Back in 2015 I started asking myself why is it that so many companies fail, even if they’re very well funded, equipped with the world’s brightest brains and addressing large and fast growing markets?
In the quest to respond to this question, I got astonished to discover that in most of the cases entrepreneurs (as well as their investors and advisers) were feeling comfortable to just follow what they considered as ‘common sense’ in the sophisticated effort of launching a new product.
Unfortunately, however, common sense does not really help with complicated problems requiring sophisticated solutions. As it often is the case, the answer can be found nowhere but in knowledge. I started, then, looking at the pertinent bibliography and, surprise — surprise, I found out that a pertinent revolution was already happening.
Pioneers like Steve Blank, Alex Osterwalder and Eric Ries have already been paving the way to a scientific approach to new product development and, in essence, to entrepreneurship. This is of utmost importance as a ‘scientific approach’ basically means a repeatable one; in other words, the Holy Grail of each and every investor and entrepreneur!
The last six years I have invested a good part of my time in acquiring this knowledge and in trying to really deepen and sharpen my pertinent understanding. Based on these efforts, I have compiled a book list, which can be found below, which is consisted by four groups of four books each, which could easily correspond to a semesterly pace (or even quarterly, for experienced, fast learners), accompanied by a second list of complementary books which can and should be read anytime throughout this process.
This is not a static list, of course. New knowledge is created on a daily basis and more, excellent books get published every year. I really think, however, that it does form a solid foundation for the contemporary tech entrepreneur and I warmly recommend it.
What is very important though is the studying approach; those books should not be studied in isolation. On the contrary, an experimental, ‘laboratory’ approach should be adopted. The entrepreneur must first read, then work, and then analyze results. After that, they have to return back to theory, deepen their understanding and repeat the experimentation cycle — In other words, the famous “Build — Measure — Learn” cycle, evangelized by Eric Ries in “Lean Startup”, only applied in the learning process.
My concluding remark is on the question whether entrepreneurship can be taught or not; in the past, I used to believe that success in entrepreneurial endeavors are largely based on charisma. I could not have been more wrong with that! The truth is that entrepreneurship can indeed be taught and, even more, no matter the charisma one may have (which definitely helps), if they don’t study, they won’t succeed. As simple as that!
Do take my word for that and, if you want to enjoy the unparalleled experience of a successful entrepreneurial journey, do invest the time necessary to read and to really understand the books below:
- The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
- Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers
- Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation
- Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Let’s Get to Work
- The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win
- Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works
- Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change
- Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs
Getting Ready to Scale
- The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
- Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com
- Scaling Lean: Mastering the Key Metrics for Startup Growth
- Principles: Life and Work
- The Design Thinking Playbook : Mindful Digital Transformation of Teams, Products, Services, Businesses and Ecosystems
- The Business of Venture Capital: Insights from Leading Practitioners on the Art of Raising a Fund, Deal Structuring, Value Creation, and Exit Strategies
- The Startup Way: How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management to Transform Culture and Drive Long-Term Growth
- Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process
Good to read in any order
- Worthless, Impossible and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
- ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
- Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
- David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
- Outliers: The Story of Success
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
- Never Split the Difference : Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It
- Deep Work : Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
- Fanatical Prospecting : The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know
- From Impossible to Inevitable: How SaaS and Other Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue