Founders And VCs Reveal 21 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

guy reading ipad

Photo: By davidkelkjerud on Flickr

We’ve polled everyone from First Round Capital’s Charlie O’Donnell to Steve Blank and Brad Feld in the past few years, and they told us what books have shaped their careers. From Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” to Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” these books will teach you how to think — no matter if you’re a serial entrepreneur or are just starting a business.  

Let us know what books have influenced your career in the comments. 

Charlie O'Donnell: 'I don't know any book that sums up the entrepreneurial passion and spirit better than The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: 'The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.''

Charlie is a principal at First Round Capital.

Roger Ehrenberg: 'Big or small, this book focuses the entrepreneur/manager on respecting employees, focusing on process, and insisting on the collection and analysis of data. The development of metrics to manage the business is critical for the start-up founder.'

Roger is managing partner of IA Ventures.

Babak Nivi: 'Revelatory. Develop your product like this book tells you to, unless you know better (e.g. you have experience building operating systems, space shuttles, Googles.) Buy the first edition.'

Nivi is a founder of Venture Hacks.

Babak Nivi: 'The closest thing to a manual for building a startup. Marc Andreessen calls it 'a roadmap for how to get to Product/Market Fit.''

Penelope Trunk: 'I love flipping through the chapters. Each one is like a blog post, so you learn something on every page. And each chapter reminds me to be a little bit better at something I'm doing already.'

Penelope is a founder of Brazen Careerist.

Fred Destin: 'Maslow's hierarchy of needs adapted to the business world. Not that well written (sorry Chip) but sound advice on achieving 'sustainable outperformance' and leveraging crises for the better.'

Fred is a Partner in the technology group at Atlas Venture.

Fred Destin: 'Not a business book, but if you assume self-awareness and knowing what you are really good at are key to success in business (and life in general), this is the best attempt I have read at deriving 'meaning' from the joyous mess of life.'

Jason Fried: 'One of the best books about design, business, invention, and entrepreneurship I've ever read. Highly recommended. It's really inspirational. His persistence is otherworldly. You won't believe what he went through to get this product to market.'

Jason is co-founder and President of 37signals.

Greg Galant: 'The self-made billionaire founder of Maxim Magazine and The Week titles this book as though it's a snake oil self-help book. It's really a great entrepreneurial memoir with British wit at its finest.'

Greg is a founder of Sawhorse Media, as well as the creator and host of Venture Voice, a podcast for and about entrepreneurs.

Nilofer Merchant: 'The future is invented not in the easy conversations but in the hard ones. We've got to know how to have and manage those conversations that lend light and transparency to WHY we are doing what we are doing. This book emphasises how leaders create a culture of candor that can allow them to grow beyond the first idea.'

Nilofer founded Rubicon Consulting.

Chris Dixon: 'Although a bit too enterprise- (vs. consumer-) focused for my taste, this is an extremely intelligent and useful book.You've probably heard about the central thesis (lots of startups get stuck in the 'chasm', in between early adopter and mainstream customers) but there are tons of other interesting anecdotes and ideas in the book. I've reread this one a couple of times.'

Steve Blank: 'Observe, Orient, Decide and Act - The cornerstone of Customer Development and the Lean Startup was first invented by a fighter pilot. Read his story.'

Steve is a former serial entrepreneur who now teaches at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and the Columbia University/Berkeley Joint Executive MBA program. He is the author of Four Steps to the Epiphany.

Steve Blank: 'Why do large companies seem and act like dinosaurs? Christensen finally was able to diagnose why and propose solutions. Entrepreneurs should read these books as 'how to books' to beat large companies in their own markets.'

Also recommended by Chris Dixon: 'The Innovator's Dilemma popularised the (often misused) phrase 'disruptive technology'; But there's a lot more than that one big idea. Great insights into the 'dynamics' (changes over time) of markets.'

David Heinemeier Hansson: 'Influence teaches you how to sell and deal with customers by treating them as humans. Great stuff.'

David is a partner in 37signals.

Mark Peter Davis: 'Insight into some of the unique trials entrepreneurs face.'

Mark is a co-founder and CEO of Kohort, who previously worked as a VC at DFJ Gotham Ventures.

Brad Feld: 'Anyone who is creating anything should read this book, slowly, and savour it.'

Brad Feld has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over 20 years and is the co-founder of Foundry Group.

Also recommended by Fred Wilson: 'There is way more insight to be gained from stories than from business books. And these are some amazing stories.'

Paul Jozefak: 'Some great advice on how decisions are made.'

Paul is a Managing Partner at Neuhaus Partners.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.