The first 10 books you have to read before launching a Tech Startup

By 15/12/2019Startup life

1. Steve Blank, Bob Dorf – “The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company” (Kindle Price: £7.49)

Welcome to The Startup Owner’s Manual, a near-encyclopedic manual that will teach you 

  • How to incorporate the Business Model Canvas as the organizing principle for startup hypotheses
  • How to find Product-Market fit
  • How to Get, Keep and Grow customers 
  • How to fuel growth with metrics that matter

The Startup Owner’s Manual walks you, step-by-step, through the tested and proven Customer Development process created by startup expert Steve Blank, unlocking the secrets to building a successful, scalable company. 

This book:

  • Guides startups of all types in their search for a scalable, profitable business model
  • Explains the 9 deadly sins startups commit most often – and helps you avoid them
  • Provides separate paths and advice for physical versus web/mobile products
  • Explains how to test and iterate your company’s road to product/market fit
  • Details strategies and tactics for how to get, keep and grow customers
  • Teaches a new math for startups — metrics that matter
  • Includes detailed checklists at every step of the process
  • …and provides hundreds of ideas, watch-outs and „how tos” for founders!

The Startup Owner’s Manual lays out the best practices, lessons and tips that have swept the startup world, offering a wealth of proven advice and information for entrepreneurs of all stripes. It is used by thousands of startups, leading universities (including Stanford, U.C. Berkeley and Columbia) and the U.S. National Science Foundation, among many others.

Use it in conjunction with The Startup Owner’s Manual – Founder’s Workbook (bit.ly/SlPQqc), an interactive tool for tracking your progress through the Customer Development method.

2. Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits – “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development:  A cheat sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany” (Kindle Price: £7.51)

Customer Development is a four-step framework for helping startups discover and validate their customers, product, and go-to-market strategy, developed by Steve Blank and an integral part of Eric Ries’ Lean Startup methodology. Focused on the Customer Discovery step, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development is an easy to follow guide for finding early adopters, building a Minimum Viable Product, finding Product-Market fit, and establishing a sales and marketing roadmap.

Deemed a „must-read” by Steve Blank and Eric Ries, inside you will find detailed customer development and lean startup concept definitions, a step-by-step approach to best practices, a business model analysis guide, case studies, rich graphics, as well as worksheets and exercises. No matter the stage of your business, you will return often to this guide to learn how to build a product people want, „get out of the building”, foster strong customer relationships, test business model risk, reach out to early adopters, conduct startup marketing, create a customer funnel based on buyers’ process, and prepare your startup to scale up.

This book is both an introduction for those unfamiliar with lean concepts and highly actionable for lean practitioners. It is a user-friendly guide, written to be accessible to marketing professionals, Engineers startup founders and entrepreneurs, VCs, angels, and anyone else involved in building scalable startups.

Existing companies will benefit too from applying Customer Development principles described in detail herein: for example, startups struggling to achieve market traction, or well established companies seeking to spark new innovation.

3. Ash Maurya – “Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works” (Kindle Price: £11.31)

We live in an age of unparalleled opportunity for innovation. We’re building more products than ever before, but most of them fail—not because we can’t complete what we set out to build, but because we waste time, money, and effort building the wrong product.

What we need is a systematic process for quickly vetting product ideas and raising our odds of success. That’s the promise of Running Lean.

In this inspiring book, Ash Maurya takes you through an exacting strategy for achieving a „product/market fit” for your fledgeling venture, based on his own experience in building a wide array of products from high-tech to no-tech. Throughout, he builds on the ideas and concepts of several innovative methodologies, including the Lean Startup, Customer Development, and bootstrapping.

Running Lean is an ideal tool for business managers, CEOs, small business owners, developers and programmers, and anyone who’s interested in starting a business project.

  • Find a problem worth solving, then define a solution
  • Engage your customers throughout the development cycle
  • Continually test your product with smaller, faster iterations
  • Build a feature, measure customer response, and verify/refute the idea
  • Know when to „pivot” by changing your plan’s course
  • Maximize your efforts for speed, learning, and focus
  • Learn the ideal time to raise your „big round” of funding
  1. Rob Fitzpatrick – “The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you” (Kindle Price: £7.99)

The Mom Test is a quick, practical guide that will save you time, money, and heartbreak. 

They say you shouldn’t ask your mom whether your business is a good idea, because she loves you and will lie to you. This is technically true, but it misses the point. You shouldn’t ask anyone if your business is a good idea. It’s a bad question and everyone will lie to you at least a little. As a matter of fact, it’s not their responsibility to tell you the truth. It’s your responsibility to find it and it’s worth doing right.

Talking to customers is one of the foundational skills of both Customer Development and Lean Startup. We all know we’re supposed to do it, but nobody seems willing to admit that it’s easy to screw up and hard to do right. This book is going to show you how customer conversations go wrong and how you can do better.

5. Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares – “Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth” (Kindle Price: £5.99)

Most startups don’t fail because they can’t build a product. Most startups fail because they can’t get traction.

Building a successful company is hard. Smart entrepreneurs know that the key to success isn’t the originality of your offering, the brilliance of your team, or how much money you raise. It’s how consistently you can grow and acquire new customers.

Traction will teach you the nineteen channels you can use to build a customer base and offers a three-step framework to figure out which ones will work best for your business. No matter how you apply them, the lessons and examples in Traction will help you create and sustain the growth your business desperately needs.

