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Ask HN: As a technical founder what is the best business book you've read?
107 points by enjayz on Sept 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 39 comments

All books from Basecamp founders. Especially the first one - Getting Real.

I preordered their latest book 'It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work'.

A lot of their advice is aimed towards small teams. And often contrary to SV wisdom. We've built a few profitable businesses by following their advice without raising any funding.

I second this. My favorite was Rework.

Pinning down just one would be nearly impossible, but I can tell you a small group that I consider indispensable.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany - Steve Blank. This is a MUST read. If you read nothing else, make it this book. Note that there is a 2nd Edition, which changes the title to "The Startup Owner's Manual". There is a lot of overlap in the content, but enough difference to justify reading both, IMO. I would start with the older one.

The Discipline of Market Leaders - Fred Wiersema, Michael Treacy - another crucially important book IMO. Does a great job of explaining how there are many different vectors along which you can compete, and explains how choosing which vector you're going to compete on is fundamental to defining your business and market.

The Art of the Start - Guy Kawasaki. Lots of good basics on startups

Differentiate or Die - Jack Trout, Steve Rivkin. - Title says it all.

It's Not The Big That Eat The Small, It's The Fast That Eat The Slow - Jason Jennings

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing - Jack Trout and Al Ries

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind - Al Ries, Jack Trout, Philip Kotler

Crossing the Chasm - Geoffrey Moore

Mastering The Complex Sale - Jeff Thull - lays out an approach to selling that I believe is one of the best out there for enterprise / B2B. May not be as relevant for B2C or other approaches.

Exceptional Selling - Jeff Thull - more on Thull's selling approach.

The Prime Solution - Jeff Thull - and yet more still on Thull's selling approach.

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail - Clayton Christensen

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future - Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

How To Measure Anything - Douglas Hubbard. - Maybe one of the most important books I've ever read. The ideas in this book can apply in many domains, related to startups or otherwise. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Repositioning: Marketing in an Era of Competition, Change and Crisis - Jack Trout, Steve Rivkin

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant - W. Chan Kim, Renée A. Mauborgne

Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company’s Future - Patricia Seybold

This is a terrific list. I've read almost every one. Guy Kawasaki's _Art of The Start_ is the one I recommend to all technical founders.

Great list. I would add:

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It - Chris Voss

Oh yeah. I bought that a while back, because it gets a lot of recommendations here. Haven't had time to read it yet though.

I'll draw heat for this but I think most business books are boring and/or suffer from survivorship bias.

The most interesting business book I've ever read was Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull. He talks in depth about managing a business where creativity is the most important aspect.

The Start-up manual is good too, if a little drawn out.

I think you are right, I've read quite a few over the years but looking back I learned far more by interacting with peers and just getting on and trying things.

Although not a technical book and sometimes maligned, I found How to Win Friends and Influence People very helpful to my career and to my life.

I second this. In my opinion, it's the best book ever written on relationships, business, leadership, friendship, politics and more.

That being said, a lot of people read it as a way to manipulate people. It shouldn't be read that way. Rather, if you follow the advice, it has to be genuine.

Debt: The First 5000 years is more of a historical examination of the modern origins of debt, not really 'business' per se but still a really solid book that I think many people in this industry could benefit from reading.

Except you reach the point where it talks about Apple and you start doubting every other single fact in it:

"Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republi­can) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other's garages."

(Copy/pasted from web, but matches my memory of reading the book, so pretty sure it's accurate.)

Yeah this threw me for a loop, but didn't try to get it corrected - did anyone follow up on this glaring error when the book was initially for sale/proof-read more widely?

"How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk".

Check this review of sorts by Jeff Atwood: https://blog.codinghorror.com/how-to-talk-to-human-beings/

Hard thing about Hard things and then Rework. Two different perspectives, and both light on bullshit

Creativity Inc., by Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull. A funny and insightful book that should be required reading for any technical leader who works with artists/designers.


Separately he gives good evidence of what an A-hole and tyrant Steve Jobs was. Most won't talk about it out of politeness or concerns for their network. Having worked for a psycho at one time, you know how others shade their language when discussing. Very entertaining!

Seconded. Especially because it's a very candid engineer's account of a fundamentally creative endeavour.

As soon as you start hiring people, strongly recommend reading "Radical Candor" [1].

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Radical-Candor-Kim-Scott/dp/B01KTIEFE...


Edward DeBono - SUR/PETITION Going beyond competition: creating value monopolies when everyone else is merely competing.


It's probably out of date now but it inspired me to become an entrepreneur in 1994.

Also this is the best book I've ever read on negotiating by Chester Karass https://www.karrass.com/dr-chester-karrass


If you have tried to build a business and failed then read “The Anatomy of Peace” or “Leadership and Self Deception” same writer, same message.

If you have build a business and want to do it even better, then “Principles” by Ray Dalio

Both are about mindset and worldview - something I am learning now is much more important in tools and marketing hacks and knowing what to do in every situation.

I read Principles, I think it's VERY difficult to implement because you need people around you who value the same things. Is that not the case for you?

I recommend Github's "Awesome Leading & Managing" repo (https://github.com/LappleApple/awesome-leading-and-managing).

The readme includes a Google Doc summary by Joe Goldberg. It's like a greatest hits of greatest hits.

I wish more technical founders would read this: http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2009/07/principles-of-p...

The Lean Startup and Good to Great

The four steps to epiphany was a pretty great book for me.

I'd agree. However, reading it is hard, really skim parts and come back to it over time. It's also where the Lean Startup started.

Yep. It's the first book I'd recommend to a technical founder without a business background. It's an amazingly useful book, even if the formatting / etc. leave a little something to be desired.

Zero To One.

Cashvertising was interesting - it's more for marketeers but if you're writing your own copy on your landing page it has useful to checklists

80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall

the Personal MBA, it outlines all the importance points of 2000 business books.

Can't agree with this one enough! If this book existed before I started college, I'd have read this and skipped the business major!

How to take all the blame

Traction / Get A Grip

Slicing Pie


Hard thing about hard things

Zero to One http://gsl.mit.edu/media/programs/south-africa-summer-2015/m...

(Caution: It was written by gasp Peter Thiel.)


I've only read one business book, and that was it.

Kidding aside, I think it's a good one because it's a mix of analysis and history. Thiel had a unique vantage point, and he shares it well.

It also challenges you to be ambitious, which is becoming a rare sentiment.

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