The Best Recommended Books for Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs

Book List for founders

What’s on your nightstand and how is it helping you become a better startup founder, leader, and decision-maker? We turned to our alumni and asked what they are reading or have recently read to create a well-put-together must-read collection for entrepreneurs.

Our list includes negotiation secrets, how to leverage the network effects to gather unstoppable momentum in your market, what to do to establish and maintain market leadership for your products and business, cutting-edge marketing insights to create stronger and clearer messaging for your customers, habits proven to elevate your quality of life, how to transition into a new role and do so without skipping a beat, rules to follow to achieve and maintain market leadership, and more. Whether you’re a startup founder or seasoned entrepreneur, this list definitely has something for you.

It’s often said that the internal game is the most testing. For entrepreneurs, truer words have never been spoken. Harrett unfolds a collection of practices that, when applied together, offer an entrepreneur the length and breadth of a truly rewarding life experience. From detailing the five powerful habits you must adopt, to unpacking the winning formula for a stronger sense of self, this book is a powerful tool for self-discovery.

This is the story of Salesforce and how it became the world’s most prominent CRM and cloud solution available today. Benioff reveals key lessons along the way to success, and also gives entrepreneurs a look at what it takes to build a unique, stand-out business that’s supercharged by evangelists, and the value of a well-structured partner ecosystem.

Storytelling won’t ever go out of fashion. It’s an integral part of how we communicate ideas big and small. And in Building a StoryBrand, Miller breaks down the core components entrepreneurs need to tell the most effective and compelling stories about their brands and products. You’ll get a first-hand look at the StoryBrand Framework, the seven universal elements of powerful stories, and learn how to create a powerful brand story of your own.

Can you define what makes one company exceptional and another not? In Built to Last, Collin dives into the inner workings of some of the world’s most successful businesses to find out. With unprecedented insight and fascinating examples, you get to learn how these companies became exceptional. Collins also distills these insights into a framework you can use.

Changing the world with new technology requires an approach that harnesses more than just touting features and benefits. Crossing the Chasm is an analysis of the Technology Adoption Life Cycle, and how innovators and marketers can accelerate the adoption of their technology for the early majority. A recommended read for disruptive startups.

Uri Levine, co-founder of billion-dollar company Waze, and Moovit investor and board member, challenges readers to rethink conventional startup narratives. He emphasizes the value of immersing oneself in customers’ biggest problems and disrupting the inefficient markets that currently serve them. Offering a practical guide filled with hard truths and actionable “startips,” Levine shares Waze and Moovit’s journey, including competition with industry behemoths. From startup founders to CEOs to tech professionals, this book is essential reading.

Great management skills can be taught, and in High Output Management, Grove shows entrepreneurs techniques that help cultivate the behaviors you need to become a great leader. From building productive teams to motivating employees to deliver peak performance, it’s a must-read for leaders wanting to level up their management skills.

It’s both a classic and valuable book on the art of communication and developing rewarding relationships. Carnegie touches on the most important skills you’ll need to become a successful influencer in your sphere, helping your startup drive the kind of results that would otherwise be out of reach.

What’s it like to be Jeff Bezos? Isaacson delivers a clear and very detailed view of the ins and outs of running Amazon and Blue Origin. This book is a tome of knowledge that spans the value of the famous “day one mindset”, why long-term thinking is the best thinking, lessons from COVID-19, and the intrinsic link between failure and innovation.

Moving the needle in a startup can sometimes look and feel somewhat elusive. Everyone is scrambling, trying to generate results. Doerr pulls on his decades of experience to share amazing stories about the power of OKRs and how they not only helped Google’s founders build the search giant, but how you can use them too, and at every level of your business to generate tangible results.

While not every conversation is a high-stakes negotiation, Voss offers readers an unimaginable set of tools and a wealth of knowledge for engagements that require strategic communication. Never Split the Difference shows entrepreneurs the importance of identifying and leveraging emotional intelligence and intuition, giving you a stronger competitive edge, no matter the discussion.

Product positioning, despite what most think, isn’t a collection of 25 to 100 words on what your product does. It’s deeper and requires an intimate understanding of your target audience and what they perceive as true value. Dunford challenges entrepreneurs to think less about the technical aspects and delivering features, and more about translating jargon into easy-to-understand words that help customers see the value of what you’re selling, because it appeals directly to them. This is a practical read with tons of gems.

There’s a talent war wagging on, making it harder to find the best talent. In Recruiting, Berslow offers a tried and tested process entrepreneurs can apply to not only attract the best talent, but what to do at each step of the recruiting process. This book is a treasure trove, filled with email templates, interview questions, and a step-by-step proven plan you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

This title disrupts everything we think we know about success. Legendary coach Bud Winter demonstrates how a relaxed state enables success – and how to reach that state, even in stressful situations. Winter’s insights found an eager audience in the US Navy. Now they’re being used by another group of people who need to deliver results under fire: startup founders and leaders.

Situation, Problem, Implication, Need payoff (SPIN): Neil Rackham’s formula is as powerful and relevant now as it was 42 years ago. Part of its staying power is due to the fact that, unlike so many other books on the topic of selling, this one is built on data, not anecdotes. SPIN Selling is simply a must-read for anyone who works in B2B sales.

