Reading lists are dime a dozen, but reading lists that focus on rapid-growth startup businesses? Not so much.
Below, you will find a list of books recommended by serial entrepreneur David S. Rose. If you’re planning to start and build a scalable, high-growth business, get ready to fill your bookshelves.
Alongside each description, you’ll also find a few words from David. If you know of an indispensable resource and don’t see it on the list, let us know in the comments below! Be sure to read right to the bottom so you get the “bonus read”!
By Michael E. Gerber
There are many assumptions that can get in the way of starting and running a business. In this book, Michael Gerber walks you through the entire process, dispelling the myths as he goes.
It’s the ultimate startup guide if you’re looking for systematic business growth and guidance on what not to do.
Why David Rose recommends it: “It lays out in explicitly stark terms the difference between ‘small business ownership’ and ‘entrepreneurship.’ After you finish this, you should have a pretty good feel for whether you have what it takes to create a high-growth business.”
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
By Eric Ries
This book will teach you how to test your vision continuously, and adapt and adjust your plans so that you don’t become part of the business failure statistics.
It won’t tell you to write a long, complicated business plan, but rather, will introduce you to a methodology and practice that startups with high-growth goals all over the world are adopting. Simply put, it allows a company to make rapid, incremental changes to ensure goals get met.
Why David Rose recommends it: “Its premise is simple and stark: Build-Measure-Learn, and then keep repeating. This is the planning methodology of choice for startups worldwide.”
By Tim Berry
Tim Berry is the expert on business planning. In this book, you’ll get step-by-step advice on how to align strategy, tactics, milestones, and assumptions, without having to worry about creating a business plan document.
The essence of this new practice is short and sweet. Once you’ve outlined your plan in bullet points, lists, and tables, you can schedule times to review and revise on a monthly basis.
This book demonstrates how what really matters is the planning process, and not a plan you use once and never again.
Why David Rose recommends it: “While you weren’t looking, the old school business plan was superseded by something that is critically important, intended for you instead of other people, developed by you instead of other people, and constantly reviewed and updated.”
By Steve Blank and Bob Dorf
This book is not for the faint of heart—it’s a 608-page tome—but it’s an essential read for any aspiring entrepreneur (especially any rapid, growth-oriented entrepreneur) as it provides detailed guidance on how to build a profitable and scalable startup.
“The Startup Owner’s Manual” also includes 77 checklists that will guide you toward profitability. You’ll learn more about what destroys startups, how to use the Customer Development method to succeed, how to use the Business Model Canvas, how to identify and keep your customers, and how to drive profits.
Why David Rose recommends it: “This guide takes the lean theories and shows you how to put them into practice.”
By Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
When it comes to tried-and-tested, there isn’t a better book to turn to. The Business Model Generation was co-created by 470 Business Model Canvas practitioners from 45 countries.
It will explain common business model patterns and help you figure out how to adapt them to fit your own organization’s needs.
If you love getting your hands dirty, this book is for you as not only will you learn to understand these different models, but also, how to design and implement your own game-changing model.
Why David Rose recommends it: “This book is where it all started, and uses a deceptively simple graphic visualization of all parts of a business to help you figure out the whys and hows of your business proposition.”
By Cindy Alvarez
Before you develop and build a product, you have to know your customers, and you have to address their pain points. After all, you don’t want to build something no one wants.
In “Lean Customer Development,” you’ll learn how to validate your ideas through customer development research so that you don’t have to waste time or money figuring it out when it’s already too late.
Why David Rose recommends it: “A great book to help you rapidly get sales and traction during your Lean Development process.”
By Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares
Starting a high-growth startup is anything but easy, and being able to build a product is not enough to help you get traction. The best companies know that the real key to success is how consistently you can grow and acquire new customers—in other words, get traction. If you have traction, things like hiring, raising funds, getting media attention, and getting acquired become a lot easier.
“Traction” will teach you how to build a customer base and how to pick the right customer base for your business. It’s packed full of interviews from successful founders and ultimately, will give you that platform from which you can grow.
Why David Rose recommends it: “As with ‘Lean Customer Development,’ this is a great book to help you rapidly get sales and traction during your Lean Development process.”
