Best Books for Entrepreneurs

Best Books for Entrepreneurs

Whether you are a startup founder or entrepreneur – or just rub your shoulders with such people and want to become like them – you should definitely spark your knowledge by reading some books for entrepreneurs.

In an era where books for entrepreneurs are a super-popular and super-hyped thing on Amazon, it is hard to choose which ones to pick. Even though there are thousands of books for entrepreneurs on the market – not all of them live to your fullest expectations and most of them are a ton of paper waste…

If you want to find the right one for your needs and skip the 300 pages of ‘reading’ that can be easily summed in 1 page, you should focus only on books that are bringing immediate value and giving you valuable lessons you can apply to your company or startup.

To help you on this mission, I decided to find the best books for entrepreneurs and about startups and business to read for (to-be) founders, entrepreneurs and like-minded professionals. Each one of these books has undoubtedly shifted or pushed my thinking toward a greater intuitive sense of what an organization, business, startup, team, or founder looks like when it’s working, when it’s not, and how to get from point A to B in launching an idea. Still — nothing beats experience, and the highest level of understanding must be attained though creating and doing.

This is a growing list, so bookmark this article and come back in a couple of months to check out the new books for entrepreneurs and start up founders on the list.

 

Zero to One

Author: Peter Thiel with Blake Master
Publication Year: 2014

One of the most fascinating books I have read in recent months is Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. I found Zero to One thought provoking and interesting. Short and succinct, Peter Thiel’s tact seems to take any conventional thinking and toss it on its head, reexamine paradigms, and, at its heart, inspire the reader to create, to make something new. As one of the founders of PayPal and Palantir, one of the first outside investors into Facebook, a funder to SpaceX and LinkedIn, Thiel has a track record of finding and funding industry and society changing companies.

The main idea of the book is you need to create something truly new to be successful (profitable, beneficial) in the long run. Zero to one is a masterpiece and one of the must read books for entrepreneurs.

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The Innovator’s Dilemma

Author: Clayton Christensen
Publication Year: 1997

In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen writes clearly and analytically, with lot’s of examples and research, pleasure to read. Thoughts so logical you wonder how the managers/CXO’s he talks about didn’t figure this out by themselves already yesterday. A thought provoking read no doubt, even for those not in executive positions.

It’s not a 100%, but gets some future predictions right – fun to discover them 22 years later. And it’s also interesting to use the frameworks described to think about new technologies that constantly keep surfacing on this Information Age we live in.

The subject of this classic is disruptive technology. With the help of many examples from industry (disk-drives being his main workhorse) the author explains what technologies are likely to disrupt, who is likely to be disrupted, why they are likely to be disrupted and what the choices are that the established players have when presented with disruption.

The most important point is that disruption generally comes from the practice of repackaging and marketing already existing, straightforward technology at a lower price point to a new customer base that is not economically viable for the established players.

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Founders at Work

Author: Jessica Livingston
Publication Year: 2001

The business media usually distills fundamental concepts such as team building, creating a good product and perseverance to the point where you either get a generic phrase or a string of dull paragraphs where a single generic phrase would do; the effect is that reading about business becomes a boring activity, but Founders at Work was different.

It’s not a how-to book but narratives that really do drive home the above concepts and other such as business model flexibility and the importance of listening to the customer.

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Crossing the Chasm

Author: Geoffrey Moore
Publication Year: 1991

This book gives a fresh and powerful set of tools to help navigate the stages of product life, as well as covering honestly some of the hard decisions that must be made. A great book for those interested in making their technology sustainable and more than just a passing fad.

This is certainly one of the most insightful business books for entrepreneurs I have read. It is of biblical importance to anyone in the technology business, especially operating in a B2B scenario. Apart from a cogent theoretical framework, it provides high practical, and actionable advice on how to move from one segment to the next in a technology adoption life cycle.

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Screw it, Let’s do it

Author: Richard Branson
Publication Year: 2006

A great book for people in Sales or Entrepreneurs.

The book is really about Richard Branson and some of the endeavors he has tried in his life. You really have to read the book to get a firm grasp of what he is trying to convey, but the back of his book really does a great job of summarizing his core advice; namely believe in yourself, take calculated risk, don’t think no, think yes.

