books (found below), is a lot more comprehensive — not to mention, varied.
Or perhaps you’re a product manager looking for some books relevant to your role? Well, we’ve got a helpful blog post about that too, so make sure you check it out.
Anyway, let’s get back to the blog.
We’ll begin with some essential reading, an international bestseller from Eric Ries.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
We’re starting our list of the best business startup books strong with ‘The Lean Startup’ from Eric Ries. This book is an Amazon bestseller, praised heavily for its practical solutions to startups with limited resources (hence the word ‘lean’ in the title).
Most startup books will fill pages on what you need to do to get your business up and running, but they often fail to grasp the limitations of most startups.
This book teaches you the right lessons in a very direct manner. It doesn’t mince any words, either. With this book you’ll learn how to spend what little capital you have wisely and leverage human creativity effectively.
In short, ‘The Lean Startup’ is easily one of the best business startup books, and an essential to have in your bookshelf.
Eat People by Andy Kessler
The full title for this startup book should tell you everything you need to know right off the bat:
‘Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs’
Released in 2012, this book was written by a former analyst, investment banker, venture capitalist and hedge fund manager. Needless to say, the topics covered in this book are pretty cut-throat in how the points are communicated.
Author, Andy Kessler, spends most of this book explaining how the greatest entrepreneurs don’t just settle for starting a successful company, they terraform entire industries from within.
It’s a very interesting read if you’re looking to make a big splash in your respective industry.
Start Your Own F*cking Brand by Maria Erixon
This book from Nudie Jeans is inspiring as it is in your face. Inside the pages of ‘Start Your Own F*cking Brand’ you’ll find the story of the company that started small, only to blossom into a complete global powerhouse.
There’s parts of the book that might not apply to you. For example, there’s an entire section on the brand’s love for sustainable denim. Still, the trials and tribulations of the brand in its ascent to the top is quite inspiring.
Think of it like a case study, told from the perspective of a brand that was once in the exact same position you find yourself in currently.
Oh, and this book is full of images, which does make it a lot easier to read than some of the other startup founder books mentioned.
High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil
Scaling your business can be pretty tough when you lack the experience/knowledge required to do so.
Consider ‘High Grow Handbook: Scaling Startups From 10 to 10,000 people’ a cheat code in every which way.
It’s one of the best books for startups because of how it analyses existing companies (such as Twitter and Google) and outlines what they did specifically to get where they’re at. These case studies help contextualise the points made.
This book covers everything from recruiting to securing late stage funding, everything a startup founder needs to know if their business is to grow and excel in the modern day!
Here’s a pretty cool quote from the book:
“All startup advice is only useful in context, and I am a firm believer that the only good generic startup advice is that there is no good generic startup advice.”
The Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank
Here’s a startup book included in curriculums at top universities like Columbia and Stanford.
‘The Startup Owner’s Manual’ by Steve Blank is like the first entry in our list here, in that it’s one of the best startup books, and an essential for any bookcase. The processes taught in this book help simplify what’s needed to get your business up and off the ground.
What’s more, it includes over 100 charts/graphs and multiple checklists for you to use. There’s also actionable steps inside that should give you a pretty good idea of what to do next.
Don’t let the dated cover fool you, it’s a very helpful read from start to finish.
The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman
The pitfalls of business aren’t always so clear. This book from Noam Wasserman details all the tough decisions startup founders face on a frequent basis.
Every chapter is split into separate concepts, such as hiring at the right time, and defining the roles for people within your organisation. The data included in this book have been pulled from existing organisations.
The numbers are weighted evenly with clever/witty anecdotes, making for quite an enjoyable read overall. Moreover, every piece of advice included in this one is with the long term in mind, which is a statement we parrot all the time across countless Canny posts.
We wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t important.
But yes, if you’re looking to avoid as many mistakes as possible business-wise, then this will be the startup book for you!
Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
‘Made to Stick’ by brothers Chip and Dan, is all about the art of forging unforgettable ideas that, well, stick. All of the ideas revolve around messaging, and how it’s the way you communicate that keeps your business relevant.
The Heath’s explain that 6 key characteristics are needed for your message to stick:
In the book, various case studies are used to highlight certain points. For example, the Heath’s look at why everyone and their grandmother knows that “Just Do It” is Nike’s signature line.
Storytelling underpins the entire message behind ‘Made to Stick.’ It’s explained that startup founders only fail due to their inability to form emotional connections with audiences.