By John Mullins
If you want to start a business but don’t want to go down the route of pitching venture capitalists or angels, guess what? You don’t have to. Microsoft didn’t, Dell didn’t, Banana Republic didn’t.
To turn their companies into the iconic brands we know today, they focused on their customers. In “The Customer-Funded Business,” you’ll learn more about the five models that can take you from cash-starved to cash-comfortable, and all without the help of investors!
These models include matchmaker models, pay-in-advance models, subscription models, scarcity models, and service-to-product models.
Why David Rose recommends it: “This should be mandatory reading for every startup convinced that the only path to success runs through angel or venture capital.”
The Definitive Guide to Raising Money from Angels
By Bill Payne (a free PDF ebook)
Funding a startup venture is difficult, no matter what way you look at it. There’s a lot of advice online on how to get a venture capitalist to fund you, but much less on what it takes to get an angel investor to do as much.
In “The Definitive Guide to Raising Money from Angels,” Bill Payne shares his insights on what it takes to get angels to invest in your business. The great thing about this 91-page ebook? It’s entirely free!
Why David Rose recommends it: “This is the basic primer on startup fundraising.”
By David Rose
Would this list truly be complete without one of David’s own books? In “Angel Investing,” you’ll learn how to become a successful angel investor and have fun doing it.
If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s equally useful as it will give you insight into how angel investors think. Who knows, perhaps once you’ve cashed in on your successful high-growth business, you’ll be interested in doing a bit of investing of your own. If you decide to go down that route, this is the definitive guide.
By Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson have spent over 20 years in the venture capital sector. More than anyone they know how these deals work, what it takes to get venture capital, and the ins and outs of figuring out how to manage venture capital when you do get it.
By the end of this book, you’ll know how to read a term sheet, how venture capital deals are structured, and how to get a fair deal.
Why David Rose recommends it: “If you’re in the rarified group that can indeed attract a venture capitalist before you have your first meeting you should read ‘Venture Deals,’ which will let you know what to look for—and why.”
By David Kidder
There’s no better way to learn than by example. In “The Startup Playbook,” David Kidder interviews some of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs to find out what their secrets to success were.
You’ll learn about finding funding, choosing the right ideas, and overcoming inevitable obstacles, just to name a few of the topics covered.
From PayPal’s secrets to insight from businesses like LinkedIn, TED, and Flickr, there’s sure to be something in here that resonates with you.
By Bo Peabody
At 27, Bo Peabody had co-founded five companies, helped them thrive in bad economic times, and was a multimillionaire. Throughout his adventure, people asked him, “Are you lucky, or you are you smart?”
In “Lucky or Smart,” Bo Peabody opens up about his success and reveals that really, he was just smart enough to know when he was getting lucky.
This is Bo Peabody’s story; it will take you through his own experiences and learnings so that you can learn for yourself how to take advantage of every opportunity, and how to put yourself in a position to get lucky.
Why David Rose recommends it: “Bo’s lessons are simple, wise, and an easy read.”
Edited by Chris LoPresti
In “Insights,” world-class innovators and leaders share their experience on what it takes to start and run a successful company.
This book will help you avoid common pitfalls and, as the name suggests, give you insight into other companies learnings. It’s as suited to those currently running a company as it is to those keen to get started.
Edited by Dave Berkus
If you were looking for the ultimate resource on what it means to be an entrepreneur, look no further. This book will explain why you can do it and help you figure out how to become not just an entrepreneur, but a power entrepreneur.
If you’ve always been intrigued by nature-nurture discussions, you’ll likely also be interested in learning more about how much of entrepreneurialism is gene-related versus learned. This book is for entrepreneurs at every stage of the startup journey.
As an obsessive fiction reader, I had to ask David if he had any fiction recommendations. I was almost surprised to hear that not only did he have one, but that he’d put it on the recommended reading list of a course he taught at Singularity University.
“Slow Tuesday Night” by R.A. Lafferty might not be a novel of epic proportions, but it’s a short story, published in 1965, that eerily predicted the times we’re living in today. David says, “It’s a fascinating story about the exponential pace of technology.”
If you want to know more about the way things are headed, read this story. Neil Gaiman was kind enough to post a link to the original short story (which is now archived) on the Wayback Machine. You should be able to read the entire story in about 13 minutes!