6. Tom Hogan, Carol Broadbent – “The Ultimate Start-Up Guide: Marketing Lessons, War Stories, and Hard-Won Advice from Leading Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors” (Kindle Price: £11.27)

Most start-ups fail.

And they die remarkably young: The typical start-up lasts 20 months and burns through $1.3 million in financing before closing its doors.

So what’s the formula for success for those start-ups that make it through the early trials, leveraging their early success into either getting acquired or issuing an IPO (initial public offering)? What are the lessons that first-time entrepreneurs and employees need to know to navigate their way to success?

The Ultimate Start-Up Guide offers practical advice, insights, lessons, and best practices from the world of start-ups, including:

  • Strategies for hiring and building your team, culture, and values.
  • How to pitch your company, secure funding, and distribute equity.
  • Best practices in launching your business.
  • How venture capitalist investors think, evaluate new companies, and advise entrepreneurs.
  • War stories and red flags from top VC partners and entrepreneurs.

Start-ups are a business model and culture of their own, changing the economic landscape as well as the way we live and work. The Ultimate Start-Up Guide offers an insider’s look at this world. It’s a fascinating read for anyone contemplating how to build or participate in a successful start-up.

7. Joel Marsh – “UX for Beginners: A Crash Course in 100 Short Lessons” (Kindle Price: £16.37)

Apps! Websites! Rubber Ducks! Naked Ninjas! This book has everything. If you want to get started in user experience design (UX), you’ve come to the right place: 100 self-contained lessons that cover the whole spectrum of fundamentals.

Forget dry, technical material. This book—based on the wildly popular UX Crash Course from Joel Marsh’s blog The Hipper Element—is laced with the author’s snarky brand of humour, and teaches UX in a simple, practical way. Becoming a professional doesn’t have to be boring.

Follow the real-life UX process from start-to-finish and apply the skills as you learn, or refresh your memory before the next meeting. UX for Beginners is perfect for non-designers who want to become designers, managers who teach UX, and programmers, salespeople, or marketers who want to learn more.

  • Start from scratch: the fundamentals of UX
  • Research the weird and wonderful things users do
  • The process and science of making anything user-friendly
  • Use size, colour, and layout to help and influence users
  • Plan and create wireframes
  • Make your designs feel engaging and persuasive
  • Measure how your design works in the real world
  • Find out what a UX designer does all-day
  1. Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman – “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” (Kindle Price:  £16.49)

Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman expose the fallacies of standard management thinking in this book based on thorough research. In seven chapters, the two consultants for the Gallup Organisation debunk some dearly held notions about management, such as „treat people as you like to be treated”; „people are capable of almost anything”; and „a manager’s role is diminishing in today’s economy.” „Great managers are revolutionaries,” the authors write. „This book will take you inside the minds of these managers to explain why they have toppled conventional wisdom and reveal the new truths they have forged in its place.”

The authors have culled their observations from more than 80,000 interviews conducted by Gallup during the past 25 years. Buckingham and Coffman outline „four keys” to becoming an excellent manager: finding the right fit for employees, focusing on strengths of employees, defining the right results, and selecting staff for talent–not just knowledge and skills. First, Break All the Rules offers specific techniques for helping people perform better on the job. For instance, the authors show ways to structure a trial period for a new worker and how to create a pay plan that rewards people for their expertise instead of how fast they climb the company ladder. „The point is to focus people toward performance,” they write. „The manager is, and should be, totally responsible for this.” Written in plain English and well organised, this book tells you exactly how to improve as a supervisor.

9. Robert B. Cialdini – “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” (Kindle Price: £7.99)

In this highly acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini—the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion—explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically in business and everyday situations.

You’ll learn the six universal principles of influence and how to use them to become a skilled persuader—and, just as importantly, how to defend yourself against dishonest influence attempts:

  1. Reciprocation: The internal pull to repay what another person has provided us.
  2. Commitment and Consistency: Once we make a choice or take a stand, we work to behave consistently with that commitment in order to justify our decisions.
  3. Social Proof: When we are unsure, we look to similar others to provide us with the correct actions to take. And the more, people undertaking that action, the more we consider that action correct.
  4. Liking: The propensity to agree with people we like and, just as important, the propensity for others to agree with us, if we like them.
  5. Authority: We are more likely to say “yes” to others who are authorities, who carry greater knowledge, experience or expertise.
  6. Scarcity: We want more of what is less available or dwindling in availability.

Understanding and applying the six principles ethically is cost-free and deceptively easy. Backed by Dr. Cialdini’s 35 years of evidence-based, peer-reviewed scientific research—as well as by a three-year field study on what moves people to change behaviour—Influence is a comprehensive guide to using these principles effectively to amplify your ability to change the behaviour of others.

10. Chip Heath, Dan Heath – “Switch: How to change things when change is hard” (Kindle Price: £6.49)

We all know that change is hard. It’s unsettling, it’s time-consuming, and all too often we give up at the first sign of a setback.

But why do we insist on seeing the obstacles rather than the goal? This is the question that bestselling authors Chip and Dan Heath tackle in their compelling and insightful book. They argue that we need only understand how our minds function in order to unlock shortcuts to switches in behaviour.

Illustrating their ideas with scientific studies and remarkable real-life turnarounds – from the secrets of successful marriage counselling to the pile of gloves that transformed one company’s finances – the brothers Heath prove that deceptively simple methods can yield truly extraordinary results.

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