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SF AppWorksMay 9, 2023 1:35:18 AM21 min read

24+ Best Books for Entrepreneurs to Rev-up Their Startup Success

Explore our hand-picked selection of 24+ top business books for startups in 2023.


Entrepreneurs are a unique group of people who possess diverse skills, strengths, and backgrounds, but share a common trait: an unwavering determination to turn their dreams into reality. When facing challenges and uncertainty, they make up for a lack of experience with an insatiable curiosity to learn. It's why Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, and Jack Ma all talk about the important of a daily reading habit. This thirst for knowledge unlocks a wealth of wisdom that entrepreneurs can leverage to achieve their goals.

To succeed as a startup entrepreneur, you must constantly fill your mind with insights and lessons learned. To aid in this pursuit, we have compiled a list of brilliant authors whose business startup books can guide you on your journey to success. With this knowledge and a commitment to hard work, you can achieve your entrepreneurial aspirations.


Check out this infographic highlighting the best business startup books, split by category:

Best startup books for entrepreneurs by category - infographic

Best Books to Help Startup Entrepreneurs Validate Their Idea


best business books for startup entrepreneurs


It’s usually not the ideas that entrepreneurs fall short on. Every idea, as great as it might seem, needs some form of validation before launching it onto the market. You need to keep your  radar on for helpful insights to support this final push. Check out these best startup books for entrepreneurs looking to validate their idea.


1. Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin

lost and founder, one of the best books for entrepreneurs

This is one of the must-read business startup books. Written by experienced entrepreneur and startup advisor, Rand Fishkin, the book offers a refreshing and candid account of the ups and downs of building a successful business.


Fishkin's witty and informal writing style is both entertaining and informative, as he shares his personal experiences and lessons learned from his time at Moz. 


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2. The Startup Playbook by David Kidder

the startup playbook

Written by acclaimed New York Times bestselling author and Clickable CEO, David Kidder, this book offers an inside look at the experiences of influential entrepreneurs and CEOs. Through insightful face-to-face interviews with 40 founders, including the minds behind PayPal, LinkedIn, AOL, TED, Flickr, and more, Kidder delivers a wealth of knowledge and firsthand experiences.


Here are some valuable tips extracted from The Startup Playbook:

  • Explore Others' Passions: Instead of solely focusing on your own passions, seek out what makes others happy and enthusiastic. Consider starting a business around those interests.
  • Identify Market Inefficiencies: Look for excess capacities or inefficiencies in the market. These can present valuable opportunities for your business.
  • Hire Based on Judgment: Recruit individuals whose judgment you deeply respect. When you establish a foundation of respect for their skills, it becomes easier to provide constructive feedback.
  • Reverse Engineering Success: Begin with a clear vision of the future state you want to achieve, then work backward to determine the steps needed to reach that goal.
  • Experiment with Tactics: Embrace a mindset of trying multiple tactics, as innovation often stems from testing and iterating various approaches.
  • Redefine Failure: Rather than viewing failure as a negative outcome, define it as a failure to even try. Embrace risk-taking and learn from setbacks as stepping stones toward success.


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3. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

the mom test business book

The Mom Test teaches you how to have productive conversations with potential customers to validate whether your business is genuinely a good idea.


The key takeaways drawn from The Mom Test:

  • Don’t shy away from asking more questions until you have exact facts and data
  • Focus on collecting facts and pain points instead of just listening to opinions
  • Deflect compliments and vanity metrics and learn how to listen in order to learn something useful
  • Instead of talking about your business idea, focus on the product idea itself, with specific examples from the past (not projections about the future)


Rob Fitzpatrick’s approach can help everyone who builds products, talks to customers, or is planning to sell any ideas or products they came up with or built. Don’t forget to consult these insights every now and then.




4. Sprint by Jake Knapp

sprint business book

Adored by process geeks and design-thinking adepts, this book arms the team doing a design sprint with a guide on how to pass around prototypes for review by the weekend.

Jake Knapp’ Sprint highlights the one-week sprint, a process that was used by Google Ventures. An intense five-day process can help solve tough problems and validate ideas using design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.


Entrepreneurs of every stripe can draw useful lessons from the sprint-stories in the book. The best lesson for product marketing people is learning how to speed up projects – from ideation to delivery. 



