10 Resources to Help You Grow a Lean Startup
If you recently launched a startup—or you’re thinking about it—you’ll inevitably hit the “I have no idea what I’m doing” stage (if not once, then multiple times). It seems that there are countless problems to solve that you don’t necessarily have the tools or resources to answer, right?
How do I gain early startup traction? How do I find a co-founder or build an early team? How do I come up with the cash to build an early team!? How do I know that my idea is even something people want?...And who in the world are those people, exactly?
If you’ve found yourself asking some of these questions, there’s no better way to find the answers than by leaning on the knowledge of those who have already successfully navigated their way through the same entrepreneurial journey . Below, you’ll find ten great books, courses, and other resources to help you build your startup effectively in those early, lean stages. We can’t wait to see what comes out of the learning for you. :-)
Things you must read before launching a startup.
There is such an overwhelming amount of content on the internet offering up advice on how to launch a startup. How do you weed through all of the noise? Thanks to Startup Launch List, now you don’t have to. Select from a list of pain points—like coming up with an idea, building a team, raising money, and making money–and then get a beautifully curated list of the must-read articles on each topic. You’ll find great advice from some of tech’s top thought leaders, including: Paul Graham, Mark Suster, Brad Feld, Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, Chris Dixon and more.
Free course with 7 marketing super-hacks.
Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg co-wrote a book in 2015 called Traction. It has quickly become one of the most important startup books because it details out exactly how to think about growing your startup, which is the (potentially) billion dollar question all founders want an answer to. Justin and Gabriel created Traction Course to showcase super-tactics in seven different marketing channels, including: email marketing, content marketing, publicity, and display and social ads. This is not to be missed.
Email copy from great companies.
Even if it seems like such an overdone marketing channel, email remains one of the most effective ways to build and engage your customer base. And, writing email copy remains one of the most tedious marketing tasks ever. If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel completely, check out Good Email Copy. Created by the Front app team, this is a collection of emails from great companies like Slack, Trello, Pinterest, Basecamp, Everlane, Eventbrite, Shopify, and more. You can sort by tag (e.g. welcome, thank you, new features, billing issue, invitation, upgrade, etc.), which makes it super easy to find sample copy related to the kind of email you’re looking to write.
Acquisition, retention, & revenue hacks used by companies.
Petit Hacks is a truly useful resource. Head to the site, and you’ll find countless examples of hacks various websites use to drive acquisition, revenue, referrals, retention, and activation. Each hack includes a screenshot and a short explanatory blurb. This is a fun site to browse if you’re looking for new mini traction strategies to try as you grow your startup.
A free guide to building awesome communities.
Building products comes with its own unique challenges. Building communities around a product? That’s another thing entirely. Brick by Brick is a comprehensive, free guide created by Sacha Greif that takes you through the various elements of community building. You’ll learn more about: engagement, promotion, moderation, voice, value, and audience segmentation. This is a useful resource that includes tidbits of wisdom from incredible community builders, like: Pieter Levels, Justin Kan, Josh Owens, and more.
Grow your core business by launching side projects.
When you subscribe to Make This Year, you’ll get a step-by-step lesson every month from an “experienced side project maker,” who will teach you how to grow your business in the most efficient way possible by building tools that create value for your customers. This is as lean as it gets: build one side project at a time, and see what sticks with your audience. And, with only one lesson a month, you won’t feel overwhelmed by the content.
Free lessons from the pros who’ve built massive websites.
In the words of Traffic 1M creator Noah Kagan, “If you build it they will come. Just kidding.” It is hard to drive an audience to your site—especially in the very beginning. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, “How do I drive a ton of traffic to my site quickly and cheaply?,” then this is for you. Noah, who has worked on Facebook, Mint, AppSumo, and SumoMe, along with 15 other traffic generation experts, share some of their best traffic generation tactics. You’ll learn how to incentivize social sharing, own your SEO, test your content, create smart social ads. This is, without a doubt, some of the best advice in the online traffic game.
A short course on the future of PR, marketing, and advertising.
The Growth Hacker Course was created by Ryan Holiday based on his popular book Growth Hacker Marketing. He walks you through a four-step framework that begins with helping you find product-market fit, and ends with retention and optimization hacking. There’s only so much you can learn about startup growth tactics from a book; at some point, the only thing left to do is start experimenting in real life. This course will guide you through that process with various exercises you can try as you learn about each step in the framework. Since taking action is the whole point (and also the hardest part) of learning, we’re pumped about the design of this course.
Explore revenue models to make money with your idea.
This kit makes business modeling fun again. If you aren’t sure exactly what your startup’s business model is yet, The Business Model Kit is a useful tool that will help you whiteboard what your company might look like in 5, 10, or 20 years. There are 16 different blocks to help you visualize your model (e.g. consumers, suppliers, government, product, service, experience, data money, exposure, etc.). When you’re thinking about the bigger picture—like multiple revenue streams, partnerships, and complex supplier transactions—this will help you get your creative (and organizational) juices going.
The entire Lean Series, published by O’Reilly, is packed with incredible insight and strategies for growing your startup—especially in the early stages when there’s often no other option but to run “lean.” We highly recommend starting with Ash Maurya’s Running Lean, which is all about finding the right product-market fit. Effectively, it’s a step-by-step blueprint for taking your ideas, turning them into experiments, and taking action quickly. Once you’ve devoured that book, pick up some of the others based on your startup’s most pressing needs.
There are so many other incredible books, podcasts, and software tools designed to help you grow your company as effectively as possible—particularly when you’re first starting out. If you want even more resources to help you think through the best way to build your business, you can find them on Product Hunt, starting with this collection of Lean Startup Tools: