Get inspired by these startup founders' picks and add some of these titles to your reading list for next year

Keeping oneself motivated and constantly updated with new trends, thy name is entrepreneurship. And if there is one habit that helps startup founders stay inspired is reading.

An avid reader myself, I scanned the bookshelves of many founders for a peek into what they were reading in 2019 that helped them stay on track.

Everybody’s Business by Jon Miller and Lucy Parker

Maxim Chernuschenko, CEO and co-founder of Cashwagon

This book, though it’s marketed as “how big businesses can fix the world”, is truly insightful especially with so much resonance with both my personal life and business. Especially in a work setting and the changing business landscape, I use it often to check myself when making decisions. The key takeaways the authors brought to light was of making a positive impact, something we often overlook and forget.

With Cashwagon, this is one of our founding philosophies and holds true till today– providing an alternative financing option and serving the needs of the underbanked in SEA instead of focusing on our own interest. Following the journey of mega corporations out there, we hope to continue harnessing technology and innovation to make a positive impact on society.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Benjamin Wong, Co-founder and CEO of Transwap

It is a must-read for first-time entrepreneurs and a revision for serial entrepreneurs. The Lean Startup reminds us to create a vision and take a leap towards it. It also shows the approach of building a product, testing your proposition in the market to see if the idea has been validated and adapting to consumers’ feedback – in all, how to steer your startup in the right direction and accelerate to grow.

Play Bigger: How Rebels and Innovators Create New Categories and Dominate Markets by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead and Kevin Maney

David Wong, CEO, Booqed

Product-market fit is a common concept in the startup world. In fact, the inability to find a product-market fit is identified as a major reason why startups fail. However, this book suggests that creating a great product isn’t enough, arguing that companies must create whole new “categories” that destroy old ones.

For example, Uber created a new category, personal transportation – disrupting the taxi industry in the process. Airbnb’s category is community-based hospitality, which is disrupting the traditional hotel industry.

As a startup founder, the idea that creating a great company also means designing and building a legendary category is both highly thought-provoking and challenging. This book shows entrepreneurs how to define, develop and dominate a category over time.

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni

Lukasz Orlowski, Co-founder, and CTO, Archanan

It changed my way of thinking about building effective teams and working with people.

The book is split into two parts. The first one is a leadership fable that sets a context in a manner relatable to every entrepreneur and/or a business owner.

The second one outlines a framework based on four principles showcased in part one. I managed to effectively incorporate those principles into Archanan’s existing culture and management style, which (measurably) increased the efficiency of my team by 20-25 per cent!

I communicate with the team and I understand the team much better ever since I started applying what I learned in the book.

Dare to Lead by Brenè Brown

Anastasia Volkova, CEO and Founder, FluroSat

This book offers practical tips to help leaders empower their teams by leaning in and inviting the real conversation in times of change and challenge. Must-read for a modern-day leader.

Burn the Business Plan: What Great Entrepreneurs Really Do by Carl J Schramm

Nickolas Rekeda, CMO, MGID

A practical look at creating a startup based on real-life cases and data, this book really resonated with me because I launched a startup myself, and experienced many of the common mistakes that entrepreneurs make in the early days of their business – such as trying to save money by not hiring professionals. It changed the way I think by making me realise that as entrepreneurs and business people, we all go through the same mistakes, and can only grow by learning from them.

It was truly open and honest, it was a celebration of supposed errors and a nod to all the business people who have succeeded through their toughest entrepreneurial times.

MGID also began as a startup, and it reminded me that we have deliberately retained some entrepreneurial qualities at the heart of our business, even after eleven years in the market – openness to new challenges, readiness to risk and experiment, and team management. These qualities are also essential to businesses operating in the technology sector; with our industry rapidly changing all the time, we must be agile and adaptable.

Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Vladyslav Yatsenko, Cofounder, Revolut

I’d say it helped me to structure a bit more and confirmed, not changed, the way I think. It’s great because it’s true, it’s about real life, not like some targeted academic research (what is called “scientism” in the book).”

Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It and Why the Rest Don’t from Verne Harnish

Gibran Huzaifah, CEO, eFishery

I think what makes it great is how it is really applicable the concept for high-growth business, especially with the tools that they prepare. The book also provided me with the right mindset of scaling the ventures and leadership, on how to cascade a strategy to actionable items that we can follow up.

It also hits some important points that are not commonly discussed in most tech startup books such as cash flow and profitability. So it helps to remind that we’re here not just to build a fast-growing startups, but also a sustainable and long-term business.

If you haven’t started your 2020 reading list yet, these are some great titles to pick from. Happy reading into the new year!