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30 Best Startup Books for First-time Entrepreneurs to Avoid Major Pitfalls

Updated on  23rd February

11 Min Read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Every nine out of 10 startups fail in their first year.

Avoiding this fate may be hard, but not impossible. Certainly not when you are armed with the knowledge of how to make your startup work.

Best Startup Books

As you might know from the countless lists of tips and tricks about startup survivability, reading is one of the easiest and fastest ways of learning from the experiences of others. The only problem is that too many books come out and you as a startup owner have limited time to decide which are the best startup books to read.

To make things easy for you, I decided to find the best books about startups and entrepreneurship. This is a growing list, so bookmark this article and come back in a couple of months to check out the new books on the list.

Zero to One

Zero To One- Peter Thiel

Author: Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

Category: Innovation

Peter Thiel takes an unconventional approach to building startups. The common approach is to iterate the same idea and launch it to a different market segment. The usual ideas tend to be about the next WhatsApp, Facebook, or a “new and better” Microsoft.

In his book Zero to One, Peter says these clones already exist in the market and making a new clone won’t take you further up the innovation ladder. When people repeat the ideas, they take the innovation level from one to ‘N’. But doing something that isn’t done before takes the world from zero to one.

The Innovator’s Dilemma

The innovator's dilemma cover

Author: Clayton M. Christensen

Category: Innovation

This book The Innovator’s Dilemma changed the state of corporate America. Surprising, isn’t that? It simply asked:

‘Why do businesses fail even after doing everything right?’

And explains the answer…

It has remained a best seller for over a decade and is written especially for entrepreneurs, managers, and CEOs, sharing wisdom and warnings for businesses.

Founders at Work

Founders at Work

Author: Jessica Livingston

Category: Innovation

The game runners at Apple, Microsoft, Google, and even Whatsapp were just a bunch of folks like you. Today, they are founders of multi-billion dollar companies.

What led to this change? How did they manage to convince investors to back their ideas? Did they make any mistakes? If so, how did they recover? Founders At Work is a collection of interviews with the founders of top tech companies that answer these questions.

Crossing the Chasm

Crossing the Chasm

Author: Geoffrey A. Moore and

Category: Innovation

Want to read the bible for bringing tech products to progressively larger markets? Crossing the Chasm is the book for you. It provides new insights into realities of high-tech marketing with special emphasis on the internet. The book is a must-read for anyone with a stake in the world’s most exciting marketplaces.

Screw it, Let’s do it

Scrw It Let's Do it

Author:  Richard Branson

Category: Innovation

Sir Richard Branson is the CEO of Virgin group of companies. He heads more than 400 companies and in this book, he reveals his secrets, of life and business. If there is one lesson that he wants you to learn by reading Screw it Let’s do it, it is: If you believe it can be done, try and try again until you can do it.

Start Something That Matters

Start Something That Matters

Author: Joan Salge Blake

Category: Innovation

Learn from a man who never worn shoes but started the fastest-growing footwear company. Blake Mycoskie shares his story of how he build a multi-billion company in less than ten years and brought a new business model of success in his book: Start Something That Matters.

Never Too Late to Startup

Never too late to Startup

Author: Rob Kornblum

Category: Innovation

Is it even possible to break free from the corporate race? – Most employees in the middle of the career often think this $100M question.

Never Too Late to Startup by venture capitalist Rob Kornblum answers the above question by interviewing a dozen mid-life founders. It tells how to find a great idea, how to lower the risk of starting a business, and how to get ideal co-founders for your business.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Creativity Inc

Author: Ed Catmull

Category: Team management

Ed Catmull has been associated with Pixar throughout his career. He knows firsthand how to grow a newly launched animation studio into an instantly-recognized global brand by embedding creativity within the company’s culture. During his tenure, Pixar launched some of the most popular movies including Toy Story, Incredibles, Monsters Inc. and many others.

In the book Creativity, Inc, Catmull writes about creative strategies that you can add to your organizational structure through simple changes and create goals that bring all the employees on a unified path to success.

Good to Great

Good to Great

Author: James C. Collins

Category: Team Management

Good to Great reveals why are some companies achieve greatness in the long-term while others don’t. Are there any special characteristics that lead to this kind of growth? Jim Collins answers these questions in a compelling way by connecting the successes of previous companies and analyzing their traits.

