9 Books That Every Startup Founder Should Read

The best entrepreneurs are those that never assume that they know it all. They never stop learning, never stop growing and always seek to expand their field of knowledge and expertise to make them more rounded in their skills. In their (admittedly sparse) downtime, they’re always on standby, seeking out new information and insights which can benefit them and the companies that are their livelihood. As such, they always tend to have a podcast or audiobook playing in the car. They always have a range of insightful documentaries on their streaming watchlists or in their DVD cabinets. And, needless to say, there’s always a big stack of books piled on their bedside tables.

Whether you read them as an electronic or physical copy or whether you prefer to listen to them in audio format, books are a phenomenal resource when launching or growing a business. By learning from the experiences, insights (and indeed mistakes) of those who have come before you, you can ensure that your startup gets the best chance of navigating those turbulent early years and charts a strong path towards sustainable growth.

Here are some of our favourites…

The $100 StartUp

The $100 StartUp by Chris Guillebeau should be considered essential reading for bedroom entrepreneurs who are desperate to make their mark on the business world but aren’t sure how to do so with the modest capital available to them.

It’s an entertaining and easy-to-read tome chock full of inspirational stories of successful entrepreneurs who have made a success of turning their passion into profit without miring themselves in enormous debts. If you’re currently stuck in a job you hate and dream of launching your own small business, this book should be your bible. It will help shake you out of complacency, get you used to thinking in new ways and push you to go beyond (what you think are) your limits.

The Lean Startup

A great read for those whose businesses are already up and running, but who can’t shake the nagging feeling that their products and processes could be more efficient.

The lean startup establishes the premise that that startups can approach the development of their products in a much more efficient and exciting way by treating their startup as an experiment and embracing trial, error and risk taking.

Highly recommended by a range of entrepreneurs including WiseStamp’s co-founder Josh Avnery, it’s a great read no matter where you are in your business journey.

Zero to One

Written by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, Zero to One is derived from a course about startups that Thiel used to teach at Stanford Business School in 2012. While teaching this course, he met a student Blake Masters who made meticulous notes on every lecture. So impressed was Thiel by these notes that he joined forces with Masters to revise his notes into a book for a wider audience with an interest in starting up their own companies.

Zero to One is all about helping you to think in different ways, challenge yourself and as the difficult questions that will push your startup towards growth and success while helping you stand head and shoulders above competitors.

Recommended by the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, it’s a great read that could change your life.


A business is only ever as good or as bad as its product. A great product can engage your market and make your brand indispensable. Hooked by Nir Eyal is all about the core tenets of building a product that will engage and enchant users. Want to have people queueing up to get their hands on your product?

This book teaches you all about the logical and emotional decisions that drive consumer behaviour and how they can be leveraged to ensure that your startup and its products are a success right out of the gate.

The Checklist Manifesto

No matter how brilliant and innovative your business idea, you can never hope to achieve true success if you don’t strive for operational excellence every day. The words “good enough” are anathema for success in business. That’s what The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is all about. Told from the point of view of a medical surgeon, it has valuable insights and caveats for all professionals.

Gawande warns of the dangers of ineptitude- something that even education and experience don’t necessarily insulate us from. The book explains how even in today’s technologically advanced and complex world implementing rigorous checklists can greatly improve results.

Well written and very entertaining, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey considers The Checklist Manifesto essential reading and includes it in a welcome kit given to all new employees.

The Myth Revisited

It’s one thing getting your startup off the ground. It’s another thing ensuring that it grows predictably and sustainably. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber is all about helping startups to grow and develop in their potentially turbulent early years.

It dispels the commonly assumed myths that can cause entrepreneurs to make mistakes and provides useful insights to help you to help your brand through the various stages from infancy to maturity (while also growing and developing yourself).

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

This is essential reading for the procrastinators and those searching for elusive easy fixes. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz imparts the simple but unavoidable truth that there are no shortcuts to knowledge. The book details Horowitz’ journey to success as an inventor and businessman, and the struggles he encountered along the way.

This book isn’t about imparting a secret formula for success or doing things quicker and easier. It’s about getting past your own perceptions and the limitations they can place on you. If you’ve read any of Ben Horowitz’ blogs you know that he has a delightfully accessible and engaging writing style and this book is not only a great source of insight, it’s a genuine page turner.

Creativity Inc

A fantastic read both for lovers of animation (who isn’t) and those who want to make money doing the things they find creatively regarding. Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace provides an interesting and insightful look into the world of animation giant Pixar.

Pixar is not a studio that’s known for resting on its laurels and this book provides useful insights that can help any business keep breaking the mould and redefining itself.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Finally, The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank is a challenging tome that questions the importance of products in the startup process. In fact, Blank even asserts that products are an illusion of startup success and that true success is only found when your brand is completely aligned with the needs and desires of the customer.

For those looking to give their sales and marketing a shot in the arm, this is essential reading!

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