Related: Designing for Startups: Expert UX Solutions for Startups

Can Rapid Prototyping Help Startup Entrepreneurs Validate Their Idea?


Watch this stop motion lego dramatization of a company that invests months, heck years into the development process without employing Rapid Prototyping to first research and determine the strengths and weaknesses of different platforms.









Best Startup Books for Consolidating The Entrepreneurial Mindset


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Running a business is challenging. It requires faith, tenacity, and, above all, hard work. According to a Fundera survey, 70% of small business owners report working more than 40 hours per week, with 19% working more than 60 hours per week


Curious what separates effective entrepreneurs from the rest of the pack? Clue: it might have to do with them having an entrepreneurial mindset.


5. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

business book sinek (1)

No doubt one of the best books on leadership, Start With Why discusses leading with the purpose. The highlight of the book is: Why you do what you do. Sharing this Why can help leaders get team members completely on board and engaged.


Sinek’s message pleads for the need of inspiring trustworthy leaders, rather than manipulative and authoritarian leaders. Trust and loyalty are not built on fear, he states.


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”

    – Simon Sinek




6. Mindset by Carol Dweck

mindset business book

According to Carol Dweck, a psychologist from Stanford University, in her book Mindset, success is not solely determined by one's abilities or talent, but also by their approach to achieving their goals. Dweck contends that individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to prosper compared to those with a fixed mindset.


One of the best books for entrepreneurs, Mindset highlights Dweck's unique blend of psychology, technology, and business. It provides valuable insights that can help reinforce an entrepreneur's mindset and enhance their ability to interact with others in the business world.




7. The Art of Learning by Joshua Waitzkin

business book art of learning (1)

Waitzkin’s book is mostly an autobiography, but based on these initial stories, a beautiful understanding of learning unfolds: the “entity” and “incremental” approaches to learning. Entity theorists believe things are innate–one can play chess or do karate or be an economist because he or she was born to do so.  Therefore, failure is deeply personal. On the other hand, “incremental theorists” view losses as opportunities, as challenges can help them master something over time.


Key takeaways:

  • Always simplify concepts: use limiting drills to understand key concepts more deeply
  • Use a layered approach in the process of skill acquisition, and turning the learned into the automatic
  • The concept of "making smaller circles"
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of coaches and environment




Related: Learning Faster with Technology


Get A Free Copy of The 'Just Start (Up) eBook

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Best Books for Startups in the Growth Phase (2023)


Most startup founders struggle to move from their vision or creating a prototype to actually building it into a scalable business. These business books for entrepreneurs can help you embark on your startup journey.


8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

thinking Fast business book

Curious about  the various biases and heuristics that lead to errors of judgments and poor decision-making? This book is for you! It discusses how two systems in your brain – one conscious and the other automatic –  are constantly fighting over control of your behavior.


Kahneman gives a few pointers to follow:

  • Our brain is lazier than one may think, that’s why it keeps us from attaining the full potential of our intelligence
  • We should leave our emotions at home whenever we have  to make decisions about money



9. High Growth Handbook: Scaling Startups From 10 to 10,000 People by Elad Gil

high growth business book

Throughout this book, Elad Gil looks closely into tactical advice on main issues for post product-market fit companies such as the role of the CEO, hiring executives, late stage fundraising, M&A.


Startup entrepreneurs will likely appreciate this guide that will help them shift from product focus to distribution focus, once their startup starts growing exponentially.




10. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

ZERo to one business book

A truly thought-provoking business book for startups, Zero to One discusses, among other topics, the idea of a "creative monopoly." Thiel thinks that true competition is counterproductive to society, and that consumers are best served by creative monopolies that offer truly innovative products and services.


“Every new creation takes place far from equilibrium. In the real world outside economic theory, every business is successful exactly to the extent that it does something others cannot. Monopoly is therefore not a pathology or an exception. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.

— Peter Thiel


Key Takeaways:

  • Great Leadership: A great founder has the ability to bring out the best work from everyone in their company.

  • Unique Evaluation Criteria: The book introduces a unique evaluation framework for startups, considering factors like monopoly, creativity, passion, sales, innovation (rather than just iteration), and founder characteristics.

  • Choose Battles Wisely: Winning is important, but not every battle is worth fighting. Thiel emphasizes the importance of strategic decision-making and understanding when it's best to opt out.

