Books On Entrepreneurship

I love books. I love to read. I realize I’ve had a dry spell – I’ve hardly been reading books at all this fall. That hasn’t stopped them from piling up as my infinite pile of books to read remains – well – infinite.

I gobbled down some entrepreneurship books in the last week. There are a number of great ones coming that seem to have been kicked off by Eric Ries’ dynamite The Lean Startup.

The first one is Walter Isaacson’s incredible biography of Steve Jobs. While I knew many (but not all) of the stories, Isaacson is a total master at putting together a fast paced, thorough, yet extremely readable biography. Jobs is a fascinating, incredible, and extremely complex person – Isaacson captures his essence. While this book is about more than just entrepreneurship, Jobs has had such a huge impact on the computer industry that anyone interested in entrepreneurship must read this book. If you love biography, are intrigued by complex heroic figures, love your Apple products, or are anyone else, I put this book in your must read pile. Yes – I loved it.

The next is Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company From Concept to Creation in 54 Hours. I recently joined the board of Startup Weekend, which I describe as a weekend-long simulation of entrepreneurship. I was at the very first Startup Weekend in Boulder in 2007 and was blown away by what Andrew Hyde – and the Boulder entrepreneurial community – did while creating Vosnap. Four years later Startup Weekend is an international phenomenon that I believe is one of the key activities required in any entrepreneurial community that aspires to grow and develop of a 20 year period. This book helps you understand what Startup Weekend is, how it works, and is filled with stories of people who have gone through it, what they learned, and why it matters.

The last two books are ones that won’t be out until the spring but I had a chance to read galleys of each. Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn cofounder / chairman) and Ben Casnocha (who I’ve now been friends with for almost a decade – eek!) have written an important book titled The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career. I believe this will be the contemporary version of What Color Is Your Parachute (which – unfortunately – now seems to be a whole series of books – which I put in the “very tired” category.) Reid and Ben take a fresh approach to how one thinks about “career” with a book I expect will be atop the NY Times Bestseller list for a long time.

Finally, Jason Baptiste (OnSwipe CEO – TechStars New York 2011 class) demonstrates his awesomeness with his new book The Ultralight Startup: Launching a Business Without Clout or Capital. This puppy is packed with very specific advice about launching a business that come from Jason’s experience with OnSwipe and Cloudomatic. Jason is a great writer – the book is direct, clear, actionable, and fast paced – just like Jason.

Finally, I’d be remiss in my job as a book salesman for Wiley (our publisher) if didn’t mention the book I wrote with David Cohen last year titled Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup as well as the book I recently wrote with Jason Mendelson titled Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. Hopefully you have them and are giving them to every entrepreneur and aspiring entrepreneur you know.

It’s Black Friday. Buy some books!

  • Done and done.  You might also pick up some gems:  Ogilvy on Advertising, Scientific Advertising Methods are two fabulous reads.  So is the paper (Hays tranlation) of the Meditations by Marcus aurelius.

    • Agree – Ogilvy on Advertising is a classic.

  • Fantastic. I’m just finishing Walter Isaacson’s book and it is brilliant.
    Thanks for the other recommendations, Brad.

    A book I’d highly recommend is ‘Switch’ by Chip and Dan Heath in case you haven’t read already. It’s about ‘how to drive change when change is hard’. 

    Very inspiring!

  • Grammar police here. 🙂

    “…who I’ve know been friends with for almost a decade – eek!”

    Change know => now.

    • Thx – fixing now.

      • James Mitchell

        Brad, you have an assistant, right? Have him/her proof everything before you post!

        • I enjoy my typos. And I’m not interested in slowing down my output.

          • James Mitchell

            Pray tell, why do you enjoy your typos?

            I remember a scientist at Harvard who told me that the tradition 100 years ago was that a researcher would write a paper and then put it in a drawer. Six months later, he would take it out, read it, and if he still thought it should be published, then he would submit it for publications.

            In Paul Graham’s essays, one of the things I always found interesting was that at the end, he acknowledges the people who read, edited and critiqued drafts of his essay before he published them.

          • My typos keep it real. It’s a blog, not a research paper.

            Re: the Harvard tradition from 100 years ago. I’d suggest that the pace of things is a little faster these days. The idea that it’s worth having your thoughts sit in a drawer for six months seems antithetical to me.

          • James Mitchell

            As for the Harvard tradition (I assume this was true of pretty much every other research institution, including MIT) — Sometimes less is more. In the physical sciences, you see research scientists with 1000+ papers. Which is beyond ridiculous — no one has 1000 original good ideas in his lifetime.

