Six Books for Startup Success

Heeding the counsel of seasoned entrepreneurs can be crucial for taking your business to the next level, or simply surviving. As the world transitions more and more towards a knowledge economy, self-education is among the best long-term investments an entrepreneur can make. For this article, we have asked entrepreneurs to recommend the books that have given them the biggest intellectual edge when it comes to their businesses. You can find their answers below which cover a range of topics from marketing to management.

On Dealing with Hard Times in Leadership

Entrepreneurs: Zaid Masri, Mohammad Zatara

Companies: Salalem, Faylasof

Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

We’ve chosen to put this book by Ben Horowitz at the top of our list, as it has been recommended to us by multiple entrepreneurs, including Faylasof’s, Mohammad Zatara, and Salalem’s, Zaid Masri. Moreover, the book has been endorsed by many entrepreneurial icons the likes of Bill Gates and Peter Thiel.

Founder of one of the largest online bookstores in the Middle East by volume, Zatara told us that the book is loaded with practical advice on how to be a better leader. “This book is a great primer for the lonely job of CEO,” he says. “I think it’s also a helpful book for board members and others who work with CEOs…. It makes you appreciate how hard the job really is.”

Zaid Masri, founder of the E-learning platform, Salalem, shares similar praise for this book. According to Masri, “While there are certainly many things one may enjoy in building a business and in impacting people’s lives, it remains that entrepreneurship is tough and the journey is harsh. Many startup founders don’t realize this, and I recommend reading the stories of other founders who have been through hard times to learn from their experiences”

On Raising Capital

Entrepreneur: Mohammad Albatikhi

Company: Bilforon

Book: Venture Deals

For any entrepreneur seeking to master the fundraising process, Venture Deals has everything they may need from term sheets, shareholder agreements, financial instruments, and more. Mohammad Albattikhi is the entrepreneur behind the Jordanian food sharing service, Bilforon. He was kind enough to recommend a few books to us, including Venture Deals. According to Albattikhi, “Venture Deals is a must read book for all the entrepreneurs raising money. It explains all the terms in a term sheet. It also explains to the entrepreneurs how investors think and negotiate.”

On Understanding Customer Needs

Entrepreneur: Mohammad Albattikhi

Company: Bilforon

Book: Competing Against Luck

Albattikhi’s other book recommendation, by Clayton Christensen, changed the way he viewed his own business. Competing Against Luck “helps startups and big companies understand why customers ‘hire’ their products and services (i.e. understanding the real reason for using a product or a service),” says Albattikhi. This book helped Albattikhi hone in on his business’s core services and value proposition. It helped the entrepreneur answer the “very important question; what do people ‘hire’ Bilforon to do?”

On Making Your Ideas Stand Out

Entrepreneur: Hussam Hammo

Company: Tamatem

Book: The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

Hussam Hammo is the founder and CEO of Tamatem, the leading mobile games publisher in arabic speaking markets. Hammo is an avid reader, and his company hosts a weekly book club. Back in 2006, before Hammo started his first company, he was recommended The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by a fellow startup founder. Hammo says, “The book changed my perspective about branding and marketing, how to come up with ideas for your next project and how to make sure you will stand out. The book absolutely changed my life.”

On Product Design

Entrepreneur: Patrick McGinnis

Company: Dirigo Advisors & Author of The 10% Entrepreneur

Book: Hooked

Patrick McGinnis is a venture capitalist and founder of Dirigo Advisors. McGinnis is also the author of the international bestseller, The 10% Entrepreneur. It’s a must read, in its own right, for anyone who feels they need to test their ideas before taking the full plunge into their entrepreneurial endeavors. For the sake of this article, however, we asked McGinnis to suggest a book other than his own. McGinnis’ personal recommendation is Hooked, which discusses the four-step process companies can use to create products that influence customer behavior in positive ways. McGinnis says, “I’m a huge fan of Hooked by Nir Eyal,” McGinnis says, “Nir shows us how to create habit forming products and he’s a master of product design. He’s also become a friend and was recently on my podcast FOMO Sapiens.”

On Adapting to Change

Entrepreneur: Emile Cubeisy

Company: Silicon Badia

Book: Mission Critical Leadership

Emile Cubeisy is co-founder of The Jordan-based venture capital firm, Silicon Badia, as well as a director at several regional online and digital media companies. Cubeisy’s top recommendation is Mission Critical Leadership. The book explores examples of companies that succeeded and failed in making the crossover to the internet economy. It was written back in 2001 amid the tech bubble crash, but a company’s capacity to adapt remains relevant so long as markets shift and disruptive models emerge. According to Cubeisy, “Mission Critical Leadership is what I live my life by. It’s about creating a framework for how to reinvent yourself every couple of years.”