  • Pursue Greatness: Thiel emphasizes that a good startup should have the potential for greatness, pushing readers to strive for ambitious goals and pursue disruptive innovation.



Related: Best Podcasts for Startup Entrepreneurs


Best Branding Books for Startup Entrepreneurs

_open book, as a concept of best startup books for entrepreneurs


These books cover simple steps that any entrepreneur can put into place to improve their branding and get their business off the ground. 


11. Change by Design by Tim Brown

change by design business book

IDEO’s leader, Tim Brown, argues that a true innovator has the ability and the humility to look at a problem from various distances and from various angles and perspectives. Change By Design discusses the idea of design thinking‚ a human−centered approach to problem solving that helps team members and companies become more innovative.




Related:  What I Learned About Designing Responsible AI Frameworks from Headspace Health's Chief Product And Design Officer, Leslie Witt


12. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

purple cow book for startup entrepreneurs

Seth Godin states that if you want to stand out from the crowd you need to grab your audience's attention. He uses the metaphor of a purple cow.


 Here are the most interesting insights on how to make your business remarkable:

  • Make an awesome product. Godin argues that your product should be more remarkable than your marketing
  • Get people to like your remarkable product. To achieve that, you can start by finding ‘Sneezers’, the key spreading agents (like sneezes spread influenza). Once you find the appropriate influencers , they will tell their friends, colleagues and fans all about your remarkable product
  • Focus on your niche market, don’t try and appeal to the masses, because otherwise the odds to succeed decrease dramatically




Related: What is Design Thinking


See Your Innovation Efforts in Numbers.  Our Resource For Startup Entrepreneurs & Small Business Owners  

How to measure innovation - entrepreneurial e-book




Best Business Startup Strategy Books

If you find yourself overwhelmed or are just curious about what other founders have been through, this list of best entrepreneurial books is a great resource.


13. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

the hard thing about hard things business book

While most business startup books claim to have found the secret sauce of how to do things correctly, Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz, acknowledges upfront the perfect business doesn’t exist and however much planning you make, screw-ups will inevitably happen.


“There’s no recipe for building a high-tech company; there’s no recipe for leading a group of people out of trouble; there’s no recipe for making a series of hit songs; there’s no recipe for playing NFL quarterback; there’s no recipe for running for president; and there’s no recipe for motivating teams when your business has turned to crap. That’s the hard thing about hard things—there is no formula for dealing with them.”

— Ben Horowitz




14. Rework by Jason Fried

rework book for startup entrepreneurs

One of the best books for entrepreneurs, Rework debunks some of the myths of old business rules. You won’t find business plans or tactics to attract investors. Instead, the book discusses issues of productivity and ways to gain exposure from a minimalist perspective.


Here are some notes and highlights:

  • Long-term business planning is guessing / random projections
  • Think of the product you offer as something you genuinely would want to use
  • No time is no excuse. "When you want something badly enough, you make the timeregardless of your other obligations."  
  • A strong stand is how you attract superfans. In other words, always take care of the content you provide to your audience. According to Fried, entrepreneurs should focus on pleasing their core audience and disregard the others
  • Forget the exit strategy—you need a commitment strategy. The main point here is you manage to make your company as good as it can be, you will have an exit strategy
  • Break your estimates into smaller chunks. For instance, break down a one 12-week project into 12 one-week projects

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Related: 5 Steps for Startup Founders to Embrace Empathy, Create a User-Centric Business, and Grow

15. Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive by Dorie Clark

entrepreneurial you for startup entrepreneurs

Dorie Clark brings us a series of techniques on how to build your own business and create multiple income streams in today’s economy. 


Key Takeaways:

  • A number of options for entrepreneurs to leverage their unique skill set and combine it with what they really enjoy doing
  • Success stories and lessons learned from people who started small
  • Tools and tactics from the online arena that can help your business grow



Related: How To Monetize Your App (Or Business)


16. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

the slight edge for startup entrepreneurs

This is one of the best business startup books, packed full of actionable tips of making small decisions that accumulate over time into a significant difference.


One of the most fascinating ideas is that because the universe is in constant change, one cannot stand still. The only options are you are either progressing, or declining—hovering in the middle has never been an option.


Olson uses the metaphor of slight edge, which is about that slight amount of effort that sets you apart.


“Keep doing what is good for you, day in, day out, even when you don’t see any difference, because it will eventually come in the end, and when it does, it will be significant.”

