Over the last few years we’ve discovered that startups are not smaller versions of large companies. The skills founders need are not covered by traditional books for MBA’s and large company managers. There are now a few books that specifically address founders needs. Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Generationis the first book that allows you to answer “What’s your business model?” intelligently and with precision. Make sure this one is on your shelf. Eric Ries was the best student I ever had. He took the Customer Development process, combined it with Agile Engineering, and actually did the first implementation in a startup. His insights about the combined Customer Development/Agile process and its implications past startups into large corporations is a sea change in thinking. His book, The Lean Startup is a “must have” for your shelf. If you’re starting a medical device company Biodesign:The Process of Innovating Medical Technologies is a must have. It has a great customer discovery process.
- Business Model Generation: by Alexander Osterwalder
- The Lean Startup: by Eric Ries
- Biodesign:The Process of Innovating Medical Technologies by Zenios, Makower, Yock, et al (great website here)
- The Four Steps to the Epiphany:
- And my newest book, The Startup Owners Manual
Do More Fasteridentifies issues that first-time entrepreneurs encounter and offer useful advice.Getting Real is web-focussed. The Entrepreneurial Mindsetarticulates the critically important idea that there are different types of startup opportunities. The notion of three Market Types springs from here and Christensen’s work. The book provides a framework for the early marketing/sales strategies essential in a startup. Delivering Profitable Value talks more about value propositions and value delivery systems than you ever want to hear again. However, this is one of the books you struggle through and then realize you learned something valuable. Schumpeter’s book Theory of Economic Development is famous for his phrase “creative destruction” and its relevance to entrepreneurship. Peter Drucker’s Concept of the Corporation was the first insiders view of how a decentralized company (GM) works. His Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a classic. While written for a corporate audience, read it for the sources of innovation. If you write software you already know about Fred Brooks classic text the Mythical Man Month. If you manage a software company you need to read it so you don’t act like Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss.
- Do More Faster: Techstar lessons to accelerate your startup - David Cohen and Brad Feld
- Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application - Jason Fried
- The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Strategies for Continuously Creating Opportunity in an Age of Uncertainty – R.McGrath and I. MacMillan
- Delivering Profitable Value – Michael J. Lanning.
- Theory of Economic Development – Joseph Schumpeter
- Concept of the Corporation and Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Peter Drucker
- The Mythical Man Month – Fred Brooks
Jessica Livingston’s Founders At Work are the best case studies/vignettes without a PR rewrite of how founders really start companies. An Engineer’s Guide to Silicon Valley Startups is one of those quirky books that perfectly match Silicon Valley culture. If you’re an engineer in the valley or coming out, this is a useful read. It describes what types of startups are there, how to get a job at one, negotiating your salary, stock options, etc. Geek Silicon Valley is part history and part travel guide. Also useful.
- Founders at Work – Jessica Livingston
- Geek Silicon Valley:The Inside Guide to Palo Alto, Stanford, et al.
- The Visitors Guide to Silicon Valley
- Engineer’s Guide to Silicon Valley Startups
- For Books on Silicon Valley History see here
The other side of innovation is the closest receipe I’ve read for getting entrepnreurship right in large companies. Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution helped me refine the notion of the Four types of Startup Markets. I read these books as the handbook for startups trying to disrupt an established company. Crossing the Chasm made me understand that there are repeatable patterns in early stage companies. It started my search for the repeatable set of patterns that preceded the chasm. The Tipping Point has made me realize that marketing communications strategies for companies in New Markets often follow the Tipping Point. Blue Ocean Strategy is a great way to look at what I’ve called “market type.”
- the other side of innovation – Vijay Govindarajan & Chris Trimble
- The Innovator’s Dilemma & The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton M. Christensen
- Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers
- Inside the Tornado: Marketing Strategies from Silicon Valley’s Cutting Edge
- Dealing with Darwin : How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of Their Evolution — all three by Geoffrey A. Moore
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
- Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by R. Mauborgne and W. C. Kim
How large companies can stay innovative and entrepreneurial has been theHoly Grail for authors of business books, business schools, consulting firms, etc. There’s some great work from lots of authors in this area but I’d start by readingthe other side of innovation.Then I’d read the short Harvard Business Review articles. Eric Von Hippel work on new product introduction methodologies and the notion of “Lead Users” offer many parallels with Customer Discovery and Validation. But like most books on the subject it’s written from the point of view of a large company. Von Hippel’s four steps of 1) goal generation and team formation, 2) trend research, 3) lead user pyramid networking and 4) Lead User workshop and idea improvement is a more rigorous and disciplined approach then suggested in our book, the Four Steps to the Epiphany.
