Being a startup founder involves a lot of learning. Some of the lessons will be from making mistakes and learning from them.

However, many mistakes can be easily avoided.  How? By reading the stories and advice of those who have gone on the startup journey before you.

Yes, your business is new, but there is old, tested, and proven knowledge that you can glean from to help yourself and your business.

So here’s a list of books we KNOW every startup founder should read, absorb and act on. 

 

1. THE LEAN STARTUP BY ERIC RIES

In this book,  Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

The Lean Startup approach, inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of proactive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want.

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs – in companies of all sizes – a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late.

 

2. GOOD TO GREAT (Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t) BY JIM COLLINS

This book is almost always recommended by every successful 21st Century business owner or person. According to the book, ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘great’. It contains a number of valuable notions and is particularly helpful when you’re building a business from scratch.

When you read it, you’ll realize that what is great for you, might not be great for someone else and that if you’re content with being good, just be good. Also, that striving to be the best version of yourself is more important than simply striving to be the ‘best’.

 

3. GRIT BY ANGELA DUCKWORTH

What is the one quality that separates the talented from the successful? According to Duckworth, that quality is called “grit,” something every entrepreneurial spirit should possess.

Anyone striving to succeed, no matter if you’re a parent, student, educator, athlete, or business person, should focus less on talent. Instead, take on a “gritty” blend of passion and persistence. Consider this your wake-up call to hit the pavement running. 

 

4. TOOLS OF TITANS BY TIM FERRISS

Not many people can compile years and years of interview notes together and create a handbook of excellence, let alone a compelling and worthwhile read. Tim Ferriss is one of those people who can.

From financial advice to morning routines, actionable steps to taking care of your body and beyond, Ferriss’ Tools of Titans leaves no stone unturned. He says that this text, intended as a sporadic reading experience, is to be used as a resource for whatever it is you’re focused on; it’s not necessarily meant to be read cover-to-cover. 

 

5. SMALL BUSINESS BIG MONEY BY AKIN ALABI

In this book, Akin Alabi, founder of NairaBET.com, Nigeria’s first sports betting company, and pioneer of the multi-billion Naira sports betting industry shares the exact business and marketing techniques he used in starting my business from scratch and turning it into an empire that it has become today. You will discover valuable lessons like:

  • How to decide on the kind of business you should do
  • 7 commandments you must follow before you spend any money on advertising
  • How to get others to promote your business for you for FREE
  • 10 factors you should consider before you quit your job to start a business
  • The full story of how he started NairaBET.com  

 

6. SMART MONEY WOMAN (ARESE UGWU)

Meet Zuri the protagonist of this book. Broken down car, an apartment she can’t afford, a job she’s about to lose. What’s a broke girl to do? With her best friends, Zuri grows a little, learns a lot and navigates her way to making better financial decisions and building wealth.

This book tackles, debt, spending, the consumerist culture of the African middle class, the fear and misconceptions surrounding money and the lack of it, love, friendships, cultural and societal pressures and the roles they play in success.

With each chapter comes a Smart Money Lesson, there to help you work your way up the financial ladder. We recommend this for women entrepreneurs (and men!) who are about starting or already run small or medium businesses, really. 

 

7. OUTLIERS: THE STORY OF SUCCESS (MALCOLM GLADWELL)

This book is the epitome of the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’.

In Outliers, Gladwell goes into detail about how success is a result of both the time you put into something and the opportunities you’re presented with at any given time.

Not giving up once you’ve started is largely the key to pursuing your dream. The biographical examples used throughout are memorable and in many ways useful to reflect upon. It’s written in a way that makes you consider your own life in comparison. 

 

8. THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE (STEPHEN COVEY)

This book is considered a classic in terms of its continued popularity. With mixed reviews, it’s not for everyone.

However, if you read it with an open mind (and take into consideration when it was written) it is a practical, informative guide and a nice insight into the business world of the late eighties, early nineties.

We’re of course referring to the use of what could be considered outdated ‘corporate buzzwords’ of which we have our own twenty-first-century versions. If you’re able to use this book to effectively change your perspective in order to accomplish something, even if it’s something small, then you’ve learned from it.

The actions you take in order to develop lifelong habits is a useful takeaway, be prepared and set clear goals. 

 

9. HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE (DALE CARNEGIE)

Dale Carnegie’s rock-solid, time-tested advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. One of the most groundbreaking and timeless bestsellers of all time, How to Win Friends & Influence People will teach you:

  • Six ways to make people like you
  • Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking
  • Nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

 

10. ZERO TO ONE (PETER THIEL)

Adapted from notes Blake Masters took while attending PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member, Peter Thiel’s CS183 lectures at Stanford University, the book gives valuable insight on building the future with startups.

Whilst there are many other great books we didn’t mention here, we believe that with this list, you will discover that the investment of time given to learning by reading is one with amazing returns.