— Jeff Olson


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17. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

e-myth revisited for startup entrepreneurs

Michael E. Gerber is a small business consultant who explores how common assumptions can get in the way of running a successful business. The book covers the steps in the life of a business and outlines the distinction between working on your business and working in your business.


"The Entrepreneur is our creative personality—always at its best dealing with the unknown, prodding the future, creating probabilities out of possibilities, engineering chaos into harmony."

— Michael E. Gerber


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Related: How To Spot Opportunities and Act Upon Them


Best Success Story Business Books

Ready to feel more prepared for your business? Check out these success stories of been-there, done-that founders who share their tips and trials. 


18. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

the effective executive for startup entrepreneurs

Peter Drucker outlines a series of techniques on navigating relationships and influencing the people around you, without offending them. The Effective Executive was published in 1967, but we can say nothing in this book is outdated. 


The key factors you need to know to become an effective executive: 

  • Time management, meaning eliminating time consuming tasks. If the company’s productivity is not impacted by removing a specific activity, then the entrepreneur should eliminate this task
  • Contribution. Executives should have a willingness to build and develop people for the future
  • Identifying your strengths. Executives should make use of all available strengths, including the strengths of their associates and superiors 
  • Task prioritization. This is correlated with the time management factor,  as there will always be more productive tasks for tomorrow than time to do them. Learning how to prioritize tasks so you can complete those that have the greatest impact is crucial for everyone aiming to become an effective executive
  • Decision making. Entrepreneurs should listen to opinions backed by factual findings and consider them if a level of evidence can be obtained

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

— Peter Drucker




19. Beating the Odds by Eddie Brown

beating teh odds for startup entrepreneurs

Brown proves to be not just a financial expert, but a great storyteller as well, and his stories are both uplifting and inspiring. The way he blends his tales with advice for entrepreneurs, investors, and business enthusiasts will keep you hooked and wanting to read more and more.


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20. In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman

in-n-out burger for startup entrepreneurs

For those who’ve got dreams of turning their small business into a big business, this story provides a few insider tips.


Stacy Perman's book, In-N-Out Burger, provides an unauthorized and intriguing account of the popular California-based fast-food chain that defies conventions. The book offers readers a unique perspective on the family behind the company and its loyal fan base, which some compare to that of the Grateful Dead. In-N-Out Burger has garnered significant attention since its publication, earning a spot on Fast Company magazine's list of Best Business Books of 2009.


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21. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

shoe dog for startup entrepreneurs

ShoeDog is a thought-provoking book for everyone having or thinking of having a business. Throughout the book, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight walks us through the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most powerful brands.


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Related: 24 Remarkable Small Business Websites


Best Startup Books to Help Entrepreneurs Negotiate like Pros

Experienced entrepreneurs learned the hard way how to negotiate like pros. These business books for startup entrepreneurs can help you get to ‘yes’ in any personal or business negotiation


22. Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

never split the difference for startup entrepreneurs

Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, suggests that negotiation involves effectively dealing with and getting what you want from others. His book covers a range of negotiation tactics, including some particularly insightful ones:

  • Employ active listening techniques, such as mirroring and tone changes, to gather information
  • Build a connection with your counterpart by summarizing their perspective
  • Asking the right questions is crucial; adjust them to persuade your counterpart to raise their offer

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23. Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton

getting to yes for startup entrepreneurs

This is one the best books for startup entrepreneurs looking to understand the psychology behind negotiation. The authors explicate four key principles of negotiation, emphasizing the utility of principled negotiation as a highly effective approach for resolving a diverse array of disputes.


Through its insightful analysis of the principles of negotiation, Getting to Yes offers a valuable resource for individuals seeking to enhance their negotiation skills and attain greater success in the entrepreneurial sphere.


The four principles of negotiation, according to Fisher and Ury:

  • Separate the people from the problem
  • Focus on interests rather than positions
  • Consider generating a series of options before settling on an agreement
  • Take in discussion the importance of objective criteria

Some key negotiating tactics every entrepreneur should know about:

  • Understand empathetically their counterpart’s point of view
  • Simplicity is key. Clearly explain your interests and reasoning before presenting your proposal 
  • Aim for mutual gain
  • Negotiating can be a way to strengthen the relationship, not to strain it

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24. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

influence for startup entrepreneurs

Robert Cialdini is a renowned professor of psychology at Arizona State University. He walks us through a detailed analysis of the six “weapons of influence” (reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity) that shape human behavior. These influential factors are responsible for shaping human behavior and can serve as a catalyst for personal development and success. By adopting these principles, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the psychological mechanisms that underlie the persuasiveness of these techniques, leading to more effective communication and increased influence.




