15 Books Every Startup Founder Needs To Read

Reading books for startups is an inexpensive and fast way to gain business ideas and inspiration to grow your business.

Starting A Business Basics

What exactly do you need to get a business started? These books for startups will help you find and develop your business idea.

1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

Building your start-up quickly, making changes and acting on customer feedback to reinvent the company are common principles in the start-up world. For guidance on how to build a start-up quickly, this book is a must read. Learning how to build a minimum viable product (MVP) is one of the great lessons you will learn from this book.

2. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

Starting a business in our time can be done on a minimal budget. In this highly readable book, author and entrepreneur Guillebeau explains how to start a business with minimal expenses. If you are tired of waiting for funding, this book will get you started this week. A highly practical read that will give you inspiration and instruction to start your business.

3. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated) by Timothy Ferriss

A modern classic, Tim Ferriss’s book combines productivity advice and advice to start a business. The examples in the book cover both e-commerce and information products. This book is a must read for inspiration and mindset. If you have fear about starting a business, The 4 Hour Workweek is a perfect read for you.

Tip: Tim Ferriss’s blog and podcast provide outstanding interviews and other resources to help you start a business (e.g. Six-Figure Businesses Built for Less Than $100: 17 Lessons Learned).

4. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder

There are many ways to get a business running. Many of us grow up and see only a few models – selling services (e.g. legal or accounting services) or retail. In this book, you will discover many different ways to create a business. Even better, you can also use this book to improve an existing business. That’s one great approach – improve on a business model someone else created. You can deliver results at lower costs, at faster speeds or some other improvement.

5. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

Earning a MBA degree is an expensive undertaking. Fortunately, there is no need for a degree of any kind when you start your own company. I suggest reading this book to gain a broad foundation in several business disciplines – sales, marketing, operations and more. If you are an engineer or technologist, the systematic approach in the book will appeal to you.


Without marketing books for startups, how would you ever find customers and make sales? Discover the basics of marketing with these books.

6. The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy

Writing emails, letters and other materials to sell your products are vital skills for every start-up founder to master. Kennedy provides a step by step process to write a sales letter and start earning sales. The examples are based on direct mail and can be used on the Internet as well. IF you plan to use email marketing, sales pages and other written material to sell, read this book.

7. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

Many business experts advise you to build an email list of subscribers and then sell your to that list. Why is an email list so important? Godin explains the fundamental principles of why you need to build an email list. Instead of relying on interrupting people, your prospects will be waiting to hear from you.

8. CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone Paperback by Drew Eric Whitman

Practical psychology and persuasion skills form the core of this copywriting book. If you want to understand how to connect your products to basic human needs (e.g. security or social status), this book is for you. Recommend reading this book after Dan Kennedy’s “Ultimate Sales Letter.” Whitman’s work becomes helpful once you understand the fundamentals of marketing.

9. Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Nobody builds a successful company by themselves. Relationships and friends are absolutely vital to make your start-up successful. The authors X and Y explain how to network in this book. One of the best chapters explains how to network at conferences. It is a must read, especially if networking does not come naturally to you.

10. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover

How do you create a product that keeps customers coming back for more? Eyal and Hoover explain how start-ups and technology companies have created highly engaging products. If your start-up idea depends on grabbing and keeping user attention, this book is a must read. Examples covered in the book include Snapchat and Pinterest, both Internet success stories.


Leading yourself and others matters as your company grows. As soon as you make your first hire, add these books for startups to your library.

11. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Leading your business requires an inspiring vision that goes beyond profits. Sinek explains how leading companies such as Apple have started with WHY. Reading this book will help you to write an impressive mission statement for your start-up. For a preview of Sinek’s book, watch his noted TED Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

12. Strenghs Finder 2.0 by Tim Rath

Knowing yourself is essential to leading well. This book (and the companion online test) give an excellent guide to understanding your strengths. Once you understand your strengths as a founder, you can make better decisions about hiring and management. You may be a technical expert – in that case, you may want to seek out a sales and customer oriented co-founder.

13. How To Win Friends and Influence People In The Digital Age by Dale Carnegie

In print for decades, Carnegie’s book is one of the most important business books published in the 20th century. For founders interested in networking and sales skills, this book will help you connect better to people. Note that this edition of the book includes chapters on making the most of social networking tools.

14. Tribes by Seth Godin

Building a business is hard. There are bills to pay, sales to make and constant problems to solve. That’s why we need inspiration and ideas to keep working. In this short book, Godin explains how anyone can start leading. You simply need passion, ideas and the Internet to get started. There’s no need to wait for someone to promote you to CEO.

15. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, And Made A Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

Branson is one of the world’s best known entrepreneurs and has achieved success in numerous industries including retail, music, and air travel. In his autobiography, you will learn about the many challenges Branson faced as he got started in business. The best part of the book is that Branson is very clear about many of his challenges and failures in business and personal life.


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