- the other side of innovation - Vijay Govindarajan & Chris Trimble
- Innovators Dilemma & Innovator Solution, Clayton Christensen
- Winning Through Innovation: a Practical Guide to Leading Organizational Change and Renewal, Charles O’Reilly
- Breakthrough Products with Lead User Research by Eric Von Hippel and Mary Sonnack
- The Sources of Innovation by Eric Von Hippel
Harvard Business Review Articles
- Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change, Clayton Christensen/Michael Overdorf: March/April 2000
- The Quest for Resilience, Gary Hamel/Liisa Valikangas: Sept 2003
- The Ambidextrous Organization, Charles O’Reilly/Michael Tushman: April 2004
- Darwin and the Demon: Innovating Within Established Enterprises, Geoffrey Moore: July/August 2004
- Meeting the Challenge of Corporate Entrepreneurship, David Garvin/Lynne Levesque: Oct 2006
- The Innovators DNA, Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen, Clayton Christensen: Dec 2009
“Marketing as Strategy” Books
Offering more than some handy tactical tidbits, these books offer a chance to change your entire strategy. Peppers and Rogers, The One to One Future opened my eyes to concepts of lifetime value, most profitable customers and the entire customer lifecycle of “get, keep and grow.” Bill Davidow’s Marketing High Technology introduced me to the concept of “whole product” and the unique needs of mainstream customers. Michael Porter is the father of competitive strategy. His books Competitive Strategy, Competitive Advantage, and On Competitionare still the standards.
- The One to One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time by Don Peppers, Martha Rogers
- Marketing High Technology: An Insider’s View and Total Customer Service: The Ultimate Weapon by William H. Davidow
- Competitive Strategy, Competitive Advantage, and On Competition all by Michael Porter
The metaphor that business is war is both a cliché and points to a deeper truth. Many basic business concepts; competition, leadership, strategy versus tactics, logistics, etc. have their roots in military affairs. The difference is that in business no one dies. At some time in your business life you need to study war or become a casualty. Sun Tzu covered all the basics of strategy in The Art of Waruntil the advent of technology temporarily superseded him. Also, in the same vein try The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi. These two books have unfortunately turned into business clichés but they are still timeless reading. Carl Von Clausewitz’s On War is a 19th century western attempt to understand war. The “Boyd” book, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War is a biography and may seem out of place here, but John Boyd’s OODA loop is at the core of Customer Development and the Pivot. Read it and then look at all the web sites for Boyd papers, particularly Patterns of Conflict. The New Lanchester Strategy is so offbeat that it tends to be ignored. Its ratios of what you require to attack or defend a market keep coming up so often in real life, that I’ve found it hard to ignore.
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu, translated by Thomas Cleary, or the one by Griffith
- The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
- On War by Carl Von Clausewitz’s Everyman’s Library Series
- Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram and/or
- The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security by Grant T. Hammond
- Lanchester Strategy: An Introduction by Taoka and/or
- New Lanchester Strategy: Sales and Marketing Strategy for the Weak(New Lanchester Strategy) by Shinichi Yano, Kenichi Sato, Connie Prener
Ries and Trout positioning books can be read in a plane ride, yet after all these years they are still a smack on the side of the head. Regis McKenna has always been a favorite of mine. However, as you read Relationship Marketingseparate out the examples Regis uses into either startups or large sustainable businesses. What worked in one, won’t necessarily work in another. Read these books first before you dive into the 21st century stuff like Seth Godin.
Seth Godin “gets deeply” the profound changes the internet is having in the way we think about customers and communicating with them. Godin’s All Marketers are Liarstalks about the power of storytelling in marketing. His Permission Marketing book crystallized a direct marketing technique (permission marketing), which was simply impossible to achieve pre-internet. Read his Ideavirus after you’ve read Permission Marketing. Made to Stickgives you the tools to make your messages “sticky.” I putSwayhere because great marketers know how to find these irrational behaviors Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant! while written for a political audience has some valuable insights on framing communications.
- Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind The 20th Anniversary Edition and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk by Al Ries, Jack Trout
- All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
- Relationship Marketing: Successful Strategies for the Age of the Customer by Regis McKenna
- Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends into Customers and Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin
- Don’t Think of an Elephant! by George Lakoff
- Sway: the Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman
Thomas Freese is the master of consultative selling. Both his books are a great start in understanding how a pro sells. Jeff Thull’s Mastering the Complex Salehas a lot of elements of Customer Discovery and Validation, but skip the first 50 pages. Many of the ideas of Customer Validation are based on the principles articulated by Bosworth, Heiman and Rackham. Bostworth’s Solution Selling and it’s successor, The New Solution Sellingare must reads for any executive launching a new product. Its articulation of the hierarchy of buyers needs as well its description of how to get customers to articulate their needs, makes this a “must read”, particularly those selling to businesses. Yet in his new book What Great Salespeople Do he says, ignore those books follow this advice. Heiman’s books are a bit more tactical and are part of a comprehensive sales training program from his company Miller-Heiman. If you are in sales or have a sales background you can skip these. But if you aren’t they are all worth reading for the basic “blocking and tackling” advice. The only bad news is that Heiman writes like a loud salesman – but the advice is sound. Rackham’s Spin Selling is another series of books about major account, large ticket item sales, with again the emphasis on selling the solution, not features. Lets Get Real is of the Sandler School of selling (another school of business to business sales methodology.) Jill Konrath has great strategies and insights for large sales. Baseline Selling uses baseball metaphors but it’s an effective explanation of how to do consultative selling. I sure could have used the Complete Idiots Guide to Cold Callingwhen it was just me and the telephone. The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing provides a great framework for thinking about “how much should I charge for this?”
- Secrets of Question Based Selling: How the Most Powerful Tool in Business Can Double Your Sales Results and It Only Takes 1% to Have a Competitive Edge in Sales by Thomas Freese
- Mastering the Complex Sale – Jeff Thull
- What Great Salespeople Do – Michael Bosworth
- Solution Selling: Creating Buyers in Difficult Selling Markets By Michael T. Bosworth
- The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
- The New Conceptual Selling: The Most Effective and Proven Method for Face-To-Face Sales Planning and The New Strategic Selling: The Unique Sales System Proven Successful by the World’s Best Companies by Stephen E. Heiman, et. al.
- Spin Selling and the Spin Selling Fieldbook By Neil Rackham
- Lets Get Real or Lets Not Play by Mahan Khalsa
- Snap Selling – Speed Up Sales and Win More Business and Selling to Big Companies both by Jill Konrath
- Sandler Selling System www.sandler.com
- Miller Heiman Sales Process Consulting & Training www.millerheiman.com
- Baseline Selling: How to Become A Sales Superstar by Dave Kurlan
- The Complete Idiots Guide to Cold Calling by Keith Rosen
- The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing – by Nagle, Hogan & Zale
If you don’t pay attention to the law from the day you start your company it can kill you. But most books (and lawyers) speak in their own arcane language. David Weekly’s An Introduction to Stock and Options should be your first read (unfortunately its Kindle only.) The Entrepreneurs Guide to Business Law is the one book you ought to have on your shelf. While not written explicitly for Silicon Valley startups it demystifies the most common areas you need to know. Term Sheets and Valuations is a great read if you’re faced with a term sheet and staring at words like “liquidation preferences and conversion rights” and don’t have a clue what they mean. Read this and you can act like you almost understand what you are giving away.
- An Introduction to Stock and Options – David Weekly
- The Entrepreneurs Guide to Business Law –by Constance Bagley and Craig Douchy
- Term Sheets & Valuations – An Inside Look at the Intricacies of Venture Capital by Alex Wilmerding Aspatore Books Staff, Aspatore.com
If you buy one book to understand how VC’s and fund raising works, Venture Deals is the one. Wish I had it when I did startups. Same for Mastering the VC Game. If you read two books about how to deal with VC’s start here. The rest of the books are personal stories. Bill Draper’s book is both history and advice from a VC pioneer. If you have never experienced a startup first hand, Jerry Kaplan’s bookStartup and Michael Wolff’s book Burn Rate are good reads of a founder’s adventure with the venture capitalists. Eboys is the story of Benchmark Capital during the Internet Bubble. Ferguson’s book is a great read for the first time entrepreneur. His personality and views of the venture capitalists and “suits” are a Rorschach ink blot test for the reader.
