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Top 10 Books Every Startup Founder Should Read

Dec 5, 2019 by Elizabeth Manjarrez

Building a business is the dream of many, although only a few dare to make it a reality. Trusting your gut to start a business from scratch can sound overwhelming, and it might actually be. Everyone can have a great idea, but turning it into reality can be a great challenge.

Starting a new venture takes courage, persistence, and hard work. Although, for those who dare, building a successful startup can be an exciting and rewarding adventure. A path filled with experimentation and uncertainty, but also with joy and fulfillment, in the quest to get your idea out there and hopefully benefiting many people in the process.

So, if you are determined to become a startup founder, the first great step to take is to get good advice. Reading is one of the best ways to get first-hand advice from successful entrepreneurs from the comfort of your home.

There are tons of books out there filled with insight and inspiration. But to make things easier for you, we have compiled a list of the best 10 books a startup founder should read. We assure you these will fill you up with motivation and great ideas to start or take your venture to the next level. These are the top picks from our CBO and Co-founder, Cayetana Polanco. Enjoy!

1.The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

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Inspired by the ancient Roman philosophers, Ryan Holiday took the learnings from Marcus Aurelius and stoicism to tell the stories of great historical and modern leader figures such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Amelia Earheart, Theodore Roosevelt, and John D Rockefeller.

The book is based on one of the main teachings of Stoic philosophy: showing resilience in the face of misfortune and turning adversity into an advantage. He lays this out as the formula that the greatest leaders have followed to achieve success and change the world.

After becoming an international success, selling more than 100,000 copies and being translated into 17 languages, this book has been taken as a great source of inspiration for many professional and Olympic athletes. A great read if you need some inspiration and encouragement. Learn more.

2. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

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In the era of viral content, we all have, at least once, wondered why some things resonate in people’s minds much more than others. This what bestselling author and marketing professor Jonah Berger aims to explain in his book.

Using fun and anecdotal stories plus a ton of facts, Berger talks about the results of 15 years studying social influence and what drives products and ideas to spread. From viral YouTube videos to a restaurant booming its popularly by selling dishes they had never thought of, and tv commercials with unexpected impact, this book gives a wide range of examples from many different sectors and provides you with a set of techniques you can use to get your ideas to catch on. Learn more.

3. That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea by Marc Randolph

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If you are looking for pure inspiration, what better than the story of your weekend's favorite and one of the most successful entertainment businesses in the world: Netflix. Straight from its co-founder’s pen, this book tells you the story of how a simple idea, that no one would have bet on, ended up turning into one of the world's most successful companies. Netflix’s story is one of a kind and still every company founder can relate to it.

Randolph didn’t have it easy, he started and failed many times, but he trusted his gut and ideas. His story answers many important questions every entrepreneur poses at least once, like “How to deal with adversity?” “How to adapt to change?” “How to build great teams?” And “How to grow beyond a startup?” Definitely a great read, full of insight and inspiration to get our ideas out there. Learn more.

4. Straight Talk for Startups: 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds - From Mastering the Fundamentals to Selecting Investors, Fundraising, Managing Boards, and Achieving Liquidity by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman

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If you ever feel overwhelmed at some point in your process and just don’t know what to do next, this book can be of great help. It literally provides you with a set of rules, 100 to be exact, to guide you through your entrepreneurial journey. From how to pitch your ideas to the best ways to find and select investors, forming a board and achieving liquidity, all while following timeless lessons for success.

In a book full of advice and real-life examples, Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman share their insight acquired after decades of first-hand experience and with this book, they become the mentor every entrepreneur could wish for. Learn more.

5. The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler

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A book about how humans can go beyond their limits. Drawing from biology, philosophy, and psychology, Steven Kotler gathers information from high-performance adventure and sport athletes on a quest to find out how they can achieve levels of performance that go way beyond the average person.

He describes a state of consciousness he defines as “The Flow”, a state of full immersion into the present moment in which, he argues, humans are able to perform at their best. A state he argues we can all reach and use to become our best selves.

This bestseller has become a favorite not just for athletes but for everyone looking to achieve the pinnacle of their work. Definitely a great source of inspiration for any entrepreneur. Learn more.

6. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

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We live in a rapidly changing world. Technology has brought many benefits for society but it has also started to create profound changes, and with them, new challenges to address. Historian Yuval Noha Harari aims, if not to provide answers, to open up a debate on how are we supposed to deal with humanity’s most important issues, in the face of this new reality which is still taking shape.

This book divides into 5 chapters, in which he provides 21 lessons. Covering from technology to politics, religion, war, education, and justice. Basically, all of the important issues our contemporary society currently faces. And although it is not a book about business or entrepreneurship, it was reviewed by Bill Gates as “*A fascinating and stimulating book that is enabling a crucial global conversation on how to face the problems of the 21st century.*” So what better reference than that. Learn more.

7. The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture by Scott Belsky

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Creating something new is a long road filled with ups and downs and how you manage these crucial middle hills could determine the success of your project. In this book, Scott Belsky guides you through all of your journey, especially during that tricky part he calls the “messy” middle, and that not many authors talk about.

Based on his own experience in world-class companies such as Airbnb, Pinterest, and Uber, but also from a handful of interviews with other entrepreneurs, artists, executives, and writers, Belsky offers a deep reflection and a set of practical guidelines on how to navigate successfully through the hard times and develops a set of essential lessons every founder would like to know. Learn more.

8. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

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Creating a strong brand is a must for any successful business. This is why it is always a good idea for any startup founder to have a greater insight on brand strategies, no matter what your specialty is or what sector your business is focused on. Donald Miller’s book focuses on the best ways to create and transmit your brand’s story, beyond traditional marketing and branding strategies.

He proposes a method to connect and communicate with customers, to deliver your message in a direct, clear and effective way. By proposing a change of focus from the business to the consumer, and going through a set of story points that all humans respond to.

The book is not just filled with theoretical information, it also provides many actionable steps that you will want to go through and continue revisiting along your journey. Learn more.

9. Radical Candor: Fully Revised and Updated Edition: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott

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Being a good leader and managing teams effectively is another key skill for any successful entrepreneur. But how to handle all your responsibilities while also creating good relations and inspiring your team?

This what author and former Silicon Valley CEO Kim Mallone aims to help you find out. Through a method she calls “Radical Candor,” Malone provides guidance on how to be a good boss by creating strong relationships based on human contact and providing adequate guidance to optimize the results of your team.

A book filled with practical advice and real-life examples from someone with a great deal of experience at the heart of some of the world's leading tech companies. Learn more.

10. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

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An insider perspective on how to deal with the harshest parts of managing a business, from one of Silicon Valley’s most respected entrepreneurs. This book provides plenty of real-life perspectives on decision-making, leadership and talent management for CEOs.

Horowitz aims to go further and go deep into those things that you will never learn in business school but that, eventually, could save the day. Providing a great deal of detail and breaking down decision processes, this is a book filled with advice and guidance from someone who has been there and done that. Learn more.

Bonus Mention: **The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company **by Steve Blank

A special mention goes to this book. A great manual filled with how-to advice, designed to guide you at every step of the way.

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