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Startup reading list
Things I recommend leaders reading
I read and listen to a lot of content, and often find myself recommending it to others. I’m collating it here to create a resource for others to dip into.
Tim Ferriss has a way of thinking about reading (non-fiction) I really like: focus on just-in-time information rather than just-in-case information. There are a lot of resources below; it can be useful to snack on content, but I suggest focusing on what really moves the needle at the relevant time.
Founding Sales - a free-to-access 400+ page book on founder-driven sales. Especially useful for founders starting to create a repeatable sales process for the first time. If you want to buy the Kindle or physical version, link here.
The 7 Powers, by Hamilton Helmer. This is the best book I've read on describing, creating, and maintaining moats with your business. Like all good concepts, these are obvious in retrospect, and you can quickly start describing them in businesses you observe. Hamilton's description of persistent differential returns is extremely valuable. If you don't have at least one of these Powers, stop what you're doing and reconsider how you might achieve one.
- - introduces many topics on financial documentation and thought processes in a very easy-to-access way that especially first-time founders might benefit from.
- by , former CEO of Outlier.ai and Flurry, Sean writes of his experience building companies at scale and shares his mental models for solving problems. I often learn something through reading.
Mochary Method Curriculum and The CEO Within by Matt Mochary. The Google Doc later became a fully-fledged book. Both very accessible and easy to consume; they help you think about framing difficult conversations.
- by , former COO of PayPal, CEO of Yammer, now Partner of Craft Ventures. Infrequent posts, but excellent content on building, creating, and growing SaaS startups.
Jason Lemkin - if you’re working in SaaS, and not following Jason “godfather of SaaS” Lemkin on Twitter, what are you doing?
Amp it Up by Frank Slootman, and the ensuing book by the same name - Frank is an execution machine, has taken three companies public, and is currently CEO of Snowflake. You can do more, faster, with fewer resources, if you have the right people on the team, and push very hard.
Good to Great by Jim Collins. Jim describes complex principles in a simple way. Two of his phrases I think about regularly - “First who, Then what”, and “Confront the Brutal Facts”. You can read pieces of the book here.
Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. An easy to read account of Bill Campbell, an impressive executive in his own right, and a coach to many of Silicon Valley’s high-performance CEOs.
The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt - teaches the theory of constraints in business. Written in a fiction style about a factory manager in a troubled manufacturing plant, Alex, the protagonist, continually runs into issues (bottlenecks) that he sequentially solves to make the business move faster, and ultimately make more money. Everyone needs a Jonah in their life.
For business nerds
Acquisitions Anonymous by Michael Girdley, Bill D'Alessandro, and Mills Snell - a fun and entertaining guide through the small business M&A space. Each episode the hosts run through a prospective deal. A great way to learn about a topic you unlikely know that much about.
- by - an excellent Substack on Engineering growth.
For product people
- - would recommend to more than just product teams.
Inspired by Marty Cagan - one of the OGs of Product Management, Inspired is a Product Managers classic. It’s highly aspirational, and frankly good luck implementing all the ideas, but it’s great… inspiration.
Intercom on Product hosted by Des Traynor and Paul Adams. Covers a lot more than product (strategy, team building, scaling, innovation). “Fast gets good quicker than good will ever get fast” is the best quote.
That’s it for now. I’ll continue to update this article as I read (or remember) more. Let me know if I’ve missed anything obvious!
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Please note, where I’ve linked to Amazon I’ve used my Amazon affiliate link: I may receive royalties from purchases. Regardless, I genuinely recommend these resources and have linked where possible to free-to-access versions also.