Other Great Books for Startups to Ignite Their Success in 2023


These business books serve as invaluable resources, helping you navigate the startup landscape with wisdom and foresight. They offer a wealth of knowledge, inspiring anecdotes, and practical advice from those who have triumphed over adversity:

  • "The Startup Owner's Manual" by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf: As a hands-on guide, this book walks you through the step-by-step process of building a successful startup. From customer development to agile methodologies, it covers all aspects of launching and scaling a business.
  • "Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World" by Adam Grant: Grant explores the fascinating world of original thinkers and entrepreneurs who challenge the status quo. Through captivating stories and psychological research, he reveals how to recognize and nurture groundbreaking ideas.
  • "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen: The book explores why successful companies fail to innovate, paving the way for disruptors. Christensen's insights on disruptive technologies and how to leverage them are indispensable for startups aiming to create a lasting impact.
  • "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products" by Nir Eyal: In today's digital age, building products that captivate users is crucial. Eyal offers a four-step process known as the Hook Model to create habit-forming experiences, driving user engagement and retention.
  • "The Founder's Dilemmas" by Noam Wasserman: Founding a startup comes with its fair share of dilemmas and tough decisions. Wasserman provides valuable insights into the common challenges entrepreneurs face, such as co-founder dynamics, equity splits, and the trade-offs of different financing options.


Here's a table highlighting key takeaways from the mentioned business startup books:


Book Title Main Takeaways Actionable Insights
"The Startup Owner's Manual"

- Customer development is key to building a successful startup

- Embrace agile methodologies

- Scaling requires systematic processes

- Engage with customers early and often

- Iterate and adapt based on customer feedback

- Implement scalable processes for growth

"Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World"

- Embrace and nurture original thinking

- Challenge the status quo

- Encourage diverse perspectives

- Create an environment that fosters creativity

- Encourage dissent and diverse opinions

- Pursue unconventional solutions to problems

"The Innovator's Dilemma"

- Successful companies can be disrupted by new technologies and market shifts

- Established companies should focus on disruptive innovations

- Stay vigilant of emerging technologies and market trends

- Invest in disruptive innovations to stay ahead

- Continuously adapt and evolve your business model

"Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products"

- Understand the psychology of user behavior and habits

- Create products that drive engagement and retention

- Identify users' triggers and design products that address their needs

- Use feedback loops to reinforce user behavior

- Continuously iterate and improve the user experience

"The Founder's Dilemmas"

- Co-founder dynamics can impact the success of a startup

- Equity splits and decision-making processes require careful consideration

- Clearly define roles and responsibilities among co-founders

- Discuss and align on equity splits and decision-making early on

- Understand the trade-offs of different financing options



Frequently Asked Questions


What is the best book for a new entrepreneur in 2023?

As first-time founders are always searching for an informative and relevant read,  Thiel's Zero to One is a good place to start. The actionable tips from this business startup book have all the assets to inspire new entrepreneurs to create meaningful things out of their ideas.


How can business startup books help entrepreneurship development?

Business books provide helpful insights to reinvigorate both long-time business owners, and to inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs. Business owners turn to these startup books for inspiration–these success stories can help entrepreneurs relate with people in a meaningful way, validate their ideas, and consolidate their business. 


Why should you read business books?

They can give you a real-life understanding of what it's like to be an entrepreneur, and help guide you through the ups and downs that every business faces.




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The Bottom Line on Best Business Startup Books


The winds of change are blowing, and it's time for some fresh air. You need to hear from the been-there-done-that founders who have incredible insights to share. So why not pick up one or two of these entrepreneurial books and give them a read? You'll get sharp advice and a robust plan to train your brain to perform deep work better and add value to your professional and entrepreneurial pursuits.


Don't get sidetracked by other people's antics while configuring your business strategy. You have goals that require your full attention, and tuning into the learning mode will prove to be a fulfilling activity. Once you've nailed the vision, it's time to start co-creating!




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