The Essential Books for Startup Founders

Written by Jonathan —  July 24, 2013

Book Shelf Startup Founders

There are many books about startups. We’ve gather the best ones for you, written by experienced founders

Books are listed in no particular order. We will keep this post alive with regular updates.

· Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

Y-combinator co-founder, twitter: @foundersatwork

This book, written by the prestigious startup accelerator Y-Combinator co-founder, J. Livingston, is a pledge of various founding experiences. First-hand information about the ups and downs of starting your own company. Inside this book you will find interviews to the founders of relevant companies such as Apple, Adobe, Hotmail, Flickr or Paypal.

2000 was basically the year of fraud, where we were just losing more and more money every month. At one point we were losing over $10 million per month in fraud. It was crazy.”

Max Levchin, founder of PayPal in Founders at work

· Without their Permission by Alexis Ohanian

Reddit co-founder, twitter @alexisohanian

“How the 21st century will be made, not managed” Reddit is one of the most powerful tools for spreading information across the internet. Alexis writes down his thoughts about building communities, tech, companies and so on, taking advantage of the power of the internet.

“Software is eating the world and WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION is your ultimate cookbook.”

Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz

· The Paypal Wars by Eric M. Jackson

Caplinked co-founder, twitter: @ericmjackson

Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia and the rest of planet earth“. This is one of our favorites. Read about the troubles and tribulations of Paypal, and prepare to live the roller-coaster that was their story. The former marketing executive of Paypal, Eric, tells us all the hidden facts about the founding of Paypal.

“It’s rare that a business book is a page-turner, but The PayPal Wars is.”

Tech Central Station

· Lean Startup by Eric Ries

INVU co-founder, twitter: @ericries

Probably the world’s most acclaimed Startup book, it has created a movement around itself. Eric conveys his knowledge in a very audacious way, giving startups founders precious advice on how to maintain their business away from business inefficiencies.

“Many CEOs have fully embraced and continue to internalize the lean startup principles.”

Fast Company

· Onward by Howard Schultz

Starbucks founder, H. Schultz Forbes profile

“How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul” is the claim of this book. In each startup founding process, there will be adverse times which will need taking courageous decisions. This book of the coffee empire Starbucks shows you how hard decisions could be.

“Illustrates that a company can overcome its growth pains by returning to its core principles.”

Washington Examiner

· Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham

Viaweb, Y-Combinator co-founder, twitter: @paulg

If you agree with the quotation above from M. Andreessen “Software is eating the world”, this book explains why that is happening and why hackers are playing the main role in this computer revolution.

“This book will force you to re-think your ideas about the nature of computer programming.”

Robert Morris, MIT

· Running Lean by Ash Maurya

Spark 59 founder, twitter: @ashmaurya

Practice trumps theory” is its claim. Originally written in 2010 and now republished by O’Reilly under the umbrella of Lean Series, this book was inspired in the early days of the Lean Startup movement. Ash has bootstrapped his first company, WiredReach, and he puts all his hard acquired skills in this book.

“Easily one of the best technical books on Lean Startup ever written. Period. End of point. Done.”

Dan Martell, Founder of & Angel Investor

· Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg

Return Path founder, twitter: @mattblumberg

This book is only available under pre-order on Amazon here. Matt define its books as the answer to “now what?” when you finish all the lean startup movement books and you have to face the management and scaling of your business, once you’ve reached market fit and product validation.

“If you are looking for a how to guide on the CEO job of a rapidly scaling company, this book is probably for you.”

Fred Wilson, Principal of Union Square Ventures

· The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman

HBS professor, twitter: @noamwass

Anticipating and avoiding the pitfalls that can sink a startup” is the premise of this bestselling book. This book underlines the importance of picking the best early decisions for your startup, which could be crucial at an early stage. This book is a face to face to reality of being a founder for the first time.

“People problems are the leading cause of failure in startups. This book offers solutions.”

Noam Wasserman, author

· Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier

37signals founder and Ruby on Rails creator, twitter: @jasonfried and @dhh

This book will change your previous vision of getting stuff done. Just pick traditional ways of working, flip them out and you have Rework on your hands. A book recommended for contrarians.

“Unperturbed by conventional wisdom, Jason and David start fresh and rewrite the rules of business.”

Jeff Bezos, CEO of

· Lucky or Smart by Bo Peabody

Tripod co-founder, twitter: @bopeabody

This book, described as “50 pages for the first time entrepreneur“, Lucky or Smart provides you tips to make a better life, improving the chance to generate new business opportunities through changing certain habits or attitudes towards life and human relations.

“This small book is a terrific roadmap for prospective entrepreneurs as well as corporate executives.”

American Library Association

· The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank

E.piphany founder, twitter: @sgblank

A bestselling classic that launched more than 10,000 companies and ventures“. With a similar approach of the Lean Startup book from E. Ries, “4 Steps to the Epiphany” is about building successful strategies for new ventures to win in the market battlefield.

“I highly recommend this book for all entrepreneurs, in startups as well as in big companies.”

Eric Ries, Lean startup

· Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Zappos co-founder, twitter: @zappos

A path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose“. Toni H. Zappos Co-founder and CEO of the online shoe mogul (sold to Amazon), explains in his book how to maintain a high level of demand in your startup along with a high level of happiness among all the stakeholders.

“Delivering Happiness would make a great starter business book for Gen Y-ers.”

Business Pundit

· Do More Faster by David Cohen and Brad Feld

Techstars founders, twitter: @davidcohen@bfeld

This book is written by the founders of the successful startup acceleration program Techstars -considered by many the leading startup accelerator in the world-, with such experience with first time entrepreneurs behind them, you should expect savvy advice on the Do’s and Don’ts in the startup world.

“When it comes to pragmatic advice—as well as examples highlighting real-world results—Do More Faster is a full-course meal.”

Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft

· Your Brain at Work by David Rock

Neurpleadership co-founder, twitter: @davidrock101

In this book, you will travel inside the complex way our brains work, and more specifically, how our brains work at work. David is an expert in this matter as he is the co-founder of the Neuroleadership institute, a leading consulting firm with operations in 24 countries.

“If you have no interest in being creative, effective and happy, then ‘Your Brain at Work’ may not be for you… but for everyone else, it’s a must read!”

Chris Wink, Co Founder, The Blueman Group

Year One Labs co-founders, twitter: @acroll@byosko

This book is about data, metrics, analytics and its presented in a lean, mean way. There are plenty of real case-studies inside and chapters focused on each internet business. It combines the best of Lean Startup with hard numbers. Do you already know your only metric that matters?

“Your competition will use this book to outgrow you.”

Mike Volpe, CMO at Hubspot

Former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, See Wikipedia

B. Walsh is one of the greatest coaches in the NFL’s history and has already inspired many people worldwide. His work turned the SF 49ers into a legend. Executives and leaders will be the ones that take the most of it, since this book reveals the secrets of managing teams in a successful way.

“I wasn’t really excited about reading any leadership books, this was actually the first one that I ever read”

Jack Dorsey at YC ’13 Startup School, Twitter co-founder

Chinese military general born in 544 BC, See Wikipedia

The Art of War is an ancient masterpiece on military strategy that has recently become popular among politics and business leaders. The text could help someone mentally prepare for some sort of competition particularly in sports or business. 

“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.”

The Art of War

Updated on 01/08/2013



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Building Megafounder and Backercamp in Barcelona. Engineering, ancient history and sushi lover.