Startup Advice

Twelve books every ambitious entrepreneur should read

Dinushi Dias /

Growing entrepreneurs with great ambition and sky-high goals are on a constant journey of learning. One way to drive this further and win new insights is reading.

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates says he has been reading about one book a week since he was a child.

“Even when my schedule is out of control, I carve out a lot of time for reading,” he wrote on his person blog.

Are you keen to bury your head into a book but don’t know what to read?

StartupSmart asked a panel of entrepreneurs and startup leaders what titles they recommend for high-achieving startup founders. Here’s 12 of their suggestions.

Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikmeier

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

“Written in the 1960s, [Drucker’s book is] still so relevant and all about becoming effective as a leader. Not ‘efficient’ or ‘productive’, but effective. Inspiring case studies and very practical tips.”

Scaling Up by Verne Harnish

“[This is] something of a bible for scaling [and] growth companies when they’re making that transition from shooting star startup to bigger business, when leadership and what it takes to run and grow a larger team [and] company changes.”

InDigital founder Mikaela Jade

Five by Dan Zadra 

“It’s an essential book to help you decide what’s next in your life and strategise how to get it.

“It looks small, beautiful and not at all like a business book, but don’t be fooled; it asks the big questions. It is incredibly tricky to fill out as it takes you deep on an inward journey like no other.

“The most motivating page is the ‘every day matters’ page where you run through a calculation on how many days you probably have left of your life! I do this every three years to keep on track and it’s a great wake up call for me to get motivated when I feel like giving up!”

RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson

Drive by Dan Pink

“I recommend all leadership teams read Daniel Pink’s fantastic book Drive. In his book he outlines how short term cash rewards cause long term disincentive and reduced creativity.

“It is important to ask employees what they want as a reward. You may be surprised by the answer; ‘more money’ is rarely top of the list. Loyalty is rarely about the money (this is table stakes in the HR world).

“Notice people, love them, value their contribution and make them heroes — make their dreams come true and they will be with you forever — and will also give you their valuable discretionary effort.”

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

“Malcolm Gladwell’s books The Tipping Point and Blink are essential reading to anyone interested in social connectedness.

Blink talks about ‘thinking’ and having knowledge without understanding. We have no explanation for how we make a decision, it is a ‘gut response’. It is important to consider that a customer’s decision making bias is filtered directly from their unconscious knowledge and perception of the world.”

Tribe founder Jules Lund

Unwritten by Jack Delosa

“The most encouraging lesson I’ve received since founding Tribe, was within Unwritten by Jack Delosa. He talks of Martin Luther King Jr being riddled with doubt before delivering his ‘I have a dream’ speech.

“I always expected M.L.K knew he was on the brink of greatness. But those moments before felt just as terrifying for him as they do for us.

“The courage is in doing it anyway.”

Girl Geek Academy co-founder Sarah Moran

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

“It’s a very human business book about inner drive, wanting to be great, working your butt off for years on very little money with only the hope it will pay off, and what it feels like when you finally are ‘successful’.

“Plus it’s funny, and if you can’t laugh while running your startup, what’s the point?”

D:HIVE co-founder Leigh Harris

The Boy Who Could Change the World — The Writings of Aaron Swartz by Aaron Swartz 

“This book is about big ideas, it’s about how together we can effect change in world, and by being equitable we all have the power to change the system for change, impact and opportunity, not simply through technology and the digital world but through society generally.

“Swartz also talks about how important it is to confront people with your ideas and be to be excited and inclusive about them.

“I am a strong believer of the logic of Swartz and this book is very relevant to the world today and tomorrow and is a must read for everyone. It’s different and enlightening about effecting change. Together we can all fix the world.”

“[My] favourite quotation: ‘Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for Themselves’.”

Startup Victoria chief executive Georgia Beattie

Dimensions of Wealth by Shakti Durga and Zero to One by Peter Thiel

“I believe a young entrepreneur would benefit from [segmenting] their life into two areas: personal and business.

“Understanding how to get the most out of myself has been a big growth path on its own. I recommend Dimensions of Wealth by Shakti Durga.

“For business, I recommend Zero to One by Peter Thiel.”

Seed Digital co-founder Mike Ebinum

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

“Regardless of what line of work you are in, the principles in this book are timeless and when applied will help you reach your highest level of achievement.”

Muru-D co-founder and Lighthouse chief executive Annie Parker

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

“I’m a huge believer in the importance of purpose in your business — and this book really nails that.

“It’s all about how if you want to do well in today’s economy, purpose and clear messaging about what you stand for and what value you bring to the world and to your customers it of prime importance.

“Don’t just make money — make a difference!”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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