- Venture Deals: Be Smarter than your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist -by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
- Mastering the VC Game by Jeffrey Bussgang
- The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership between VC’s and Entrepreneurs by William H. Draper
- Burn Rate: How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet by Michael Wolff
- Startup: A Silicon Valley Adventure by Jerry Kaplan
- Eboys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work by Randall E. Stross
- High Stakes, No Prisoners: A Winner’s Tale of Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars by Charles H. Ferguson
- Pitching Hacks: The Book from Venture Hacks
Nesheim’s book High Tech Startup is the gold standard of the nuts and bolts of all the financing stages from venture capital to IPO’s. If you promise to ignore the marketing advice he gives you, Baird’s book, Engineering Your Startup is the cliff notes version in explaining the basics of financing, valuation, stock options, etc. Gordon Bells’ book High-Tech Venturesis incomprehensible on the first, second or third read. Yet it is simply the best “operating manual” for startups that has been written. (The only glaring flaw is Bell’s assumption that a market exists for the product and that marketing’s job is data sheets and trade shows.) Read it in doses for insight and revelation and make notes, (think of reading the bible) rather than reading it straight through.
- High Tech Start Up: The Complete Handbook for Creating Successful New High Tech Companies by John L. Nesheim
- Engineering Your Start-Up: A Guide for the High-Tech Entrepreneur by Michael L. Bair
- High-Tech Ventures: The Guide for Entrepreneurial Success by Gordon Bell
If you take an entrepreneurship class in a Business School or University you’ll probably encounter one of these textbooks.The reason you don’t see them on the desks of working entrepreneurs is that at $100-$150+ they’re all priced for a captive student audience. (Some do have paperback versions for $50-$85.) The other uncomfortable fact is that most startups in Silicon Valley ignore these textbooks once they leave school. In the real-world startups are now built using the business model/customer development/agile engineering stack. Not one of these textbooks teach that. Of all the texts, Technology Ventures is “the gold standard” of entrepreneurship textbooks. Jeff Timmons’ New Venture Creation has too much great stuff in it to ignore. At first read it is simply overwhelming but tackle it a bit a time and use it to test your business plan for completeness. Business Plans that Work summarizes the relevant part of hisNew Venture Creation book and teaches how to write a document (the business plan) that no one ever reads. However, both books are worth having if you’re in a large company thinking about introducing follow-on products.
- Technology Ventures - Tom Byers, Richard Dorf, Andrew Nelson
- New Venture Creation Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century and Business Plans That Work by Jeffry A. Timmons
- Entrepreneurship: Strategy and Resources – Marc J. Dollinger
- Launching New Ventures: An Entrepreneurial Approach – Kathleen R. Allen
- Entrepreneurship - Robert Hisrich, Michael Peters, Dean Shepherd
- Entrepreneurship - William D. Bygrave , Andrew Zacharakis
- Entrepreneurship: An Innovator’s Guide to Startups and Corporate Ventures- Marc H. Meyer, Frederick G. Crane
- Entrepreneurship: Successfully Launching New Ventures - Bruce R. Barringer
- Entrepreneurial Small Business – Jerome Katz
- Entrepreneurship: In a European Perspective - C.K. Volkmann, K.O. Tokarski and M. Granhagen
- Patterns of Entrepreneurship Management – Jack M. Kaplan, Anthony Warren
- Technology Entrepreneurship: Creating, Capturing and Protecting Value -Thomas N. Duening, Robert A. Hisrich, Michael A. Lechter
- Nurturing Science-based Ventures: An International Case Perspective - Ralf W. Seifert, Benoît F. Leleux, Chris L. Tucci
- Venture Capital and Private Equity: A Casebook – Josh Lerner, Felda Hardymon, Ann Leamon
- Biodesign: The Process of Innovating Medical Technologies – Zenios, Makower, Yock,Brinton, Kumar, Denend, Krummel
I’ve yet to meet a manufacturing person that does not reference The Goal when talking about lean manufacturing principles first. It’s a book inside a novel – so it humanizes the manufacturing experience. Lean Thinking is the best over all summary of the lean manufacturing genre. Toyota Production System is the father of all lean manufacturing – it’s simple tone is refreshing.
- The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt
- Lean Thinking by James Womack
- Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production by Taiicho Ohno.
- The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker
Nancy Duarte’s two books, Slid:eology and Resonate are about presentation design. These are the two books I refer entrepreneurs to who want to build a killer customer presentation. The advice may not work for all audiences but it’s a great place to start. Cooper’s book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum, is about product design. It had the same impact on me as Moore’s Crossing the Chasm – “why of course, that’s what’s wrong.” It’s important and articulate.