Start with Why

Start with Why

Author: Simon Sinek

Category: Team Management

Why some organizations are more innovative than others? What is common among their managers? The book ‘Start with Why’ answers these and other questions through examples from the past. It analyzes the personality of Steve Jobs, Martin Luther, and Wright Brothers, highlighting the similarities in the personalities that eventually lead to success.

Startup growth

SuperBosses

Super Bosses

Author: Sydney Finkelstein

Category: Team Management

What do football coach Bill Walsh, restaurateur Alice Walter, and tech CEO Larry Ellison have in common? How were they consistently successful in their respective industries?

The answer is… by finding, nurturing, and leading great people.

Superbosses explores the personalities of world’s most effective bosses and how they motivate and inspire others. Their talent doesn’t just makes them successful, or robust organization builders, but what Finkelstein calls ‘Super bosses.’

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup

Author: Eric Ries

Category: Product Strategy

Most startups fail when they focus more on the ‘other stuff’ rather than the company profits. The other stuff includes flash marketing strategies like too much customer care, team fortification and market-competitive employee compensation (even with little money in the bank).

Eric Ries gives examples of how to avoid all the common mistakes that wipe the startup’s budget and start the downward spiral of the business in his book The Lean Startup.

Hooked

Hooked

Author: Nir Eyal

Category: Product Strategy

Why some products skyrocket while others fail? What habits make people successful and what drown them? Nir Eyal answers these and many other questions in Hooked. The book is an explanation of Hook Model, a four-step process that simplifies the recipes of retaining customers.

The E-Myth Revisited

The E-Myth Revisited

Category: Product Strategy

Michael Gerber is considered the number one guru for small businesses. In this book, he teaches how to dispel the myths that surround a small business and ways to make them profitable. The book: The E-Myth Revisited further sheds light on why franchising will be a better option and why you need to avail it.

Finally, it explains one overlooked difference between working in the business and working on the business.

The $100 Startup

The $100 Startup

Author: Chris Guillebeau

Category: Product Strategy

Want to lead a life full of adventure, meaning, and purpose while earning a good living? The $100 Startup is for you. It shows how to travel around the world while earning a consistent living and supporting your life and journey.

There are many people like Chris Guillebeau who have found ways to opt out of the traditional web of employment that surrounds us. They pursue a meaningful life after finding a perfect blend of passion and consistent income. And, it isn’t dependent on the work you do on regular basis. He describes how to start small with your venture and take the real plunge when you are sure it will be successful.

The Power of Broke

The Power Of broke

Author: Daymond John and Daniel Paisner

Category: Product Strategy

Daymon John started from a $40 budget selling home-sewn shirts on the streets. Today he is one of the most prominent investors and the founder of Shark Tank, real-life American investment show. John shares his own story of how he had to think of an out-of-the-box idea to create a campaign that will eventually lead to the sale of his shirts and how that same thinking made him a successful entrepreneur of the 21st century. His inspiring story is in this book called The Power of Broke

How to Transform Your Ideas into Software Products

How to Transform Your Ideas into Software Products

Author: Poornima Vijayashanker

Category: Product Strategy

How to make people pay for the products even before they are built? This book tells people how to build sellable products by turning your passion into a living. Poornima Vijayashanker shows the right roadmap for launching a winning software product.

The Startup Owner’s Manual

The Startup Owner's Manual

Author: Steve Blank

Category: Product Strategy

If you ever wanted a toolkit for launching a startup, The Startup Owner’s Manual is the go-to book for you. The book features proven processes of business modeling and customer development to build scalable companies.

It further sheds light on creative strategies that can help find the product-market fit and grow customer-base using any possible means.

Running Lean

Running Lean

Author: Ash Maurya

Category: Product Strategy

We are building more products than ever and most of them fail. This doesn’t happen because we can’t compete but because we waste money on the wrong products. Running Lean tells us about a systematic process for quickly vetting the product ideas and working on those that truly matter.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

The Checklist Manifesto

Author: Atul Gawande

Category: Growth Marketing

We always strive for betterment. Better education, better skill-set, better job, better income… and we still fail. Atul Gawande makes a compelling argument stating that we can do better using the simplest methods, and simplest skill sets.

He calls it the ‘checklist.’

Through analogies, inspirational stories, and thought-provoking incidences in his book he narrates how checklists can help us improve, bring about a striking change in our mindset, life, and the field of work. And that going for ‘better’ isn’t always necessary.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Four_Steps_To_The_Epiphany

Author: Steve Blank

Category: Growth Marketing

The Four Steps to the Epiphany offers a practical four-step solution for streamlining customer development process for startups. It is the first book that launched the Lean Startup approach for new ventures. The startups CEOs should realize that they are not smaller versions of large companies. Rather, they operate under a very different business model. The book presents concrete examples on how to take your startup to the next level, and what approaches should be taken for that purpose.

Traction

Traction

Auhtor: Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

Category: Growth Marketing

Most startups don’t fail because they can’t build a successful product. They fail because they can’t get traction. Traction isn’t about how well marketed a startup is, but how many customers it is acquiring on a regular basis, or if free, how many users.

Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares share their experiences of building a successful company. They say it isn’t about how cleverly you market or how much money you raise, but how much you can grow. Traction ensures that you are on the right path.

The 7 Day Startup

The 7 Day Startup

Author: Dan Norris

Category: Growth Marketing

Ever heard of a sustainable cash flowing business that was just made in seven days? Dan Norris did and he reveals his secrets in the 7-Day Startup book.

Dan’s business is now worth $400,000 and bringing recurring revenue.

The Third Wave

The Third Wave

Author: Steve Case

Category: Growth Marketing

The Third Wave is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller that provides a compelling roadmap for understanding the technological changes in our economy. It also provides ways in which businesses can successfully tap into these strategies to become more profitable.

Steve Case is the co-founder of AOL, the first internet company to go public in early 1990s. He provides insights on the importance of entrepreneurship and charts a path for future innovators.

The Art of the Start

The Art of the Start

Author: Guy Kawasaki

Category: Growth Marketing

Starting a business, or starting a new branch of the same business? The Art of the Start is your guide to starting things right. Guy Kawasaki documents the whole journey in a simple way while highlighting the important aspects of business

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The Hard Things About The Hard Things

Author: Ben Horowitz

Category: Fund Management

Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz shares the insights gained from developing, managing, and selling tech companies. The book The Hard Things About Hard Things is based on his blog where he advices leaders through the insights he gained during his career. In the book, Horowitz discusses the right time to take decisions like job slashing, selling a company, making big changes in the structure, and provides answers to other managerial problems.

Will it Fly?

Will it Fly

Author: Thomas K. McKnight

Category: Fund Management

Before investing a single dime ask ‘will it fly?’

Find out the 44 key elements required for a business to become successful. These 44 key elements were studied from 200 businesses at the time of their launch and provided to you in the shape of a well-written book called Will it Fly. This is a must-read book for investors, VC firms, and stakeholders who invest in new startups.

Venture Deals

VENTURE DEALS

Author: Brad Feld

Category: Fund Management

Each new generation of entrepreneurs is keenly interested in knowing how venture deals work so that they can gather more investments for their startups by pitching it the right way. But no one can understand it better than the people who are already involved in it.

In all the versions of Venture Deals, Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson share essential elements of the venture capitalism. Both have more than 20 years of experience in the field and have been involved in hundreds of venture capital financing.

Mastering the VC Game

Mastering the VC game

Author: Jeffrey Bussgang

Category: Fund Management

Pitching your startup to the investors for the first time? Learn how to prepare the perfect pitch and stay confident during your pitching session. The book, Mastering the VC Game provides practical advice gathered from interviews with a dozen of successful entrepreneurs and VCs.

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit

Author: Charles Duhigg

Category: Productivity

The Power of Habit reveals how we can transform our businesses and our lives by changing a few behavior patterns in our lives. Business experts call it the ‘essential manual for business and success.’ It takes the reader from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the middle of Civil Rights movement to the sidelines of NFL.

Which one should you read first?

It would be difficult to choose one single book to read from this list because every next book is full of information. Therefore, we have categorized each one. Ask yourself what is the major problem your startup is facing? And then, choose books related to that area for reading.

If you want to read books about ‘startup marketing’ specifically, then we have also compiled a list best startup marketing books in a separate post.

We hope you liked this list of best startup books. If you did, then share it with your friends who are struggling with their startups.

Share your opinion in the comment section. COMMENT NOW

Arsalan Sajid

Arsalan is a business graduate and digital marketer by profession. He works as a Startup Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves to create value for the Startup community. He is a big fan of cricket and does Netflix and chill in his free time.

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