Not sure if your messaging is as sticky as it should be?
Give this book a read just to be on the safe side.
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss is a high-level advisor, known for lending a helping hand to the likes of Uber, Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Duolingo and Alibaba.
His book, ‘Tools of Titans’ is an interesting collection of stories and tips from the various “world-class performers” he’s interviewed over the years on his podcast (The Tim Ferriss Show).
What’s interesting about this book is that Ferriss takes these tips and applies them to his own life to act as a rough experiment of sorts.
The book serves as one giant productivity boost, covering the various ways to approach business and ultimately succeed. The Financial Times described ‘Tools of Titans’ as “the perfect read for obsessives wanting to boost their new year productivity.”
Ferriss’ signature wit and sarcasm adds a lot of humour to the book, which was always to be expected given his off-handed approach to everything.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Business isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, sometimes, hard decisions need to be made for the brand to grow without restrictions.
This book covers everything from confronting employees over poor performances to outright firing them.
Horowitz’s realistic approach here is very refreshing to see. It’s raw, unfiltered and at times, real ugly.
The happy-go-lucky startup founder will only take you so far. This book will teach you to become stronger, and act more like a founder, basing decisions on what’s important for the business, not you individually.
It’s hard not to call this one of our favourite startup books because of how realistic it is.
The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
Have you ever wondered how many people are lying to you when they say “oh yeah, that’s a good idea” when they think the complete opposite?
‘The Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick is all about learning how to ask the right questions in order to receive an honest response. The name of this book is in reference to the way mother’s will agree with you out of love, not out of honesty.
This book is a complete eye-opener. It will make you question everything you’ve done up to a certain point, which is actually healthy for your business, even though it might not feel like it.
It’s one of the best startup books for cutting straight through the noise and finding the truth in what people are saying about your brand.
Think of ‘The Mom Test’ as a variation of those lie detector tests you see in movies.
Winners Never Cheat by Jon Huntsman
The urge to cheat and cut corners is no way to find success, according to Jon Huntsman in ‘Winners Never Cheat.’
Startup founders can learn a lot in this book in terms of how ethical decisions shape your entire business, and resisting the temptation of rushing ahead when you might not be prepared for what follows.
We’d recommend using this book as a baseline for if you ever find yourself slipping. We don’t want to call it a bible or anything, but it’s pretty close to it, at least in a ‘doing good in the world of business’ sense.
With ‘Winners Never Cheat’ you’ll move around with complete courage and integrity, which has the potential to unlock new opportunities for success!
Dear Female Founder by Lu Li
‘Dear Female Founder’ reflects the current challenges and triumphs associated with female startup founders. It does this by sharing the words of various female entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and media personalities.
The book does a stellar job in breaking it all into sections, from the initial starting position, to learning from your successes/mistakes. There’s a total of 66 letters of advice included within these pages, each as different as the last in terms of experience and message.
Here’s a snippet from the book:
“I believe that there is a need to reinvent the experience of startup incubation to address the challenges that women face. I also believe that women are the most under-tapped resource for economic improvement.”
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
The name Peter Thiel might ring a bell.
He’s a PayPal co-founder, and one of the first individuals to invest in Facebook. His book, ‘Zero to One’ is one of the most popular entrepreneur books there is, a book that acts as a tour through the wild intricacies of the startup world.
Thiel leans heavily on his previous experiences in the space, while emphasising the importance of overcoming stagnation.
The book does swing more towards technology startups, but the thought experiments offered are really intriguing, and can be repurposed for your own needs.
In short, it’s a New York Times Bestseller, that covers unique ways to approach startups and not get left behind.
Never Bet The Farm by Stephen Spinelli & Anthony Iaquinto
In ‘Never Bet The Farm’ startup founders are taught how to prepare for setbacks, and how they can reduce risks that lead to those setbacks outright.
The book is a sort of tool that passes off the idea that every entrepreneur is working towards the same “type.” Authors Stephen Spinelli and Anthony Iaquinto go into great detail why vigilance, patience, and some light skepticism can help form a shield around any aspiring startup founder.
Here’s a fun quote taken from the book that showcases a bit of humour you’ll find scattered throughout:
“If all of us lined up, blindfolded, at rush hour, on the curb of the Massachusetts Turnpike with an offer of a million dollars if we made it across the roadway alive, some of us would take the risk. Most would be killed or injured in the attempt. The few who made it would swear it was talent.”
