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Top 10 must-read books for startup founders

This post captures the Top 10 must-read books for startup founders. The books listed here include startup guides, self-help, strategies and research findings. These books significantly shaped my startup journey, and I believe they can do the same for you too.

Benjemen Elengovan
Benjemen Elengovan
5 min read
Top 10 must-read books for startup founders
Photo by Shiromani Kant / Unsplash

Early this week, I was mentoring two amazing early-stage founders from a pre-accelerator program. One of the questions asked in the session was

Benji, how do you know these information and what do I do know if I don't have enough business knowledge and experience

Answer 👉 Books

Reading and accumulating information is essential in building your startup. I have no experience in building or running a high-growth startup (valued a few million dollars). I rely on advice from mentors, fellow founders and a lot of books.

Bill gates quote on reading books

Books provide me with lessons, key concepts, strategies and validated practices. The stories and case studies in the books help me calibrate my approach to leadership, team building and various other elements of running a startup.

Many successful strategies within my startup journey and the companies I manage have been inspired by reading books.

P.S. - These links are affiliate links from Amazon. I will get a commission if you click and purchase through this link.

Lean Startup

by Eric Ries

There is a reason this book is on top of my list. In my opinion, every early-stage startup founder (especially tech ones) should read this book: the book layout the ideal pathway to build your startup faster, leaner and more evidence-driven. The concept of lean startup methodology is standard practice for many technologies startups across the globe. But the approaches mentioned in this book can also support other areas than I.T.

Source - Lean Startup

My preferred reading format  - Ebook and hardcover

24 Steps to Disciplined Entrepreneurship

by Bill Aulet

This book was recommended by my mentor a few years ago, and this book helped me understand and adopt disciplined entrepreneurship. As the title suggests, this book is a playbook with 24 steps to help entrepreneurs build innovative companies.  This book is your friend if you are starting and want a great guide to help you out.

A critical concept that I like in this book is 👇

My preferred reading format  - Ebook and hardcover

Zero to One

by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

This book is unquestionably a favourite for many founders who think differently and are daring with new ideas and strong disruptive vision. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and one of the early investors in Facebook, discusses how monopolies lead in the market with rapid and disruptive innovation. This book is a great guide for founders who want to build a technology company.

My preferred reading format  - Audiobook

Thinking Fast and Slow

by Daniel Kahneman

Unlike the ones mentioned earlier on my list above, this is not a startup playbook but instead an elaborate discussion about the mind and the existence of two systems (one is fast, intuitive and emotional, and the other is slow and more logical) that helps us decide and govern the way we think.  This book is excellent for founders to understand their inner psyche and identify how and why they think the way they think.

My preferred reading format  - Audiobook

Start with WHY

by Simon Sinek

One of my other all-time books is 'Start with WHY'. In this book, Simon discusses the golden circle. 🎯

⚡️ Why do you do what you do? What's the purpose?
⚡️ How do you do what you do?
⚡️ What do you do?

In my opinion, this is crucial for entrepreneurs and leaders to identify, align and follow the why. The book changed the way I look at startups and why am I doing what I am doing. This book will help your startup focus on the why and champion the market to be more sustainable and profitable than others.

My preferred reading format  - Audiobook

The startup playbook

by Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman

Another guide on how to build your startups. This book has mixed reviews on the internet. Still, I liked this book because I felt it was honest, founder-focussed and authentic the way the authors (who are founders who have built multiple startups before) shared their journey in entrepreneurship.

My preferred reading format  - Audiobook

The 7 habits of highly effective people

by  Stephen Covey

Another classic on the list, this is no surprise for many. This book is timeless and provides the 'Covery's Model' that would enable you to become truly exceptional in both startup and personal life. This book is beyond the startup founder readers and provides a recipe for the chaos in our lives.

Source - Headway media

My preferred reading format  - Audiobook

Tools of Titans

by Tim Ferris

Yes, I hear you; I didn't mention the 'The 4-hour workweek' book. I had to pick the top ten and hence had no choice.  Talking about habits, the 'Tools of Titans' book gets a position on my list. It shares exceptional people's secret tactics, routines, and traditions from billionaires, leaders, world-class performers, and inspiring icons. If I were to write a book in the future, I would write version 2.0.

My preferred reading format  - Ebook / Audiobook

Good to Great

by James Collins

Just because it is 9th on my list, do not underestimate the power of this book. Out of all other books, this book is a scientific approach and study to greatness. The book consolidates 5 years worth of research findings to identify the key to greatness.

Source - ProInspire

The book shares the surprising results, standards, practices and little unnoticed things that make a company gain superiority and greatness. James represents the flywheel concept for companies to learn and adapt, which will help build stronger companies. A must-read for startups with a young and growing team.

My preferred reading format  - Ebook / Audiobook

Play Bigger

by Al Ramadan et al

The last on my list of top ten books is the 'Play Bigger' from Al Ramadan and others. This book takes a deep dive into the discipline and startup strategy called category design. I recently came across this book in one of the workshops, and I regret I didn't get to read this book earlier. The book showcases how companies identify new market categories and dominate them over time. If you are a startup founder, this book will expand your vision and help you 'Play Bigger.'  

My preferred reading format  - Ebook / Audiobook

Talking about the preferred reading format

These days, we don't get enough time to read more books and hence we need to adapt to different consumption methods. I use a combination of

  • Blinklist - to quickly get a snapshot of the book under 15 mins and decide whether to buy or not
  • Ebook - I am a new ebook reader, but my preference is an ebook rather than a physical hardcover.
  • Audiobook - I listen to some books (second time), and audiobooks allow me to consume information through another format. Audiobooks are also convenient for me when days are very busy.
  • Hardcover - I can't complain about them. I have a small shelf of books that only holds my favorites and all-time reference guides.

Before I end this post, It is worth noting that there are 100s of great books in the startup world and are worth reading. But this list is limited to my personal top 10 has fundamentally changed the way I build and run my company. In my opinion, every book has a new perspective and a new idea that will help the reader.  

Please add your favourite book in the comments below 👇

Startup Tips

Benjemen Elengovan

Startup Addict | Founder & CEO of MyGigsters | Tech Enthusiast | ClubHouse @benjemen and Podcast Host


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