- Slid:eology and Resonate by Nancy Duarte
- The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How To Restore The Sanity by Alan Cooper
What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20is the book I give all young entrepreneurs. If you are in a large company and wondering why your company isn’t going anywhere your answers might be found in Good to Great. Written by Jim Collins, the same author who wrote Built to Last, both are books that “you should be so lucky” to read. What differentiates good companies versus great? How do you institutionalize core values into a company that enable it to create value when the current management is long gone? When I first read these, I thought they were only for companies that were lucky enough to get big. Upon reflection, these books were the inspiration for the “Mission-Oriented Culture.” Read these two books together.
Ironically, the best HR stuff for anyone in a startup to read is not a book. It is the work James Baron at Stanford has done. Download his slides on the Stanford Project on Emerging Companies. Baron’s book, Strategic Human Resources – is a classic HR textbook. Finally, if you are working at a startup and wondering why the founder is nuts,The Founder Factor helps explain a few things.
I’m not sure how to characterize The Checklist Manifesto so I stuck it here. It’s a quick read with some insights that match why Business Model strategy need to be translated into Customer Development checklists.
- What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course in Making Your Way in the World – Tina Seelig
- Good To Great and Built to Last by James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras
- The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First By Jeffrey Pfeffer
- Strategic Human Resources: Frameworks for General Managers by James N. Baron, David Kreps
- The Founder Factor by Nancy Truitt Pierce
- The No Asshole Rule and Weird Ideas that Work and Good Boss, Bad Boss by Robert I. Sutton
- Hard Facts and The Knowing-Doing Gap by Robert I. Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer
- Competing on the Edge by Shona L. Brown and Katheleen M. Eisenhardt
- Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur by Stuart Skorman
- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Alfred Sloan’s My Years with General Motors is a great read, but not for the traditional reasons. Read it from the point of view of an entrepreneur (Durant) who’s built a great company by gut and instinct, got it to $200M and is replaced by the board. Then watches as a world-class bureaucrat grows into one of the largest and best run companies in the world. Make sure you read it in conjunction with Sloan Rules and A Ghost’s Memoir. If you’re an entrepreneur the one founder you probably never heard of but should is William Durant. Read Madsen’s biography. The Nudist on the Late Shift is a book you send to someone who lives outside of Silicon Valley who wants to know what life is like in a startup.
- My Years with General Motors by Alfred Sloan
- Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost by Steve Blank
- Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors by David R. Farber
- A Ghost’s Memoir: The Making of Alfred P. Sloan’s My Years with General Motors by John McDonal
- The Deal Maker: How William C. Durant Made General Motors by Axel Madsen
- Billy, Alfred and General Motors: The Story of Two Unique Men by William Pelfrey
- The Nudist on the Late Shift by Po Bronson
- The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick
My friend, Stephen Spinelli President of Philadelphia University offered this great reading list on the activity of the university in tech transfer/collaborations with business, community and government. The list also covers the activity/behavior/leadership of the university president.
- Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the Twenty-First Century by Holden Thorp and Buck Goldstein
- A University for the 21st Century - Duderstadt, J. J.
- Creating the Entrepreneurial University: The Case of MIT - O’Shea, R., Allen, T. and Morse, K
- How boards can balance demands for entrepreneurship and accountability - Novak, R
- Academic Capitalism and the New Economy: Markets, State, and Higher Education by Sheila Slaughter and Gary Rhoades
- The New Entrepreneurial University- Trachtenberg, S. J. (1999) “.” Speech given to the American Association of University Administrators
- The Entrepreneurial College President by James L. Fisher and James V. Koch
- Leaders in the Crossroads: Success and Failure in the College Presidency by Stephen James Nelson
- Creating Entrepreneurial Universities: Organizational Pathways of Transformation by Burton Clark
- Collegial Entrepreneurialism in Proactive Universities by Burton Clark
- Entrepreneurship and Small College Leadership. New Directions for Higher Education by Robert Peck
All of the following four chapters are in the: Journal of the Programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education, Higher Education Management. Vol. 13, No. 2, 2001. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
- The Entrepreneurial University: New Foundations for Collegiality, Autonomy and Achievement by Burton Clark
- The Emergence of Entrepreneurial Cultures in European Universities by John L. Davies
- Promoting Academic Expertise and Authority in an Entrepreneurial Cultureby Craig McInnis
- Structural Barriers to Innovation in Traditional Universities by Jose-Gines Mora and Enrique Villarreal