Another thing I liked was the farm analogy used, where Spinelli and Iaquinto state that if you have the farm, then it probably means you’re set up enough to start taking risks.
Betting the farm when it isn’t set up, on the other hand, does pose some significant risks that need to be considered.
Leading at the Speed of Growth by Katherine Catlin & Jana Matthews
Businesses grow at varying speeds, some more quicker than others.
We consider ‘Leading at the Speed of Growth’ one of the best books for startup founders because it teaches you how to react when your business is growing at an extreme rate.
The book acts as a guide, explaining what not to do at each of the three stages of growth, those being:
- Initial Growth
- Rapid Growth
- Continuous Growth
Navigating these stages can be pretty tough, especially when you weren’t planning for it. Startup Founders prepping for the worst, only for it all to go right is super confusing to comprehend.
More-so when you’ve yet to get a taste of success and it hits you all at once like a tidal wave. This makes startup books like ‘Leading at the Speed of Growth’ quite essential.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
The stresses of being a startup founder, coupled with life’s everyday challenges can take a serious toll on your mind.
Frustrations lead to confusions, and confusions lead to mistakes, which won’t do you any good both in work and out of it.
‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation’ isn’t like any of the other startup founder books mentioned here.
It doesn’t explain how you can increase ROI or the benefits of outsourcing work to an agency, but what it does do, is keep you relaxed, not to mention, focused.
It’s for that reason, that we decided to included it here in the list of the best business startup books. Podcasts are really good for mindfulness too, if you’d prefer to listen rather than read.
The Startup Checklist by David S. Rose
There are plenty of startup books out there offering checklists. We’ve picked out ‘The Startup Checklist’ by David S. Rose, as it’s one of the more comprehensive guidebooks out there.
What’s more, the book covers topics such as networking with other startup founders and how to secure funding.
And that’s but a taste of what’s included here!
‘The Startup Checklist’ is a complete roadmap, full to the brim with scalable steps that you can apply to your own business, allowing you to grow as the business does too.
Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin
No none-sense books are perfect for beginners, or in this case, the startup founders who know next to nothing about business.
If you fall into this category, then you need to check out ‘Lost and Founder’ by Rand Fishkin.
Nothing is romanticised in this book, which is part of its charm. It favours the reality of these situations, in that hard work and complete strategies are required in order to grow the business.
One of the best chapters in the book is all about launching products at the perfect time.
We won’t spoil anything, as it’s worth reading in its own right, but this chapter will change the way you approach your brand strategy, guaranteed.
What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig
Countless publications, news sites, review sites and established entrepreneurs praise Tina Seelig’s ‘What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20’ and we can see why.
The lessons shared in this book will help you accelerate your efforts, and provide you with new perspectives when thinking about your business.
Furthermore, it will clue you in on tips or pitfalls to avoid when starting out! as a founder of your own company.
For example, in the book Seelig suggests you forget that your seed funding even exists. Again, we don’t want to spoil too much as it will ruin its impact.
Just read ‘What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.’ It’s an honest re-telling of relevant experiences just with an actionable twist.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss is back again in our list of the best books for startups, this time with his original hit, ‘The 4-Hour Workweek.’
We’ll admit, the title of this book does feel a lot like clickbait, only one chapter in and you’ll know this isn’t the case.
In this book, Ferriss talks about how you can work less, make more and begin to build the life you’ve always dreamed of, by outsourcing certain tasks, automating your work day, cutting down on pointless meetings, and so much more.
The solutions offered by Ferriss might not apply to everyone, for example, not everyone can go on what he calls “mini-retirements,” but theres’s still a lot you can get out of these pages.
Any book that emphasises the importance of a clear work/life balance is 100% worth checking out, in my opinion.
Best Startup Books to Kickstart Your Business
Aren’t you glad you didn’t take the Google route!
Understand that while these books do vary in the experiences, approaches and information shared, the running theme is always the same:
To help startup founders kickstart their businesses, or show them what it takes to build momentum.
Just remember that these books can only take you so far. You will need to take the information shared and apply it to your business.
Which is my favourite from the list of the best business startup books?
I’m torn between ‘The High Growth Handbook’ and ‘Made to Stick.’ The latter is a lesson in brand messaging, and what’s possible when you nail your branding which always makes for an interesting read.
Branding appears to be one of the main issues for startups. Do get in touch if you’d like to learn what we can do for you in that department.
Strong branding can provide an excellent starting base for you to build on top of, and Canny has helped countless startups find their feet on the way to success.