Must-reads for Entrepreneurs

After our interview with Gov. John Hickenlooper, he gave us a copy of Leadocracy, Geoff Smart’s book about how to attract business leaders to government. That got us to thinking about books and entrepreneurship. There is a library’s worth of volumes about startups, but no entrepreneur has time to read them all. So we asked three educators to pick three essential reads:


Connie Bourassa-Shaw, Director, Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Washington

Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks) (Dave Kerpen)

This book is particularly useful for entrepreneurs targeting consumer markets. Brand is so important, and for most people the link between effective social media and customer satisfaction is a mystery.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Eric Ries)

This one is obvious, a must-read for entrepreneurs. I like the emphasis on targeted testing and measuring — repeatedly! — to create the products people will actually buy. Entrepreneurs need to embrace the minimally viable product ethos and use it to move quickly.

Rework  (Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson)

Early-stage entrepreneurs live and die by the teams they put together. Starting the company is hard enough, but if you don’t understand leadership, team dynamics, etc, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.

Ted Zoller, Director, Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

The Knack, How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up (Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham)

Brodsky and Burlingham capture the essential issues, tradeoffs and tactics to becoming a successful entrepreneur, all tied together in what they call "the knack."

The Startup Game, Inside the Partnership Between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs (William H. Draper III)

Draper reveals the dance between founders and VC and how the Sand Hill Road game works. He shows how strong teams and strong investors can be a vital partnership.

Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky, How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos (Sarah Lacy)

Lacy draws the connection between changing markets driven by globalization and entrepreneurial opportunity, and provokes an interesting narrative in how entrepreneurship is becoming a global phenomenon.


Dave Mawhinney, Co-Director, Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Eric Ries)

Current examples with a new vocabulary around age-old best practice for entrepreneurs; the Scientific Method applied to business creation.

The Business Model Canvas (Alex Oesterwalder)

Great way for teams to communicate and get on the same page. Founders catalogue their current hypotheses about their business. They prioritize and set about validating these hypotheses.

The Startup Owners Manual (Bob Dorf and Steve Blank)

While my students find it dry and inaccessible, it is still the best roadmap out there today for doing Customer Development and building products people want.

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