What Aspiring Startup Founders Should Read in 2021
Like it or not, your startup is a business. It has rules, laws, and stats that will make or break you as an entrepreneur.
Startups that don’t start with a foundation of basics are doomed to fail. But founders who don’t understand the fundamentals cannot properly assess the risks of their startups.
You cannot properly evaluate your ideas without understanding the fundamentals.
You can only properly assess the value of a startup when you have an idea of how it will function within the market. You also need to know what kind of return you can expect on your investment and how much time you will need to see returns on your investment in order to have enough runway left for another idea.
Thinking about money too early is going to cause you problems later on. The focus should be on product development, not revenue streams and marketing strategies, before the product is out there — but this doesn’t mean that any decisions made after this point are wrong.
It means that you will need to have a plan for how you will make money and how much it will cost before you can move forward with your idea.
Hint: This is why free-to-play games are so popular. The players don’t pay until they find the game fun, and then they pay a lot. That’s because games like Fortnite are constantly changing and always have new things for people to do and see. People don’t play Fortnite for the graphics or the mechanics. They play it because they can enjoy something new every time they log in.
If you want your startup to be a success, make sure you understand the basics of startups before you start your journey. Even if it’s just to save yourself a few dollars or hours of time, reading some books about business, investing, and startups is going to save your startup time and money spent on trial-and-error methods or building the wrong things in the first place.
What am I reading?
There are plenty of books out there about startups, business, and investing. I’m currently re-reading Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future.
Not only is it a great book about startups that I think every founder should read, but there is so much wisdom in there that I can’t stop highlighting it.
The top 10 books to read for aspiring entrepreneurs in 2021
Some books are so important that they deserve to be on this list twice. Here are the top 10 books I recommend for aspiring founders who are learning how to start a business and how to fund it.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
The importance of this book is undeniable. It’s one of the most influential business books in a long time, and every founder should read it before they even think about starting a company.
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston (Editor)
Featuring interviews with over 120 startup founders, this book is an essential read for any aspiring entrepreneur. It’s an incredible mix of insights from startup founders, investors, and other entrepreneurs who have been through the startup process and know what it takes to succeed in this industry. Even if you don’t want to start your own company, reading this book will give you an insight into the industry that you won’t find anywhere else.
You’ll learn how startups are built from the ground up — literally! — and what exactly makes them work when so many fail every year. It’s also full of practical advice from people who have already started companies and learned from their mistakes along the way. This is true wisdom that will help you avoid unnecessary pitfalls as you try to build your own company in 2021.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Entrepreneurs often say that a startup is “a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” This book will help you understand why startups fail more than they succeed, but it also teaches entrepreneurs how they can use “the engine of innovation” as a means to cut costs and speed up the process of building their business.
This is a great book for people who want to build “a repeatable and scalable business model” with their startup before they go out and raise funding. It’s also a great book for founders who want to understand how to test their ideas using techniques like Minimum Viable Product and Customer Development.
The Art of the Start: The Time-tested, Battle-hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki
This book will give you all the advice you need to launch your startup in 2021. From how to come up with a good idea to making sure it’s viable, Guy Kawasaki has created an easy-to-understand guide that will take you step by step through the entire process of starting your own company. It’s also full of valuable insights from other startup founders, so you’ll be able to learn about what worked for them and what didn’t when they started their companies. This book is a must-read if you’re thinking about starting your own company in 2021.
Founders’ Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wassermann & James Womack
You probably know that it takes more than an idea (and hard work) when it comes to building a successful business in today’s competitive world. There are many other things you need to consider, like what your startup’s market is, how you’re going to find customers, and whether there is a business model for your company.
This book will teach you how to make sure your business will stand out from the competition and survive in the long-term. It will also help you avoid all of the common mistakes that startups make when they don’t plan ahead and fail before they’re even able to get off the ground.
This book is full of useful advice from other startup founders who have already started their own companies, so you’ll be able to learn from their experiences and avoid making the same mistakes.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
This book isn’t just for entrepreneurs who want to start their own company — it’s also for people who work at a startup or are thinking about starting one.
If you work for a startup as an employee, this book can help you understand how your company works and why decisions are made the way they are by explaining things in terms that every person can understand.
If you don’t work for a startup but have started one yourself, this book will give you practical advice about how to succeed in today’s competitive market. The lessons in this book aren’t just for startups either — they’re also applicable for businesses at every stage of development!
Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson
Every founder should read this before they quit their job or commit any more time or money on their idea.
This book gives insight into everything that happens behind closed doors when VCs invest in startups, along with all the legal terms involved in an investment deal. It also covers topics like syndicates, liquidation preferences, anti-dilution clauses, voting rights, drag-along rights, drag-alongs (yes there is more than one), antidilution adjustments (again multiple), caps (there’s more than one), conversion rates (yes there is more than one), benchmarks (which usually aren’t met), participation levels (usually 100% but there can be others), and ratchets (ditto).
It covers virtually everything venture capitalists talk about during diligence periods — but if they’re talking about it, most likely entrepreneurs need to know it as well!
This book will give founders all the knowledge they need to understand how venture capital works and what it means for their business.
The Epic Launch: A Step-by-Step Guide To Launching Your New Business by Patrick Vlaskovits & John Jantsch (Editors)
If there’s one thing that every entrepreneur needs when they’re starting a new company, it’s advice from people who have already been through the process.
This book is packed with insights from entrepreneurs who have launched their own businesses and learned what works and what doesn’t. You’ll learn how to build your new business from the ground up and how to keep your startup going in the long-term.
It also teaches you how to find funding for your startup, which is essential for founders who want to build their company in 2021.
The Startup Playbook: Secrets of the Fastest Growing Startups from Their Founding Entrepreneurs by David Kidder & John Danner (Editors)
This book is packed with advice from startup founders who have already experienced the ups and downs of starting their own business. You’ll learn how to find funding for your startup, how to negotiate a good deal, what you should be asking for when you’re negotiating, and more.
This is the best book available to aspiring founders who want to build their own company and raise funding in 2021 — it’s full of useful insights from people who have already raised funding for their startups.
The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank & Bob Dorf
Building a business is the easy part — but building a successful one is much harder. If you want to build a company that will make money and grow, this book will tell you everything you need to know.
It’s packed with insights from startup founders who have made it through the process and are willing to share what they’ve learned with other entrepreneurs.
This book will teach you how to do everything from testing your business idea to getting your product in front of customers. It also covers topics like hiring staff, managing employees, raising funds, and much more.
If you’re thinking about starting your own company in 2021, this is one book that every founder should read before they even think about building their own business!
How does this list compare with yours? Do you agree or disagree with it? Please share your thoughts in the comment section with me.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.