“It’s human nature that what you think you know is not always what you know.”
This is why I read. It’s too easy to feel that we know all the answers. That our way of doing things, or thinking is superior. Those with experience though, realize that that is not true.
Reading helps you get out of your own head and view things from a different angle. An essential skill for the success of anything.
Here are 3 books that have helped me make the right decisions for my Startup.
#1 — The Lean Startup — by Eric Ries
If you are an entrepreneur who is thinking of building a Startup or already have one, then this book is a must-read. This book will help you to detect flaws in your thinking and in your process. The mistakes the book helps you avoid are common throughout the industry. They are so common I’ve seen them made at some point in every Startup I’ve worked with. The Lean Startup will increase your chances of success beyond what words can express.
The book will only have true benefit though if you’re humble enough to listen. If you haven’t fallen into the pitfalls he mentions before, it’s easy to feel that it will never happen to you. So make sure you listen even if your nature is telling you not to. If you don’t apply the principles mentioned in this book, you will increase your chances of failure.
In the book, he brings out many examples of those who applied the Lean Startup method and those who didn’t. You’ll see what the result of each path is.
I find many other books to be gimmicky. They focus on untested methods or the successes of a handful of people. Then they provide a plan based on the successes of a few unicorns. In the Lean Startup though, he focuses on what has led to the success or failures of many Startups.
Passage from this book that is very helpful:
Only 5 percent of entrepreneurship is the big idea, the business model, the whiteboard strategizing, and the splitting up of the spoils. The other 95 percent is the gritty work that is measured by innovation accounting: product prioritization decisions, deciding which customers to target or listen to, and having the courage to subject a grand vision to constant testing and feedback.
#2 — What Every Angel Investor Wants You To Know — by Brian Cohen and John Kador
Written by an investor for Pinterest, the author gives so much invaluable council. I love this book because it’s clear the author knows and understands what it takes to be successful. And no, I’m not talking about belief in yourself and passion. I mean, the author understands core-principles that will sky-rocket your chances of success.
Some topics you’ll learn about:
- The difference between “dumb money” and “smart money”.
- The value of having an exit strategy, something very important for Startups to have.
- Qualities you need to avoid in your potential investors.
- Qualities to avoid yourself.
- How to build a successful pitch.
- The importance of not hurting those close to you in the investment process (a very important read).
And there are other points that he explains he looks for in a Startup and an entrepreneur before he invests.
What I love most about the author of this book is that he takes investing seriously. He wants those whom he invests in to succeed and so he puts forth great effort to help you accomplish that (‘smart money’). In the book, he relays the wisdom he’s acquired. He’s been in the game for a while, so having this book handy will give you somewhere to go for valuable advice when you need it.
Passages from the book that are very helpful:
“Entrepreneurs do well to remember that the two sweetest words to an angel investor’s ears are “liquidity event.” They’re not bad for entre- preneurs, either.”
“Here’s a little secret many startups eventually learn for themselves: angel investors are generally less valuable for the wisdom of our advice (though it comes in handy from time to time) than for our contacts and introductions to people who can be really useful as the business develops.”
#3 — Crossing the Chasm — by Geoffrey Moore
This is a great book for learning how to go from adopting early users to breaking into a mainstream market. (He calls that process “crossing the chasm.”) This is a deal-breaker for many Startups. So learning steps to do this is huge.
The book gives many examples of how other companies succeeded or failed at this. You can see real-life examples of the results of certain decisions and mindsets. The D-Day analogy that he uses throughout the book is fantastic. It helps you understand why the principles and strategies he speaks of are so effective.
The part about Intuit was my favorite example of a company crossing the chasm in the book.
My favorite passage from this book which has helped us build winning strategies:
Cross the chasm by targeting a very specific niche market where you can dominate from the outset, force your competitors out of that market niche, and then use it as a base for broader operations. Concentrate an overwhelmingly superior force on a highly focused target. It worked in 1944 for the Allies, and it has worked since for any number of high-tech companies.
These are the 3 books that I recommend that you read if you are involved in any way in a Startup. These 3 books will help you understand what to do, and what to avoid to increase your chances of success.
It’s very important to understand that the majority of Startups fail. Like marriage, when going in, everyone thinks that they’re going to be different. Everyone thinks, ‘My marriage will be amazing because our love is unique’. It’s the same mentality with Startups. Everyone thinks, ‘My Startup will be a success because our team is unique, or our idea is awesome, or whatever reason we tell ourselves.
But being successful requires more than just you and a great idea. You must learn from the mistakes and the successes of others. There are time-tested principles that will help you succeed, or cause your downfall.
So when reading these books, resist the urge to say, ‘Well, that doesn’t apply to me’. Try hard to think of ways you can to apply the principles and strategies they speak of in your own Startup. You’ll find you save yourself from a lot of pains and disastrous decisions that many run right into.
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