            One of the things Harvard Medical School is now doing is when as Assistant Professor is being considered for promotion to Associate Professor, he can submit five of his papers to the review committed, no more. This has substantially changed professor behavior. They are now concerned with the long term impact of their ideas, rather than racking up the paper count.

            I would submit this is why Mark Suster has come out of the blue to exceptionally high rankings among VC blogs in terms of monthly uniques. He writes essays, not blog entries. His total essay count is not that high but man, some of his essays have already had a huge impact.

          • People use their blogs for different reasons. Mark is a excellent blogger and a good friend – I think he’s done a magnificent job getting strong thoughts about entrepreneurship out in the world.

            Having dropped out of a Ph.D. program, I personally have very little interest in the academic process.

  • Highly recommend The Checklist Manifesto, How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. How two simple types of checklists revolutionize handling complex tasks like surgery, large scale construction projects and building businesses. The writing is in the Malcolm Gladwell mode (Gawande also writes for the New Yorker) and very motivating. But it is the practicality of the concepts that really stands out.

  • Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew Grove. I think this can be considered now “classical” but is from someone who managed a big company and had extreme challenges (i.e: japanese chips) and incredible wisdom (i.e: investing or not on x-ray technology).

  • James Mitchell

    Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs was a masterpiece. Since a billion people in the last month have said what a great guy Jobs is, I feel compelled to point out — as Isaacson correctly pointed out — that Jobs was one of the great assholes in history. Yes, to be a great leader you have to kick some ass, and you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs, but Jobs was cruel for the sake of being cruel to thousands of people, for no purpose other than stroking his ego. And he totally ripped out Pixar’s initial employees by a recapitalization that wiped out their stock options.
    A few older books that are classics:

    High Stakes No Prisoners by Charles Furgeson

    Startup by Jerry Kaplan

    A great article:

    • Anonymous

      As someone who is at the end of the bio now and a huge Apple and Job’s fan I have to pipe in and say I personally disagree with your comment

      ‘but Jobs was cruel for the sake of being cruel to thousands of people, for no purpose other than stroking his ego. And he totally ripped out Pixar’s initial employees by a recapitalization that wiped out their stock options.’

      I really dont like arguing in blog comments, especially on such an amazing blog.

      btw I absolutely loved Do More Faster and Venture Deals.

      Back to the point, I feel the book was honest and portrayed an honest picture of jobs, a human being who was not perfect, but no one alive is. I feel the book and Job’s are way to complex to sum it up by saying those things about him. Yes in the book it mentions he was cruel, but to go over board and say cruel to thousands of people, for no purpose blah blah, sorry sir but really sense some negativity there.

      Why not look at all the millions of people he effected in a positive way and Pixar love him, and so do I.

      I apologize if I have read you wrong, but in the mood to defend the man if it deems necessary. 

      • Tyrone – I strongly agree with you and strongly disagree with James.

      • James Mitchell

        Yes, Jobs was a genius and he has made my life better. I use
        an iPhone and it is a much better phone than anything else on the market. Even
        when I don’t use Apple’s products (e.g., I do not purchase Macintosh
        computers), I have benefitted because Apple has put pressure on Microsoft to
        make its mediocre operating system less mediocre. Going into an Apple store is
        an amazing experience; it has caused me to think about how to make the customer
        experience better.

        But being a genius is no excuse to be cruel to people. One example that has
        been repeated thousands of times: Jobs was famous for having very high hiring
        standards, for wanting to hire only the best. So far so good. But he was a
        total jerk to so many applicants. There was an applicant who came to an
        interview in a suit. Jobs quickly concluded this fellow did not fit in. No
        doubt that was a correct assumption. Rather than being polite and saying, “We’ll
        get back to you,” he asked the applicant question such as “Are you a virgin?” “When
        did you lose your virginity?” Jobs then starting chirping, “Gooble,
        gobble, gobble, gobble” to imply the guy was a turkey. See:

        Jobs has done this to thousands of people – applicants, vendors, acquaintances
        and (of course) his own employees. That behavior is despicable. He should not
        treat an equal (such as Bill Gates) that way and even more so, he should not
        treat someone over whom he has a power relationship that way. How much would you
        like it if you were giving a pitch to a VC and the VC starting chirping “Gooble”
        once he decided he was not going to invest in you?

        I agree the world is a much better place because of Jobs. At the same time, he was incredibly cruel to a lot of people.

        As for arguing in a blog, isn’t that what comments are for? 😉

        • Anonymous

          Yes I have read the bio. But that’s Jobs, that is who he was. He had no filter, he did that way back when. I or you can’t justify or condemn or condone his actions. He did what he did. You sure can have your opinion but I don’t take a negative view of him from the bio, I see him as an innovative human being who strove to change the world, for the good. And in doing so did what he did. I am far more focused negatively on really bad people in this world and Steve Jobs is no where near in that category of people.

