Startups often fail to achieve their full potential. All too often this is a result of common mistakes that could have easily been avoided. This list covers 10 of the best startup books for improving your odds of success.

These books are ideal for entrepreneurs, founders, or early startup employees. Each one covers a valuable perspective that can help you avoid common missteps. Read through the list below, or watch the provided video, to identify the best startup books for you.

1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup Book Cover
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Many startups make the mistake of focusing their early energy on building out their product or service. And then, only after putting in a lot of time and money, do they identify critical flaws in their strategy. Not only can this be incredibly expensive, but often it can spell the end for a startup.

This book presents an alternative approach. It stresses the value of identifying the early assumptions of your business idea. And then coming up with simple ways to validate those assumptions as quickly and as inexpensively as possible.

The Lean Startup is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

2. Sprint by Jake Knapp

Sprint Book Cover
Sprint by Jake Knapp

Startups face all kinds of challenges early on. It can be very difficult to make consistent progress when developing a new product or service. Especially one that includes complex problems or high degrees of uncertainty.

This book introduces Google Ventures’ unique five-day process for answering critical questions. It’s all about rapid prototyping and testing ideas with customers. And it can help your team solve a big problem, break out of a rut, or make quick progress.

It pairs well with The Lean Startup. That book explains the value of identifying and validating early assumptions. And this book provides tools, frameworks, and procedures for making that happen quickly and effectively.

Sprint is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. If you’re interested in learning more before picking up a copy, check out my Sprint book summary.

3. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

The Mom Test Book Cover
The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

One of the fastest ways to improve a startup idea is by talking with potential customers. It’s a great way to gather valuable feedback even before building out a simple prototype. Unfortunately, these conversations are rarely as productive as they could be.

The default approach many entrepreneurs take is primarily geared towards seeking validation and encouragement. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of trying to sell the idea rather than gathering useful information. And this can result in attracting false support and blind encouragement from people that are just trying to be polite.

This book explains how to properly talk with potential customers. It’s all about how to gather honest and useful information. And it will help you learn far more from potential customers, so you can increase your odds for success.

The Mom Test is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

4. Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

Crossing The Chasm Book Cover
Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

Many innovative startups fail to reach mainstream customers. They’re able to build initial momentum with early adopters, but are unable attract lucrative mainstream buyers. And this severely limits the long-term potential of their business.

This book is about how to market disruptive products to mainstream customers. This of course includes technology related products. But it’s also relevant to any other solution that requires customers to change or alter their behavior in some way.

So if your solution breaks with the status quo, this is one of the best startup books that you can read. It will help you ‘cross the chasm’ from early adopters to the far more profitable mainstream market. And that can transform the long-term potential of your business.

Crossing The Chasm is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

5. Start At The End by Matt Wallaert

Start At The End Book Cover
Start At The End by Matt Wallaert

Many startups fail to create a significant impact in the world. Even products that fly off the shelves can end up buried in a desk drawer or stuffed in the bottom of a closet. And not only does this mean that customers are left unhappy. It also tends to impact reviews, referrals, and the future growth potential of the business.

This book is about how to build products that create real change. As the title suggests, the process starts by getting clear on how you want customers to use the product. From there, the book offers advice on how to design it to be more likely to create that outcome.

Start At The End is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

6. Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller

Marketing Made Simple Book Cover
Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller

Much of a startups success comes down to effective marketing. Every business needs a reliable way to attract potential buyers and convert them into paying customers. So it’s critical that we take time to address this early in the startup journey.

This book explains exactly how to create an effective sales funnel. It will help you build a website, an email list, and various email sequences. And it provides practical advice on how to communicate in a way that resonates with potential buyers.

Marketing Made Simple is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

7. Traction by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares

Traction Book Cover
Traction by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares

The most common reason why a startup fails is due to a lack of customers. So, after you’ve set up your sales funnel with tips from Marketing Made Simple, it’s time to attract potential buyers. And this involves testing various marketing opportunities.

This book provides insight into 19 proven marketing channels. And it explains how to select and execute on the best opportunities for your specific business. It’s the perfect compliment to Marketing Made Simple to ensure you have a functional sales funnel.

Traction is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. If you’re interested in learning more before picking up a copy, check out my Traction book summary.

8. Contagious by Jonah Berger

Contagious Book Cover
Contagious by Jonah Berger

Word-of-mouth is arguably the most important marketing channel over time. So it’s critical to find ways to increase the rate at which customers recommend your product or service to others. That’s because this can transform the long-term growth of your business.

This book covers the six principles of contagiousness. Unique strategies for making your product or service more likely to spread through word-of-mouth referral. And it includes practical examples of how others have used these strategies to achieve great results.

Contagious is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. If you’re interested in learning more before picking up a copy, check out my Contagious book summary.

9. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne

Blue Ocean Strategy Book Cover
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne

Many startups fall into the trap of focusing on what existing businesses are doing. They try to appeal to the same customers with a slightly better product. And as a result, they end up playing into the strengths of a well-established business.

This book can help startups avoid the bloody red ocean of competition. It explains how to create and capture new demand, break the value/cost trade-off, and redefine market boundaries to create a leap in value for buyers. The goal is to make the competition irrelevant by creating uncontested market space.

Blue Ocean Strategy is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. If you’re interested in learning more before picking up a copy, check out my Blue Ocean Strategy book summary.

10. Zero To One by Peter Thiel

Zero To One Book Cover
Zero To One by Peter Thiel

The mission of a startup is to create and capture new value. But this is easier said than done. Many businesses are able to successfully create value. However, many fail to capture enough of that value, in the form of revenue and profits, to drive future growth.

This book is all about how to build a valuable business. While much of the advice is geared towards wildly ambitious startups, many of the insights also apply to small niche-based startups. It’s an inspirational read for anyone interested in building a great business.

Zero To One is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. If you’re interested in learning more before picking up a copy, check out my Zero To One book summary.

Beyond The Best Startup Books

Ready for other business topics? Consider checking out the best digital marketing books, the best product management books, or the best entrepreneurship books.

You can also subscribe to The Rick Kettner YouTube Channel or The Rick Kettner Podcast for updates about future book summaries and reading lists.

Rick Kettner

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