Screw It, Let’s do it is a kind of summary version with key bullet points and advises of Richard Branson’s biography ‘Losing My Virginity’. The book is far more than a live life to the fullest, seek happiness and follow your heart kind of reading. It goes chapter after chapter collecting a list of life commandments that let you not only have a sense of how Branson is, but also how his decision making process is like and how he weights things in business (risk).

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Start Something That Matters

Author: Blake Mycoskie
Publication Year: 2011

Blake Mycoskie’s brief book covers his struggles in launching one of his companies: Tomorrow’s Shoes (TOMS). This work is not an autobiography. It is somewhat a company profile, almost an entrepreneurial self-help guide, and mostly an elaboration of his mission statement.

Based on a marketing One-for-One (1-4-1) notion, Mycoskie caught the charitable consumerism wave with his version of the Argentinean shoeware called alpargata, which seems to be a cross between a sneaker and a deck shoe and is sometimes known as espadrille. In counterintuitive fashion, the “Chief Shoe Giver” translated the current sales tactic BOGO (Buy One, Get One) into the altruistic Buy One, Give One. His startup company features selling a comfortable loafer and then matching that sale by donating a pair of shoes to unfortunate children. (Even his publisher promises to donate a new children’s book to needy children for each book sold.)

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Creativity, Inc.

Author: Edwin Catmull, Amy Wallace
Publication Year: 2014

For those unfamiliar with Ed Catmull, he is best known as the president of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. The book talks about how to lead others and how to create a situation that in turn fosters creativity. Pixar is known for its special mindset concerning treatment of employees and how to make everyone feel special and important. There are two other things this book covers. How to tell a story and the history of Pixar.

If you work in a creative industry, if your occupation requires creative collaboration, or if you aspire toward a creative vocation, read this book. It will make you want to quit what you’re doing and join Pixar immediately.

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Good to Great

Author: James C. Collins
Publication Year: 2001

The book is a bit more of a kick in the pants for corporate big-wigs. The big revelations: Companies that have gone from Good to Great often have a leader at the helm who has a few certain qualities: Humility, Adaptability, Honesty, Ability to face the Brutal Facts of any situation, Ability to make tough choices, and Ability to keep his/her ego in check enough to realize that company will and should continue without them, and they should train a respectable successor for the long-term good of the company. Charisma, interestingly, is not one of those qualities, but is replaced by approchability and integrity.

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Start with Why

Author: Simon Sinek
Publication Year: 2009

Simon Sinek describes in his book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” how leaders and companies should work as a series of circles, i.e. “The Golden Circle” – the why, how, and what. This idea explains why organizations and leaders inspire the others. Everybody knows what they do, some know how they do it, very few people know why they do what they do. The way we communicate, think and act is very easy: we go from the clear things we know to the more fuzzy ones. The WHY theory gives us the ability to communicate why we are doing certain things, helps entrepreneurs take better decisions, as well as individuals in the every day life.

All in all, the most important fact Simon Sinek is trying to point out is that the way something is communicated must be believed in, explained, and people accept it for themselves, because THEY believe in it. It is one the inspiring, enlightening and insightful books for entrepreneurs.

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The Lean Startup

Author: Eric Ries
Publication Year: 2011

The Lean Startup is an important and highly acclaimed book for new startup ventures.

It is one of the core business books for entrepreneurs that revolutionized the business startup environment over this last decade. Eric Ries stripped everything down to the core basic principles of being lean and agile in response to customer feedback.

This is not new but is collated and distilled in a very dynamic, yet clear structured manner. It must also be said that the Lean Startup is heavily biased towards the software industry and while also coming from that industry I may be unaware of how effective this approach is in other sectors, especially those that are heavily regulated and limited to the opportunity to, in reality, deliver prototypes to customers.

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Hooked

Author: Nir Eyal
Publication Year: 2013

This is one of the extremely valuable books for entrepreneurs or for anyone building products designed to engage people frequently.

