Here’s a compilation of the books that I have found most valuable, organized by the three high-level stages of a startup: IDEA — PRODUCT — SCALE
Stage 1: Idea
When coming up with an idea, it can seem like you could choose anything. What you are really doing is making decisions about which market to enter, the opportunity that gets you excited and identifying target customers. The following books will help you think better about the idea you decide to pursue. They are much more strategic and less tactical, and help you narrow your scope, focus on how to win, and get things in the right direction from day 1.
1.. Business Model Generation By Alexander Osterwalder
Having an innovative business model is just as important as having an innovative product. This book is a how-to guide for developing your unique business model. It helps founders think about how tactical items like revenue stream connect to big-picture strategies, like core value proposition.
2.. Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want by Alexander Osterwalder
Value Proposition Design helps you tackle a core challenge of every business — creating compelling products and services customers want to buy. This practical book, paired with its online companion, will teach you the processes and tools you need to succeed.
Using the same stunning visual format as the authors’ global bestseller, Business Model Generation, this sequel explains how to use the “Value Proposition Canvas” a practical tool to design, test, create, and manage products and services customers actually want.
3.. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
I love checklists. They’re a super effective way of getting the little things right, every time. If you need convincing, read this book. Doctor Atul Gawande explains in this book how one tool can help you from the inception of your project through its completion, and can be more efficient than any high-tech tool on the map.
4… Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea into a Global Business by Mikkel Svane
The real story of what it takes to risk it all and go for broke.
Conventional wisdom says most startups need to be in Silicon Valley, started by young engineers around a sexy new idea, and backed by VC funding. But as Mikkel Svane reveals in Startupland, the story of founding Zendesk was anything but conventional.
Founded in a Copenhagen loft by three thirty-something friends looking to break free from corporate doldrums, Zendesk Inc. is now one of the hottest enterprise software companies, still rapidly growing with customers in 150 countries. But its success was anything but predestined. With revealing stories both funny and frank, Mikkel shares how he and his friends bravely left secure jobs to start something on their own, how he almost went broke several times, how they picked up themselves and their families to travel across the world to California and the unknown, and how the three friends were miraculously still together for Zendesk’s IPO and (still growing) success.
5.. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.
Stage 2: Product
It’s critical to solve the core problem that your customers have. Otherwise you risk building something people don’t want. Once you’ve figured out the problem, you need to actually create a product. Ideally, your product has a great user experience that sets your business up to scale.
These books cover the tactics you’ll need at the product stage including analytics, customer development, product design and user research, and the leadership tactics you need to guide a team through this stage.
6.. Rework by Jason Fried
The grind is important, but it’s not all that determines your success. Jason Fried’s Rework argues that you don’t need to be a workaholic, or make a business plan, or have a ton of meetings. You just need to do the work.
7.. The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman
While it might take 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, it only takes 20 to get really good at it. When you’re developing a product, you need to learn on the job. This book teaches you how to teach yourself the ropes of something new as fast as possible.
8.. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
People don’t want to think, and that’s okay. Steve Krug’s practical guide to user navigability is a great read if you’re figuring out how to make your product more user-friendly. Getting to an intuitive product isn’t always an intuitive process, but Krug’s advice can help you get there.
9.. Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz
Writing code is expensive, which is why so many startups have adopted a lean approach to building products. This book is filled with case studies and interviews that show you how to use data to build faster and learn more.
10.. Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray
Great things don’t happen in a vacuum. But creating an environment for creative thinking and innovation can be a daunting challenge. How can you make it happen at your company? The answer may surprise you: gamestorming.
This book includes more than 80 games to help you break down barriers, communicate better, and generate new ideas, insights, and strategies. The authors have identified tools and techniques from some of the world’s most innovative professionals, whose teams collaborate and make great things happen. This book is the result: a unique collection of games that encourage engagement and creativity while bringing more structure and clarity to the workplace
11. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products 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.
Stage 3: Scale
Recommendations for the scale stage used to be books written over 15–20 years ago for really large companies. These books are more recent, and will help you think about how to scale your business. This list includes both strategic and tactically oriented information about business operations, culture, experimentation, growth and sales.
12.. Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
Think of this as your crash course in writing copy. It’s an oldie, but John Caples’ notes on compelling headlines, how to stoke someone’s curiosity, and the importance of user testing are just as true for writing web content as they are for billboards.
13.. Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
Even a killer product won’t live in this market unless you find people who are going to use it. Traction teaches you how to use channels like email marketing, SEO, and sales to get the user base you need.
14.. Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal by Oren Klaff
Pitch Anything introduces the exclusive STRONG method of pitching, which can be put to use immediately:
Setting the Frame
Telling the Story
Revealing the Intrigue
Offering the Prize
Nailing the Hookpoint
Getting a Decision
One truly great pitch can improve your career, make you a lot of money — and even change your life. Success is dependent on the method you use, not how hard you try. “Better method, more money,” Klaff says. “Much better method, much more money.” Klaff is the best in the business because his method is much better than anyone else’s. And now it’s yours.
Apply the tactics and strategies outlined in Pitch Anything to engage and persuade your audience — and you’ll have more funding and support than you ever thought possible.
15.. 100 Ways to Create a Great Ad by Tim Collins
100 Ways to Create an Ad is an accessible introduction to creative advertising techniques. Featuring 100 spreads detailing concepts such as the ‘Reveal’ and the ‘Mash-up’, it presents the key methods of devising print, television, radio, direct, and online ideas.
The process of creating an ad can be divided into three steps: planning; concept creation; crafting. This book provides a straightforward guide to concept creation, including methods that are applicable across media and offering wide-ranging examples from international campaigns.
Aimed at agency creatives, planners, and account handlers, as well as graphic designers, marketing professionals, and students, 100 Ways to Create an Adhas wide-ranging appeal.
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