A Reading List for First-time & Aspiring Entrepreneurs

In the past few of months, I’ve really enjoyed having coffee with folks who are just starting to figure out what they want to do with their lives. (I am still very much in the same boat.) When I was eighteen or nineteen years old, I had no clue what I was doing, and although I was so lucky to surround myself with a group of people who were also excited about starting their own projects, most of them would admit that they didn’t really know what they were doing back then either. And that’s fine. People learn, they change, and they do their best in the moment, given their experience and understanding.

For many of my friends, that fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants approach worked out just fine; for others, including myself, well, that first project didn’t exactly work out, but others did or will. Nonetheless, one of the things that I noticed, in myself, my friends, and strangers whom I talk to about technology and starting things, is this voracious appetite for reading material. Especially when one is first getting started, a solid reading list is viewed as the best way to get up to speed with the culture, jargon and expectations of the field. (Although, ultimately, I think books about entrepreneurship are a lot like books about swimming. All might work well enough in theory, but putting those lessons into practice is the best way to learn something. At some point you’re going to have to jump into the pool.)

A sufficient number of people have asked me for reading suggestions that I wrote this post, which I hope will serve as a kind of reference I can share with people in the future. This is not 100% comprehensive. I’ve read (or at least thumbed-through) more articles and books than I accounted for here, but I’d consider this list a decent starting point. It’s the kind of list I wish someone gave me when I was 19 and clueless. It’s not perfect or complete, and it will be expanded over time. (Asterisks will precede the entry for those books that weren’t on the list when it was first published.)

(Entries were generated using ISBN numbers and Zotero, an open source citation management tool I quite enjoy.)

General

Aulet, Bill. Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2013.

Blank, Steven Gary, and Bob Dorf. The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company. 1. ed. Pescadero, Calif: K&S Ranch Press, 2012.

Fried, Jason, and David Heinemeier Hansson. Rework. 1st ed. New York: Crown Business, 2010.

Horowitz, Ben. The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2014.

Livingston, Jessica. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days. Pbk. ed. Berkeley, Calif: Apress, 2008.

Osterwalder, Alexander, Yves Pigneur, and Tim Clark. Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010.

Schmidt, Eric. Google: How Google Works. First edition. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2014.

Swanson, James A., and Michael L. Baird. Engineering Your Start-up: A Guide for the High-Tech Entrepreneur. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Professional Publications, 2003.

Thiel, Peter A., and Blake Masters. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. First edition. New York: Crown Business, 2014.

Commentary

Doctorow, Cory, Amanda Palmer, and Neil Gaiman. Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2014.

Kaplan, Philip J. F’d Companies: Spectacular Dot.com Flameouts. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

{Product, UX, Service} Design

Disabato, Nick. Cadence & Slang. Ann Arbor: Sheridan Books, 2010.

Osterwalder, Alexander, Yves Pigneur, Gregory Bernarda, and Alan Smith. Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want. Strategyzer Series. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

Tidwell, Jenifer. Designing Interfaces: [patterns for Effective Interaction Design]. 2. ed., [Nachdr.]. Beijing: O’Reilly, 2011.

Venture Capital & Fundraising

Feld, Brad, and Jason Mendelson. Venture Deals: Be Smarter than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. 2nd ed. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley, 2013.

Lerner, Joshua, Ann Leamon, and G. Felda Hardymon. Venture Capital, Private Equity, and the Financing of Entrepreneurship: The Power of Active Investing. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Ramsinghani, Mahendra. The Business of Venture Capital: Insights from Leading Practitioners on the Art of Raising a Fund, Deal Structuring, Value Creation, and Exit Strategies. Second edition. The Wiley Finance Series. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley, 2014.

Wilmerding, Alex. Deal Terms: The Finer Points of Venture Capital Deal Structures, Valuations, Term Sheets, Stock Options and Getting Deals Done. U.S.: Aspatore Books, 2003.

Unconventional Recommendations

Bolelli, Daniele. On the Warrior’s Path: Fighting, Philosophy, and Martial Arts Mythology. 2nd ed. Berkeley, Calif: Blue Snake Books : Distributed by North Atlantic Books, 2008.

Powers, Richard. Gain: A Novel. 2. ed. New York, NY: Picador, 2009.

Author: Jason D. Rowley

As I mentioned elsewhere, I wear a lot of hats. Currently, I'm interested in VC data, early stage startups, and journalism. Previously I've been a blogger, designer, researcher, startup founder, (temporary) college dropout, connector, occasional branding designer and amateur chef.

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