One of the main useful ideas the book talks about in engaging users is having triggers to bring the user back to the product. This can be an external trigger – like an email or notification or ad that brings the user back – but the best products also form internal triggers. Ever get bored or lonely and find yourself on Facebook? Or wondering what is happening in the world and end up on Twitter? and see something beautiful or inspiring and then pull out Instagram? Or feel the need to escape and relax and open a book or turn on a movie or a sports game? Our emotions often drive our behavior, and each emotion is mapped to a set of products we could use to “scratch the itch” of whatever we are feeling. These mappings become habits.

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The E-Myth Revisited

Author: Michael E. Gerber
Publication Year: 1985

This is a fine book showing some of the flaws of small businesses and why so many fail. The author uses a fictional small business owner who started a pie shop and running herself ragged. She has a great gift in making pies but is burning herself out. She was thinking about how she her job was making and selling pies when her business could and should be so much more.

Successful companies don’t actually sell the products that they make. They fulfill an emotional need of their clients. For instance, Southwest Airlines is not selling airline tickets but a fun way to travel. Disney is not selling you a Mickey Mouse hat but to experience having the innocence of child again. Harley-Davidson is not selling you a motorcycle – but a membership to a rebellious, unbridled culture.

if you are a small business owner or are looking to become one, this is one of the books for entrepreneurs you really have to read.

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The $100 Startup

Author: Chris Guillebeau
Publication Year: 2012

“The $100 Startup” is a book that primarily focuses on moving past the barriers that we and others place in front of our desires. These barriers (not enough money, knowledge, experience, demand, etc.)make it easy for us to not go into business. Not going into business allows us not to fail. However, this self-protective instinct automatically allows us not to succeed either.

The book encourages a quick, no-holds barred start-up, because the leap is what is often the most difficult. Following the leap, there are other helpful hints in this manuscript that relate to pricing and sales.

Mr. Guillebeau illustrates that sometimes income is better with slightly higher pricing, and slightly lower sales volume, then it is based on quantity alone. Other helpful points cover whether or not to hire employees, whether or not to grow, when to say no, why you might not want EVERY potential customer, and so on.

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The Startup Owner’s Manual

Author: Steve Blank, Bob Dorf
Publication Year: 2012

The startups owner’s manual is a fantastic, one of the must-read books for entrepreneurs out there.
Applying the techniques shown in this book will help you develop an extremely beneficial mindset, and work on your next product in an almost-scientific fashion.

This is a brilliant book about a new approach for entrepreneurs to build lasting companies. It includes a four-stage model Steve Blank made famous called customer development, which complements the traditional product development model.

Customer Development is comprised of four processes: 1. Customer Discovery: Who will buy my breakthrough innovation, and what do they need? 2. Customer Validation: Will our product satisfy that need better than all others? What assumptions am I making about my business model? Let’s get out of the building and test them! 3. Customer Creation: Who is buying the innovation and how do we create a scalable model to attract paying customers? 4. Company Building: How do we grow our company as we continue to innovate with new product ideas and iterate with our customers?

The book is comprehensive (over 500 pages), but every page is worth reading and one of the important books for entrepreneurs to have in their shelf.

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Explosive Growth

Author: Cliff Lerner
Publication Year: 2017

A fast and entertaining read, Explosive Growth by Cliff Lerner takes you on the real-life journey of the business leader that started the first successful Facebook dating app. Through Cliff’s honesty and experience, we learn invaluable business tips from both his successes and regrets. While at the same time, gaining fun insight on the world of online dating.


The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Author: Atul Gawande
Publication Year: 2009

Surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande explores how using a humble checklist can reduce simple human errors, saving lives, money and time.

Curious about how checklists might limit post-surgical complications, Gawande examines how they have worked in the fields of construction and aviation, where errors could potentially kill hundreds or even thousands.

His results, written in lively and clear prose, are eye-opening, with fascinating glimpses into operating rooms around the world as well as busy construction sites, crowded cockpits and testosterone-fuelled investment firms.

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The Four Steps to the Epiphany

Author: Steve Blank
Publication Year: 2005

This book was simply excellent and one of the best books for entrepreneurs to read! It helps to realistically identify the step that the startup is currently in and to take appropriate action.

