7 Best Books on Startups and Entrepreneurship

Looking for reading ideas to help you build and grow your startup? Looking to become an entrepreneur but don’t know where to start and what’s required? I put together a resource of best books on startups and entrepreneurship I came across thus far this year.

Whether you are a seasoned startup founder or a total newbie, entrepreneurs undergo an intense learning process when establishing and launching a new business. Even those who’ve been through it before typically face a high degree of uncertainty. I have been through a couple of startup grinds, and I’ve learned that it’s critical to learn as much as possible at the outset about the successes and failures of the leaders in the field, so that you can avoid common pitfalls and replicate success stories.

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photo credit: gioiadeantoniis via photopin cc

There are thousands of books printed (or Kindled) that offer startup and entrepreneurial advice, but we’ve narrowed it down to just 7 books that stood out to me most this year. Please let me know of other good titles in startups and entrepreneurship in the comments below.

7 Best Books on Startups and Entrepreneurship

Startup Growth Engines: Case Studies of How Today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth by Sean Ellis

Today’s fastest growing startups all share one thing in common: a new approach to how they grow. Using new a way of marketing, called growth hacking, these startups have grown to millions of users and created billions of dollars in value, all without using the traditional marketing playbook.  So how have companies like Uber, Square, Snapchat, Evernote, Hubspot, Github and Yelp grown? See for yourself in this ebook packed with the most in-depth case studies on exactly what strategies these companies used to unlock massive growth. 

Case studies included are: Uber, Snapchat, Square, Upworthy, Yelp, GitHub, Hubspot, Evernote, LinkedIn, and Belly. Each case study shows you the specific strategies (we call them “growth engines”) that these companies used to grow, both in the early stages and later in their development. From the growth hacks they used, to the unique growth playbooks they employed, you won’t fnd a more detailed look at how startups achieve growth than through these case studies. Find this book on Amazon.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets. The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things. Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique. Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places. Find this book on Amazon.

Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Sean Snow

Entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow (Wired, Fast Company, The New Yorker, and cofounder of Contently) analyzes the lives of people and companies that do incredible things in implausibly short time. How do some startups go from zero to billions in mere months? How did Alexander the Great, YouTube tycoon Michelle Phan, and Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon climb to the top in less time than it takes most of us to get a promotion? What do high-growth businesses, world-class heart surgeons, and underdog marketers do in common to beat the norm?

One way or another, they do it like computer hackers. They employ what psychologists call “lateral thinking” to rethink convention and break “rules” that aren’t rules. In Smartcuts, Snow shatters common wisdom about success, revealing how conventions like “paying dues” prevent progress, why kids shouldn’t learn times tables, and how, paradoxically, it’s easier to build a huge business than a small one. From SpaceX to The Cuban Revolution, from Ferrari to Skrillex, Smartcuts is a narrative adventure that busts old myths about success and shows how innovators and icons do the incredible by working smarter–and how perhaps the rest of us can, too. Find this book on Amazon.



Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers Hardcover by Gabriel Weinberg

Most startups end in failure. Almost every failed startup has a product. What failed startups don’t have is traction — real customer growth. This book introduces startup founders and employees to the “Bullseye Framework,” a five-step process successful companies use to get traction. This framework helps founders find the marketing channel that will be key to unlocking the next stage of growth.

Traction is a guide to getting customers, written for startup founders, marketers, and those interested in how today’s startups grow and get traction. This book shows you how the founders of several of the biggest companies and organizations in the world like Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Alexis Ohanian (Reddit), Paul English (Kayak.com) and Alex Pachikov (Evernote) have built and grown their startups. We interviewed over forty successful founders and researched countless more growth stories to pull out the repeatable tactics and strategies they used to get traction. Too often, startups spend months (or years) building a product only to struggle with traction once they launch. This struggle has startups trying random tactics – some ads, a blog post or two – in an unstructured way that leads to failure. Get this book on Amazon.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products Hardcover by Nir Eyal

Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us? Nir Eyal answers these questions (and many more) by explaining the Hook Model—a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior. Through consecutive “hook cycles,” these products reach their ultimate goal of bringing users back again and again without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

Hooked is based on Eyal’s years of research, consulting, and practical experience. He wrote the book he wished had been available to him as a start-up founder—not abstract theory, but a how-to guide for building better products. Hooked is written for product managers, designers, marketers, start-up founders, and anyone who seeks to understand how products influence our behavior. Get this book on Amazon.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers Hardcover by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, offers essential advice on building and running a startup—practical wisdom for managing the toughest problems business school doesn’t cover, based on his popular ben’s blog.

While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. Ben Horowitz analyzes the problems that confront leaders every day, sharing the insights he’s gained developing, managing, selling, buying, investing in, and supervising technology companies. A lifelong rap fanatic, he amplifies business lessons with lyrics from his favorite songs, telling it straight about everything from firing friends to poaching competitors, cultivating and sustaining a CEO mentality to knowing the right time to cash in. Filled with his trademark humor and straight talk, The Hard Thing About Hard Things is invaluable for veteran entrepreneurs as well as those aspiring to their own new ventures, drawing from Horowitz’s personal and often humbling experiences. You can find this book on Amazon here.

Never Work Again: Work Less, Earn More, and Live Your Freedom Paperback by Erlend Bakke

Never Work Again shows you how you can easily start your own no-money down virtual business – a business that will make you money online and allow you to quickly achieve financial freedom and time freedom. All you need to do is choose from a number of simple blueprints and follow the one that’s right for you. You will learn how to create positive habits that will free up your time and allow your business to grow more quickly than you ever thought possible. You will be able to work from home or work virtually from anywhere on the planet – what’s your favourite city or beach?!. And you will learn how to automate and outsource your business, leveraging other people’s time for your own benefit so that you can start living the life you really want

But more than this, Never Work Again explores what it means to live a truly happy and fulfilled life – to really live the life of your dreams. It encourages you to examine your own motivations and desires in order to determine your true purpose and path in life – so you can discover what freedom really means for you. Remember, your time is precious – in fact, it’s the most precious resource that you have. Don’t waste another second of it doing things that you don’t absolutely love. Learn how to start creating the life of your dreams today. Get this book on Amazon.

If you enjoyed this list, you should also check out my list of 8 Internet Marketing Books to Read in 2014.

Is there any other book printed in 2014 that should have made the list? 

Any of the above-mentioned titles inspired you like no other?

Share in comments. Would love to hear from you!

3 replies
  1. Ryan Biddulph
    Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Matt!

    I dig the book about shortcutting. Isn’t it neat to see how folks accelerate their success rate, and make it to the top by some type of what SEEMS like a magic carpet? Doesn’t happen that way 😉

    The high achievers in minimum time did the most freeing yet uncomfortable things to make it happen.

    Was it easy? Probably not, going this route, but it was the simplest way to get from Point A to Point B. Bold, direct decisions precede any meteoric rise.

    What a fab list of books Matt!

    I’m not a start up per se but starting my Blogging from Paradise brand from scratch some 5 months back taught me to go big from the outset. Build bonds with players, ask for endorsements from anybody, offer them help in return – if they can and can’t endorse your book – and, know why. I love being free and I want to take my readers with me. So I go pretty big….and, unless I’m feeling TOO frightened to do uncomfy stuff…;)….I go big pretty often.

    Thanks Matt for the super helpful share. All those folks on the Ramen diet – or a few pegs up on the start up ladder – will appreciate this for sure 🙂


  2. Dennis Seymour
    Dennis Seymour says:

    I LOVE Zero to One. Hard Things is new to me, so I’ll need to check that one this weekend.

    I used Blinkist to read some of these. Pretty awesome app for those with little time to spare for reading.

    Great recommendations Matt, I’d recommend classics like The Art of the Start and E-Myth (Remastery. The others aren’t really that good for me) to supplement the readings 🙂


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