You may have come by this title before, but today, it’s far more valuable to the entrepreneur than ever before. Most people hardly have the opportunity to scrape the surface of what they are truly capable of, simply because they’ve never known what their inherent talents are. StrengthsFinder 2.0 helps unearth what makes each of us unique and specially equipped to do and be more. It includes the popular assessment, 34 themes, hundreds of strategies for applying your strengths, and more. If you’re looking for a way to discover and tap into your five talents, this book is a must.

The network effect is one of the most practiced and result-generating approaches to driving product adoption. It’s used by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and many other tech titans, but isn’t easily applied by startups. In The Cold Start Problem, Chen shows entrepreneurs exactly what the network effect is, and how they can leverage it to successfully scale startups for tremendous results.

Change can be a breath of fresh air, but also a stressful undertaking, especially for leaders transitioning into new roles. Watkins provides a sobering look at what transitioning is like, helping readers find a clearer path with fewer missteps in their first 90 days than they otherwise would make. This book is as practical as its title, and you’ll receive checklists, self-assessments, and more for the most effective transition possible.

Matt Mochary, a mentor to Silicon Valley’s high-growth tech CEOs, offers essential advice for managers worldwide. This book provides a roadmap from early-stage startup to established corporation. It presents a framework of accountability, problem resolution, and evaluation. For a busy founder and CEO, time is precious. However, outstanding leadership demands care and attention. The book delivers comprehensive mentorship in a single guide.

In this book, VC Ben Horowitz tackles some of his most challenging experiences and lays them out clearly with a degree of clarity that shows what makes for a successful leader. From developing, managing, and selling, to buying and investing in startups, this book is an intimate look at life as a VC and everything that goes into walking a line that is results focused.

What if there was a rule book every business could follow to ensure they never lose market leadership? In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen provides clear rules for exactly that. This book unpacks why industry leaders lose their footing, and how easy it is for any company in any sphere to succumb to this tragedy. This is a sober take on business and the art of staying relevant and competitive today.

There’s a fundamentally incomplete perspective most people have about the work that goes into creating a winning startup, and Scott Belsky has the answer. In his book, Belsky walks you through the “messy middle”, sharing keen insights and gems from interviews with executives from AirBnB, Uber, and Sweetgreen, and his first-hand experience as the chief product officer at Adobe, an entrepreneur, and advisor to world-class startups. Belsky’s insights take the form of three parts; showing entrepreneurs how to endure setbacks, optimize successes, and finish strong by avoiding pitfalls. This might be the read for you if you’re trying to figure out how to move your startup out of a stagnant phase.

Creating a disruptive business doesn’t require nearly as much as it did 5 or 10 years ago, and in this book, Lavinga shares that community, identifying and solving a problem for them, and charging an acceptable fee is what it takes. With insights on leveraging the gig economy, and how to build a business that doesn’t hold you hostage, this is a read that offers entrepreneurs a simpler perspective on finding a way to make an impact and enjoy the process.

What does perseverance in the face of adversity look like? Banayan shares remarkable stories from a line-up of some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and celebrities. You’re given a front-row seat to a show about grit and how this trait can, and must, be a staple in your arsenal as an entrepreneur. This book is filled with adventure, insights, and a perspective of the world that will make you realize that it is possible.

Daniel Kahneman, renowned psychologist and Nobel Laureate, gained recognition with his work on decision-making, particularly Prospect Theory. His book is the culmination of a lifetime’s work on the mechanics of human cognition. You’ll learn how our brain’s two thinking systems operate—from quick, instinctive decisions to deliberate, calculated judgments. Kahneman guides you through insights pivotal to your leadership and innovation skills. By understanding cognitive biases, you’ll improve decision-making and sharpen your analytical reasoning.

Making a B2B sale and convincing your kids to eat their veggies might seem totally unrelated. But To Sell is Human reminds us that we’re always selling something, because we’re people. Masterfully weaving data and anecdotes (like any great sales pitch), this is essential reading for the modern sales professional. 

Ferris is no stranger to demystifying the world or peak performance, and in Tribe of Mentors, he distills the habits of over 130 top performers from various fields. This read is more than a guide, it’s a tool you can turn to for ideas on how to break through your ceiling and learn from people you’d likely never have the opportunity to meet in person. Athletes, billionaire investors, authors, and more, it’s for entrepreneurs who want to find their personal edge.

It’s no surprise that companies are adding this to their list of compulsory learning and development reads for new employees. Dan Slagen delivers exactly what the book promises on the label, drilling down to the fine detail of what makes working for a startup CEO both uniquely challenging and incredibly rewarding for any professional.

What can you learn from the founder of a publicly traded software company valued at $40 billion? Distilled wisdom for each stage of your company’s growth. Krest has packed this book with details and tips of his own and the most visionary leaders who’ve collectively created $1 trillion in wealth for themselves and investors. This book is a treasure you want readily available.

PayPal’s founder is perhaps more qualified than most to describe the route from disruptive concept to epoch-making invention. Like its author, Zero to One’s terse, sometimes contrarian, prose is bound to enrich your outlook, from a defense of “creative monopoly” to practicable maxims for innovative and daring startup leaders.

And that’s our roundup of the best books for entrepreneurs. It’s a list filled with a broad range of themes and ideas from some of the best minds around.

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