The core gist of the Customer Development process parallel to a typical product development process is the core message and is very well articulated. You can quite literally take this book in hand and use it as a field manual on growing your business. Mr. Blank rightly points out within the starting pages that most business have failed before they even started, illustrates clearly why no amount of time or money will fix them, and what the more successful approach is and how to use it.

Charts, graphs, and words with definitions you can look up in the dictionary, this book is the real thing. A little BS ‘business’ speak to keep that audience reading, but mostly just hard core facts about the reality of bringing a product to market and making money from it.

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Traction

Author: Gino Wickman
Publication Year: 2010

This is by far one of the most important books for entrepreneurs and business owners. The book promises to help “leaders run better businesses, get better control, have better life balance, and gain more traction” with a functional, cohesive team.

It’s based on human nature; how people really operate. Wickman has been refining this system in the real world for over 20 years with over 400 clients.

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The Third Wave

Author: Steve Case
Publication Year: 2016

If you don’t know Steve, you’ve probably heard of him. He’s had a remarkably entrepreneurial journey starting with co-founding AOL in the 1980s. While AOL has now been absorbed into Verizon (after having been bought, spun out, and bought again) at its peak around 2000 nearly half of all Internet users in the US accessed the internet via AOL and everyone over the age of 40 knows how to say “You have mail.” Steve Case, serial entrepreneur and legendary co-founder of America OnLine (AOL), in his spiritual successor to The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler, explains how we’re entering a new digital frontier; the Third Wave of the internet.

The First Wave, was that of laying foundations in technology; AOL, Apple, Microsoft and other companies connecting consumers to the internet. In the Second Wave, Google and Facebook were built on top, creating untapped social and search experiences.

The Third Wave will be a period in which we see a renaissance in entrepreneurship which will upend industries and revolutionise real world sectors; education, energy, transport, food and healthcare.

Case encapsulates the beauty of entrepreneurship by being reminded of a famous newspaper ad Ernest Shackleton placed before his 1914 attempt to explore Antartica. This is one of the most effective and insightful books for entrepreneurs.

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The Art of the Start

Author: Guy Kawasaki
Publication Year: 2004

The focus is on tech entrepreneurs. While much of the advice is applicable to other industries, the book will hit the bulls-eye specifically with those starting technology businesses.

Another thing about this book: parts of it contain advice for those seeking funding from angel and VC investors. Since that covers a tiny percentage of the entrepreneurial population, it’s really targeted toward a narrow niche.

However, even if you choose never to seek investment funding, you should read this book. Why? Because investors ask hard questions. The kind of thinking you need to do to satisfy investors, is actually the kind of rigorous thinking more entrepreneurs should do for themselves. I mean, why fool yourself about the market potential for your startup, or about whether you’ve even thought through expense projections? This one should be in your list of the books for entrepreneurs.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Author: Ben Horowitz
Publication Year: 2014

Ben Horowitz joined Netscape in the very early days and proceeded to ride the internet wave all the way up, all the way down, and everywhere in between over the course of his career. In this memoir/business advice book, he recounts choice moments from his extensive career and shares information he found important along the way.

Ben Horowitz doesn’t feed you feel-good things which is abundant in business/leadership books. He’s not a consultant/trainer selling his leadership knowledge. He was the founder & CEO of a company that was close to bankruptcy multiple times, which he ultimately sold for over a billion dollars.

How do you demote a friend? How do you lay off great people because money is scarce without making all the other employees run? and how do you promote and give raises in a way that inspires people rather than motivates politics? What do you do with a genius expert who is a bad employee? Etc.

He doesn’t sugar-coat the fact that you’ll probably have incomplete information, may lack competency and feel terrified while making difficult and important decisions. But you still have to make them. There are no easy answers – that’s the hard thing about hard things. But Horowitz offers the best he can – his own experience, things to consider, some techniques and their consequences.

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Venture Deals

Author: Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson
Publication Year: 2011

If you are a first-time entrepreneur, this book might help you skip rookie mistakes!

Venture Deals is one of the must-read for books for entrepreneurs thinking about starting, or currently running, a venture-backed company.

The author does a great job of sharing different perspectives so that you know what to expect in any situation. Nothing beats experience, but this book will definitely put you in a better position when dealing with investors, lawyers, boards, etc. You will be able to make better decisions thanks to this book. This is one of the must-read books for entrepreneurs or anyone wants to startup new business.