        • That particular piece of folklore is well documented in Isaacson’s book. Jobs was undeniably a complex person but to generalize his cruelty into the assertion that he was simply as asshole, especially as he evolved through his life, is something I disagree with. I know many assholes who are not cruel, and many people who think others are an asshole because of isolated behavior. Basically, in my book, the generalization is not useful.

          • James Mitchell

            What I mentioned is not isolated behavior. There are thousands of such stories, many of which are mentioned in Isaacson’s book.

            Some people thought Bill Gates could sometimes be a jerk, but I have never heard one story of him being cruel. I would define cruel as inflicting emotional pain on another person solely for the purpose of causing them pain.

            And I would reiterate it is more unacceptable to do that when you have a power relationship over them. If I make fun of you, that is not good, but it is much worse if I make fun of, say, a homeless person.

            I would be curious as to the distinction between an asshole and a cruel person.

          • Anonymous

            I have just finished the bio. I loved it. I dont know exactly what your point is, but do sense judgement in your tone. You are having a go at Steve Jobs, saying he is cruel, thats your opinion and your entitled to it. I dont think I want to engage further, if thats how you see him, you see the world in a totally different way as I do.

            I think between asshole and jerk and so on are semantics.

            I would focus my negativity and anger and judgement for really evil people like Hitler and rapists and murders and so on. Those are really bad people.

            If Jobs created the magic to which I use on a daily basis and you think he was a jerk or cruel or an asshole then I do not care, I love and miss him so!

            I see him as a person who changed the world for the better and however he was, he was, thats it. Go ahead and judge him how you want to sir, its your opinion. To what avail you are trying to reach, I have no idea, but you dont have my agreement.

          • Generally speaking, I think you’re right.

  • Thanks for that great list, Brad. Half of that already is standing on my shelf already.I also like very much

    Alexander Osterwalder: “Business Model Generation”,
    Randy Komisar: “Getting to plan B”

    and last but not least:

    Geoffrey Moore: “Crossing the chasm”.

    Best regards from Germany


    • Grant Carlile

      I like the additional book reviews. Why do you like the books your listed?

  • Hung Hoang

    Thanks for your list. I’m reading ‘The Lean Start-up’, which I think is really good.

  • Grant Carlile

    Thanks for the run down. I’m still getting to the Startup Weekend book I received this past weekend. I’ll be sure to pick up “The Ultralight Startup”. I for some reason want to hold off on the Steve Jobs book for a few years. There’s a mystique about it that I feel it’ll be more beneficial to my future self.

    • I completely understand the notion of waiting a few years to read the Jobs biography. He explicitly said the same to Isaacson about reading it himself.

  • Would you ask your publisher why I can’t buy a Kindle edition in Canada? I’d like to give them money and read some of those books, without having the burden of more dead trees.

  • This is such a good blog.  I am so glad I found it.  

    Anybody who has not read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” ~ by Dale Carnegie

    I would highly recommend it.  James should give it a read.  LOL. 

  • I recommend “predictably irrational” by Dan Ariely.
    In his book he studies how folks often dont act rationally when making all sorts of economic decisions. Great stories, very readable .. and fun!

    • Great book – I love Predictably Irrational.

  • Dr.IsaacJones

    Loved this post. 🙂 I’m going to be putting some of your books on my Christmas list this year. 🙂 I just got out of an entrepreneurship seminar this past weekend and they talked for 2 hours on how to get financing and when you should ask for financing. I didn’t feel like they answered near as many questions as I had in my head. I wonder why I don’t just use my own money to grow the business? I wondered how much VC’s take  of the company when they invest? I wondered when was the best time to approach a VC or AI. Which one of the books above would you recommend would answer all of these vc questions? I only want to work with people that I trust and respect. How can I find a VC that has the same values and beliefs when it comes to growing my business etc? I was thinking that Venture Deals and Do More Faster would be the best books to read from the list above… correct? Thanks! 

  • Anonymous

    I absolutely loved your video

    It really resonated with me so much. Obsess about the product. And the Jobs bio is so incredible. I know how much I love something by how sad I am when I finish it, and thats how I feel about the book. Its incredible and it warms my heart hearing you say how much you loved it.

    You are so lucky have have gotten early copies of those books.

    Are you getting an early copy of this

    Again thanks for the daily blogging, the videos, This Week In TechStars and all the great content you put out that I learn so much from.

    Looking forward to your next book because if Do More Faster and Venture Deals is anything to go by I am sure its going to be a learn fest for me.


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