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Ask HN: I want to start a web company what books should I read?
62 points by flexterra 2692 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments
What books helped you?

The thing that helped us the most were Paul Graham's essays: http://www.paulgraham.com/articles.html

My personal recommendations are: http://www.paulgraham.com/boss.html http://www.paulgraham.com/13sentences.html http://www.paulgraham.com/startupmistakes.html http://www.paulgraham.com/ramenprofitable.html http://www.paulgraham.com/ideas.html

I think these essays were both necessary and sufficient for making our start-up successful (in terms of reading, lol).

I'd recommend a lot more than those, and even made a summary for the best parts, which I pratically made my co-founders read (http://bit.ly/b7R7nQ)

http://www.custdev.com/ - Learn how to do Customer Development, an essential component of the Lean Startup philosophy. Learn how to: Find prospects and how to approach them, Develop and iterate your "Minimal Viable Products" (MVPs), Segment markets, position products and when to pivot, Validate before scaling"

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/startup-lessons-learne... - "Written by Eric Ries, one of BusinessWeek's Best Young Entrepreneurs of 2007, Startup Lessons Learned is a collection of 128 essays originally published at StartupLessonsLearned.com from 2008-2009. Each essay, or blog post, is unmodified and presented chronologically, rather then thematically, so that the reader can see ideas develop over time. Eric Ries provides actionable insight and advice on how to build successful products by listening to and learning from your customers. Startup Lessons Learned is a must-read for anyone trying to build a company in this new economy."

http://www.startupbook.net/ - "Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup"

The E-Myth Revisited. It's not specifically web related, but it's a great book (with a cheesy pie shop metaphor) on how to start a business that is a system you own rather than a business that owns you.

Check out the Amazon reviews, they're telling: http://www.amazon.com/E-Myth-Revisited-Small-Businesses-Abou...

I read this book years ago and it still has a lasting impression. I agree that this is a fantastic and almost essential choice.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank - about finding product / market fit, customer development, how to manage the process. Peppered with interesting and entertaining anecdotes.

Agreed. But note that it's more like a textbook rather than an inspirational read. Don't expect to "finish" over a few bathroom breaks (unlike rework (which is great also (but more "easy"))).

If you search for Steve Blanks course notes, you can read the first 3 chapters for free. If you buy the book, it comes with handy dandy worksheets (as well as the rest of the book).

I cannot recommend enough "Founders at Work" by Jessica Livingston.

It is a series of interviews of the founders of companies like Apple, Paypal, etc about the very very early stages of their start-up before they ever knew they would be successful. It is a great book to read both for motivation and for lessons learned.

You can read some of it here: http://www.foundersatwork.com/

Good luck with your start-up!

The problem with the interviews is that those early days are colored by the fact that they were successful. It would be interesting (although impossible) to have interviews before they actually reached measurable success.

I've read through this list a couple of times. Always great stuff.

In case anyone wants all of these links in one pdf: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5081628/Y%20Combinator_%20Startup%20...

"Four steps to the epiphany." (its about customer development). Many angel investors wont even invest in someone who hasn't read it - which is how I learned about it.

I went to business school and that book taught me more than 4 years of wasted time.

In my opinion this is the best book out there I've read relevant to starting your own start up!


I've read quite a few and where some are in sightful / useful when scaled or when funded, this book is the best I've read for a typical software developer to have a successful start up business!

It is also written by a fellow HN'er Rob Walling - so you know it'll be full of great information! Check out his blog 'SoftwarebyRob' for a taster.


While I'm at it. I'll tell you about some other's I have read.

- Getting Real by 37 Signals http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ - Rework by 37 Signals http://37signals.com/rework/

These are great and really get your mind thinking about alternatives to what most people believe.

- Sarah Lacy's Once your lucky, twice you're good. http://www.amazon.com/Once-Youre-Lucky-Twice-Good/dp/1592403...

This isn't a technical book, but can really get you motivated to succeed reading the stories of previous successes! It also gives a bit of an insight into the internal workings of a start up in the early stages. It highlights networking as an important factor!

- Start up success guide - http://www.amazon.com/Startup-Success-Guide-Books-Profession...

This book was quite good, but felt a bit dated in comparison to Rob Walling's 'Start up book'.

Finally 'Founders at work' is definitely worth a read. http://www.amazon.com/Founders-Work-Stories-Startups-Problem...

These won't necessarily teach you how to do it, but reading them definitely helped motivate me when things got slow. Hearing the experiences and successes of other startups/founders always gets me excited to get to work.

Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good - Sarah Lacy

Founders at Work - Jessica Livingston

The Facebook Effect - David Kirkpatrick


I really like this book. It helps put things into perspective, especially for smaller companies.

- Customers.com: How to Create a Profitable Business Strategy for the Internet and Beyond by Patricia B. Seybold. - Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application by Jason Fried, Heinemeier David Hansson, Matthew Linderman.

These books top my list of MUST READ for web startup.

Customers.com is very useful if your web company is more service focused. It teaches you how to target the right customers, own the customers total experience, streamline business processes that impact the customer, provide a 360° view of the customer relationship, let customers help themselves, help customers do their jobs, deliver personalized service and foster community.

Getting Real is more for code monkey making their own stuffs. This one I hope for all my bosses to read it. :P


I created a list in Listiki http://listiki.com/best-startup-books-to-read-before-startin... with most of these titles where they can be kept in one place and be voted upon and ranked.


Free - Chris Anderson; 4 Steps to Epiphany; Founders at Work; Crossing the Chasm; Viral Loop; Groundswell; Loosing My Virginity - Richard Brandson; Good to Great - Collins; Entrepreneurs guide to Business Law;

"Inbound Marketing, Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs" by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah takes you step by step through exactly what its title says.

...and one of the authors reads HN, so that should count for something.

Don't read too much before getting your feet wet.

If you must pick one, Getting Real is all what you need.


Quote: "Everyone can read a book. Everyone can come up with an idea. Everyone has a cousin that's a web designer. Everyone can write a blog. Everyone can hire someone to hack together some code.

The difference between you and everyone else will be how well you execute. Success is all about great execution."

"The Web Startup Success Guide" by Bob Walsh is fantastic http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1430219858?tag=keysofgeni-2...

In case you don't know Bob, he's the guy behind the http://www.47hats.com/ blog, which is a great resource for startups and MicroISV's. He also does The Startup Success Podcast.

Getting Real by 37signals: http://gettingreal.37signals.com/toc.php

Questions about what to read have been asked and answered quite a bit on Reddit. You might find these reading lists worthwhile: http://www.reddit.com/help/faqs/programming#Whatprogrammingb...

Up the Organization - http://www.amazon.com/Up-Organization-Corporation-Stifling-S...

And outstanding book about running a business.

Agree on Four Steps and Getting Real, also check out:

Purple Cow and The Dip by Seth Godin The Long Tail and Free by Anderson

I think you should just go out and do it instead of reading about it. Don't get into that rut.

+1 for just doing it. You won't get any of the stuff in these articles without context.

"Crossing the Chasm" - Geoffrey Moore (for company in general, can apply to web co)

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