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The Power of Habit

Author: Charles Duhigg
Publication Year: 2012

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business is a book by Charles Duhigg, a New York Times reporter, published in 2012 by Random House. The Habit loop is a neurological pattern that governs any habit. It consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Understanding these components can help in understanding how to change bad habits or form good ones. The habit loop is always started with a cue, a trigger that transfers the brain into a mode that automatically determines which habit to use. The heart of the habit is a mental, emotional, or physical routine.

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The 4-Hour Workweek

Author: Timothy Ferriss
Publication Year: 2007

Timothy Ferriss explains how he freed himself from the rat race and slashed his working hours by delegating, outsourcing, and automating his businesses. He spends his new free time living on his terms, which for him means traveling the world. He wants you to do the same, and provides the motivation and action steps to do so. The basic message of this book: take shortcuts.

In most cases, those shortcuts involve working smarter. In a few instances, however, Ferriss promotes what I would consider questionable or unethical behavior (such as telling “half-truths” to your boss or others, or taking advantage of loopholes in rules). Ferriss comes across as someone I could never fully trust, and thus wouldn’t want to emulate entirely.

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Building a StoryBrand

Author: Donald Miller
Publication Year: 2017

Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller shifts the paradigm surrounding the key perspective when creating a brand story and highlights the power of storytelling to making a brand heard in the marketplace. Donald starts by saying, “Your customer should be the hero of the story, not your brand.” His logic behind this is sound and easy to test, each of us is a consumer of brands, and, yes, brands that make me the hero and act as my guide draw me deeper.

The book wraps up with using this framework on an internal marketing campaign which piqued my interest but felt like it needed its own book to make the most of the advice shared.

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Business Adventures

Author: John Brooks
Publication Year: 1969

Business Adventures is well written, as John Brooks is able to tell these stories entertainingly by emphasising funny dialogues, and his generally great way with words. Brooks takes a human interest angle and describes the character of key people not just the facts, and thus adds a richness to each ‘adventure’. Essentially this similar to long form journalism today.

However, the book requires the reader to read between the lines and draw its own conclusions, as Brooks does not deliver read-made solutions or answers but merely describes the stories and challenges.

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The Intelligent Investor

Author: Benjamin Graham
Publication Year: 1949

Benjamin Graham was Buffet’s professor at Columbia and one of his closest friends. In fact Buffet named one of his kids after Graham. The Intelligent Investor teaches the philosophy that Buffet learned at school and went on to find massive success with. It does not teach people to ride market waves or speculate. Instead it instructs those who follow its teachings to calculate the intrinsic value of companies, find the ones that are either under priced or successful, but proven to have long term proven success capabilities, and then create a portfolio with those.

The defensive investor does this, then puts new money in every month and checks on the ratios of his/her portfolio over quarter or six months to make sure its still balanced (hypothetically lets say 60% stocks 40% bonds) this reduces drifting and ensures long term revenue, even if it’s not the absolute highest one can earn it’s still consistent and positive.

Because their choices were made based on intrinsic value and not market prices, these companies are good long term investments and the investor doesn’t have to sell and buy new ones constantly. It’s also suggested to have companies spanning all sectors to reduce risk by diversifying.

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The Outsiders

Author: William N. Thorndike Jr.
Publication Year: 2012

Author analyses and develops an analogy about workings of 8 frugal, humble, analytical, rational, pragmatic, cognoscenti, iconoclastic, idiosyncratic, unbiased, clear-eyed, highly understated, highly unconventional yet equally lucky CEOs.

The book goes deep in the field of financial management (stock offerings, buybacks, free cash flows, debt servicing, LBOs, capital allocation-which is one of the least discussed things yet one of the most important in finance, employees stock options and so on). Other fields include psychology (decision-making, heuristics, rationality, mob mentality and so on), strategic management (mergers & acquisitions strategies, liquidation strategy, product portfolios and so on), cost management (shut down points, performance evaluation techniques and so on) and few others. However, it requires a basic understanding of accounting and finance to comprehend all the ideas given the lucid language of the book.

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Factfulness

Author: Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund
Publication Year: 2018

In the last decades of his life Hans Rosling (1948 – 2017) made a world-wide career lecturing to large corporations, Wall Street bankers, hedge fund managers and gatherings of Nobel laureates and heads of states such as in Davos, about the statistics of the world. Rosling´s son invented a software so that you could present statistics with moving, shrinking and growing bubbles in different colors, which made an otherwise boring subject highly entertaining. The program could even be sold to Google.

The aim of the book is to fight ignorance and dramatic worldview with well-researched facts and global statistics. This book starts off with a quick 13 question quiz to test how you see the world in general. The author then proceeds to explain the world and banish misconceptions using different instincts.

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Blue Ocean Strategy

Author:  W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne
Publication Year: 2005

This is one of the essential books for entrepreneurs looking to compete in a saturated marketplace and build a successful business. Too many startups fail because founders try to compete directly with well-established companies that dominate the market. The Blue Ocean Strategy is a book about finding your niche within a niche so you can stay competitive and grow.

The core idea is simple, but the authors go through a fairly rigorous (for a business book) system, including how to accomplish this with existing teams and organizations. They provide solid examples of products, companies, and industries where this kind of innovation has happened. Especially since it is so short and clear, it is one of the most essential books for entrepreneurs or for anyone in business.

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Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Author: John Carreyrou
Publication Year: 2018

This story is about the youngest woman, to become a self-made billionaire, and the giant fraud she committed on Silicon Valley. Elizabeth Holmes, was a Stanford drop-out that used her knowledge and family connections to build a billion dollar start-up name Theranos.

Theranos invented a blood testing portable machine that could test all the different blood tests a major lab would with just a drop of blood. This was a major breakthrough as it could stop the need for needles and vials of blood sick patients have to constantly be subjected to. Not only that but these machines were to be rolled out in Safeway (a supermarket) and Walgreens (a drug store) all over the USA so everyone could afford to be tested. The problem with this great idea; the machines never actually worked!

This truly is one of the biggest scams Silicon Valley had ever seen. The cheating and lies and manipulation are unbelievable. The amount of people Elizabeth managed to bewitch is staggering. These were smart people she swindled. If you live in the USA, you will be shocked by many of the big names that totally fell for the scam. Actually, the names are so big you will probably recognize them even living outside the USA.

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Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Author: Sheryl Sandberg
Publication Year: 2013

While this book by the COO of Facebook is ostensibly about women in the workplace, it’s really about subconscious cognitive biases. A majority of Americans may consider women and men to be equal on the surface, but the fact that women still lag significantly behind men in both pay and leadership positions points to the fact that there is something else going on.

In this book, Sandberg does an excellent job at shining light on exactly what is standing in the way of full equality. She offers many examples, both personal and from referenced studies, that highlight why women who start even slightly ahead of men out of college rapidly fall behind when they enter the workforce. Some of these are systemically entrenched gender biases that favor men, such as identical resumes being rated as more qualified when they had a man’s name on them than they were when they had a woman’s name on them, while others are ways women limit themselves as they make choices about their careers.

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Too Big to Fail

Author: Andrew Ross Sorkin
Publication Year: 2009

The strength of Sorkin’s book, which covers the period right after the fall of Bear Stearns (March 2008), up to the TARP infusions of capital (October 2008), is that he synthesized masses of detailed information and assembled it into a chronological story, using multiple firsthand accounts, contemporaneous journalistic sources, and public records.

In Too Big to Fail Andrew Ross Sorkin achieved the impossible, he made the 2008 financial crisis accessible to a wide variety of readers. His tightly woven and meticulously researched narrative feels like a movie script, which is why it is no surprise that it eventually became one. Sorkin does a great job in setting out the circumstances that led to the failure of the banks, and then chronicling almost day by day the decision making process behind the eventual bailout.

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Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco

Author: Bryan Burrough, John Helyar
Publication Year: 1990

Barbarians at the Gates is a fascinating tale about the rise and fall of food giant Nabisco. Ross Johnson was head of Nabisco’s rival Standard Brands. They show how he used his affable personality and his ability to befriend coworkers, bosses and over-seeing boards to propel himself to Standard’s CEO while winning a battle against his superior and getting his superior ousted.

Nabisco had gained competition from Frito Lay and Proctor Gamble so it looked to expand, buy merging with Standard Brands. Johnson negotiated the merger as head of Standard Brands with Nabisco. He agreed to let Nabisco CEO Bob Schaeberle head the combined companies while he remained second in command. Then He charmed Schaeberle and Nabisco board members and he moved Standard Brand employees into key positions. He had all night parties with his coworkers drinking to excess yet still able to plan out business strategies. He palled around with sports celebrities like Frank Gifford and insisted on the use of corporate jets to do so.

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In Search Of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies

Author: Thomas J. Peters, Robert H. Waterman Jr.
Publication Year: 1982

In Search of Excellence was one of the 1980’s best-selling books. The authors analyzed some successful companies attempting to identify the eight attributes they had in common.

Since then, more than half of those “excellent” companies disappeared, got acquired and disassembled, or went through extreme difficulties, indicating that the eight attributes were just simply things the companies did well at the time, but were not the answer to long term success.

However, this is still one of the best books for entrepreneurs wishing to track the evolution of management to present days.

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Built to Last

Author: James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras
Publication Year: 1994

Both James Collins and Jerry Porras have worked for a couple of the visionary companies that they write about and both have taught at Stanford University Graduate School of Business (Porras still does). Collins specializes in management education while Porras specializes in organizational behavior and change. They write and speak extensively in these fields and work as consultants for many successful organizations.

The thesis of this book is that visionary enduring companies are not dependent upon one charismatic CEO; rather they share timeless, fundamental principles and patterns that transcend product ideas or great leaders.

A key principle they uncover from their research is that visionary companies tend to be “clock builders, not time tellers.” Their first concern is building an organizational culture, rather than acquiring the right charismatic leader or the right product at the right time.

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First, Break All the Rules

Author: Marcus Buckingham, Curt Coffman
Publication Year: 1998

This book had some sound advice as it focused on the four key principles all great managers know and practice: 1) select for talent, 2) define the right outcomes, 3) focus on strengths, and 4) encourage employees to find the right fit.

Probably this is one of the best management books for entrepreneurs written so far. Its based on market research conducted by Gallup over a span of many years. The results are outstanding and help to break many conventional ground rules followed by Management across many companies.

The outcomes of each endeavour be it employee retention, talent acquisition, promotion, work ethics, work environment etc are based on several interviews held with managers across all the levels.

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Free: The Future of a Radical Price

Author: Chris Anderson
Publication Year: 2009

A business classic that everyone should read. Explains 20th century and 21st century economics from a big picture perspective. The basic thesis is that while in the physical world (atoms), products have cost and thus companies can afford to give away small amounts of free samples (5%), or give away cheaper loss-leader related products in order to maintain profits. In the digital world things are reversed as products have little to no marginal cost and companies can afford to give away 95% of the product for free and make money on the remaining 5%.

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Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography

Author: Walter Isaacson
Publication Year: 2011

Back in 2004, Steve Jobs approached Isaacson and asked if he was interested in writing Jobs’ biography. Isaacson declined several times, thinking that it was too soon to write one and that it would be better to wait a few decades. It wasn’t until 2009 when Jobs’ wife bluntly told him that Jobs was seriously ill from cancer and that there was little time to lose. Isaacson said he hadn’t known Jobs was sick; she said few people knew and that Jobs had been trying to keep it a secret.

Isaacson finally agreed to write the biography, and Jobs agreed that he wouldn’t have any control over the book, which was rare, considering how controlling and demanding he had been over all the various projects at Apple.

Walter Isaacson the author is a well-know writer (Einstein, Franklin are his other biography books) has covered all the aspects of Job’s life from his childhood, family, friends, to founding apple with Wozniak, each product design (Macintosh, iphone etc.) and venture (Next, Pixar) he conveyed.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson has benefited a lot from articulation of author and the content are precise with rich details as he has interviewed all the people he’s named in the book as well as Steve Job.

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Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future

Author: Ashlee Vance
Publication Year: 2015

Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future‘ is an incredibly inspiring book by Ashlee Vance, an important look into a game-changing worldview, and a valuable lesson to the world. As Musk says, “If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”

A very insightful account on a man who wants to reach the stars (well, Mars) and save humanity from extinction and global warming, yet often falls short from showing a modicum of kindness toward his employees and prone to going ballistic over typos in emails and abbreviations.

The book provides succinct insights on the situation surrounding the industries the mercurial Musk works in: automotive, finance, power generation, and aerospace. Admittedly, most of them had become bureaucratic, imploding, sunset industries, and had not shown any significant achievements for decades. Musk changed it, with his then-crazy ideas and gung-ho attitudes which include over optimistic deadlines and clashes with friends and employees who did not suit him. He made those happened nonetheless. Not just a big talker, but also a doer.

If you liked the biography of Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos, this is one of the must-read books for entrepreneurs!

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

Author: Phil Knight
Publication Year: 2016

JUST DO IT. Those words are the life story of Phil Knight. To every athlete, entrepreneur, mother, father, and dreamer his greatest legacy will be a life well played. More valuable than his pledge of giving back to society $100,000,000 a year, Phil ‘Found His Greatness’ in life by inspiring us all to play harder, dig deeper and never quit. Thank you, Phil.

This is one of the best books for entrepreneurs and well worth every hard-won word, shared and earned over 50+ years of grueling competition. More than once the story looked like impending failure. Most would have given up. Perhaps Phil’s greatest advice, and example, are the words he shared on his book tour in Portland where he told us all, “The only time you must not fail is the last time you try.”

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Predictable Revenue

Author: Aaron Ross, Marylou Tyler
Publication Year: 2011

Predictable Revenue is one of the best kept secrets in business literature. The authors understand the real challenges marketers and sales executives face and articulate proven solutions eloquently.

If you manage a large sales force or if you run a small business, this book should be able to help improve sales prospecting. It would help if you use systems, such as a database for sales and marketing, but even if you are self-employed and have to sell on your own to expand your business, you can gain some new thoughts here.

In this book, Aaron Ross, who helped grow the revenue for SFDC (salesforce.com) exponentially, provides a clear explanation of how he and his team accomplished that while teaching the reader some very good tips and tricks. Eschewing the old world concept of cold-calling a Lead in the hopes of eventually getting a sale, Ross takes us through a more holistic approach, by using warm marketing to reach the prospective client. There are helpful suggestions for re-evaluating the sales funnel and sales pipeline while also showing the main metrics to be tracked.

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Change by Design

Author: Tim Brown
Publication Year: 2009

Change by Design is an insightful look at all sorts of organizations and how they solved challenges by working with IDEO, a global consultancy focused on helping companies innovate.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, an innovation and design firm ranked among the ten most innovative companies in the world, debunks the myth that brilliant ideas, creativity, and innovation are the sole province of geniuses and specially gifted people, but are more often the result of disciplined thinking and careful observation, skills the rest of us can develop and apply. He argues that traditional organizational structures are designed for efficiency, which causes new ideas to be incremental, predictable, and too easy to copy, in contrast with the culture of innovation, which is social as well as spatial, in which people know they can experiment, take risks, and explore the full range of their faculties.

He then shows us how we can apply the skills of traditional designers to develop the capacity for design thinking, and ways to create innovative, empathetic, human-centered solutions not only to organizational problems and redesigns, but also to pressing social and environmental challenges.

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The Alliance

Author: Reid Hoffman
Publication Year: 2014

Reid Hoffman is well known as the co-founder of LinkedIn, a partner at Greylock, an angel investor in many successful companies including Facebook and Twitter, and one of the kingpins of the PayPal Mafia.

In The Alliance, Hoffman makes a convincing case for updating hiring best practices to reflect the ever-changing reality of the modern world. Hoffman explains that the current generation of workers no longer expects to spend their careers tied to a single employer or industry. Instead of pensions the current generation is focused on personal development. The Alliance suggests that employers and employees enter into mutually agreed upon “tours of duty” designed to accomplish very specific goals and then reassess the relationship once the tour has been completed.

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I hope you enjoyed this wide selection of books for entrepreneurs – just as I hope it will help you fulfill your mission and kick start your successful career.

Which one would you read first?

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