Ok, that’s kind of a small deviation on this blogs editorial line, but it’s really worth it… and it’s only a small deviation: understanding the bigger picture on the startup scene, hot topics, and war stories will help you guide a better pitch.
Also, I’ll make this a live post, adding new worth reading books from time to time.
1) The Lean Startup (Eric Ries)
To me, that’s the #1 bible that every entrepreneur should read. Eric Ries gives a feet on the ground approach on how to launch a startup in a smart way. By applying lean methodology, every step is tested; every small iteration is planned and tested.
2) Venture Deals: be smarter than your lawyer and venture capitalist (Brad Feld / Jason Mendelson)
This the the ultimate guide, specially for the more hardcore stuff, including M&A minutes etc. You should go through Venture Deals and keep it close to be checked when the need shows up.
3) The hard thing about hard things: building a business when there are no easy answers (Ben Horowitz)
The war stories kind of narrative is great about this book. Ben Horowitz is really a no BS type of guy – if you haven’t already, watch his “don’t follow your passion” commencement speech at Columbia University’s Engineer Class of 2015. On this book he goes through real life situations an entrepreneur faces and what to do on those cases.
Horowitz runs one of the most respected VCs, Andreessen Horowitz, and was the magic that launched and then pivoted Opsware, a company sold to HP for $1.6 billion, after almost going burst no long before. It kinds of give you hopes, when you’re desperately going broke!
4) Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Peter Thiel / Blake Masters)
To me, Zero to One really made me rethink my business and my pitch (I told you it was only a small deviation!). Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur (cofounder of Paypal and Palantir) who became investor; he’s Managing Partner at one of the coolest VCs in the world, Founders Fund, which, in its soul, is more to an entrepreneur house than a bank.
The most interesting question I answer in my pitches I extracted (not to say copied!) from here: “what you know that no one else understands”. It takes the competition and differentials question to a whole new level!
5) Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator (Ryan Holiday)
It sounds controversial… and it is! I watched Ryan Holiday, former American Apparel Marketing Director, on The Nex Web event in Brazil and I couldn’t believe! Ryan tells stories about how he manipulated media (including the New York Times), in order to create buzz for his company. It’s the precursor, sometimes, on the “dark side of the force”, of growth hacking.
In one case, he placed an outdoor ad and then destroyed himself, pretending it was a protest from some minority right’s group. With that, he got attention to the (fake) protest, and his client position on the topic. Evil, but genius!
I like this book because it shows the mindset, drivers and processes of media outlets, from independent blogs to century old newspapers). By understanding the untold rules of the game, you learn what to do when relating to them.
6) Steve Jobs: Walter Isaacson
Yeah, Steve Jobs biography is a must read, and Walter Isaacson made the writing so enjoyable, that you’ll probably want to devour it in a week.
For pitches, it’s worth noticing the obsession about perfection (preparation) and what he did to create impact. The famous “on more thing” slide at the end is the perfect example of “Punch Line” I describe in the pitch contents article.
A disclaimer on his biography is required, though; specially for younger entrepreneurs: Steve Jobs was a genius, but he was an assh**e, at least from stories we read about him. It’s one of the worst role models someone should use in terms of leadership. Be advised.
7) The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos And The Age of Amazon (Brad Stone)
I have always been a huge fan of Amazon and Jeff Bezos’ biography told it all. The company’s history goes from bubble times to today, and it’s amazing.
To me, the most fascinating part is the fact that Amazon was born to be the giant they are today, even when they created as an online book store. They master the “start small, think big” idea. For your pitch, it’s insightful to see how he positioned Amazon in the early days.
Unfortunately, though, Bezos is a controversial dude as well, bordering the ethical limits sometimes. As a role model he sucks as well, so be advised again.
8) Innovator’s Dilemma (Clayton M. Christensen)
In case you haven’t read The Innovator’s Dilemma and you’re in a startup meetup when someone brings the book up, lie! Lie your way out, because you’ll look bad for not having read it!
Yes, the book is a bit old (1997) for startup time concept, but it tackles some of the basic structural issues and economics behind innovation.
Christensen explores a lot the microprocessor’s market, since it’s one of a few (if not the only) businesses in modern time that we can analyze full innovation cycles: disruption, growth, competition, commoditization, and new disruption.
For your pitch, it gives you an important background on how to look at your business.
9) The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care (Clayton M. Christensen)
I’m fascinated about health tech and I believe it could change our lives in the next 3 decades. So, for me, I liked the Innovator’s Prescription even more than the Innovator’s Dilemma.
Christensen not only explores the structural mess we got into with our healthcare system, but also gives his powerful insights on what kind of disruption we will have to do to keep things running. Yes, healthcare is going bust, and we will need to change everything about it.
For pitches… well, if you read The Innovators Dilemma and don’t work with health tech, there’s not much. But I recommend it anyway, as a person.
9) Competition Demystified: A Radically Simplified Approach to Business Strategy (Bruce Greenwald / Judd Kahn)
To start, I got admit: I hate Porter. His framework on strategy is not objetive nor current; it’s too complex and lacks “real life” perspective. It’s an academic paper, not a business manual.
On the complete opposite, we have Greenwald – whose classes I had the opportunity to take while attending Columbia Business School (MBA). His approach to strategy is brutally simple and straightforward. His financial mindset enables him to discard intangible BS.
For pitching, specially Q&A, I highly recommend this book. People will ask you about strategy and having read Competition Demystified will give you mental framework.
10) Startup Growth Engines: Case Studies of How Today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth (Sean Ellis / Morgan Brown)
Growth Hacking is the hottest topic in startupland, and, as such, you need to explore it. Growth hacking is a methodology/ mindset to generate growth in the 21st century. Using code (yes, marketers now should know how to code!), analytical tools, A/B testing, usability, SEO and PR, you devise a series of tactics to attract customers, maximize their values (conversion, ticket) and reduce churn.
Odds are that in the Q&A someone will ask you about your Go To Market strategy, and knowing/ applying growth hacking techniques will show that you’re in the right direction.
11) Games of Strategy (Avinash Dixit / Susan Skeath / David H. Reiley Jr.)
Negotiation is science, not an art. It’s a skill you learn and develop. With that mindset you should read this book. Games of Strategy is a dense book about game theory (yes, same thing you saw on the Russell Crowe on the movie Beautiful Mind).
Game theory will change your life when defining strategies, negotiation, or even picking up a girl/ boy in the bar (ok, the movie stretched reality a bit on this part). Understanding the kind of game you’re playing and the (untold) rules, will help you get a desired outcome; yes, lesson one: negotiations are not zero sum games (meaning that to win, someone else must loose).
It won’t help your pitch, though.
12) How to Lie with Statistics (Darrell Huff / Irving Geis)
Please don’t stop at the title. How to lie with statistics show how people (newspaper and politicians, mainly) lie to you every single day, without needing to fake numbers or facts.
This book explores how some misguided aspects of an analysis (e.g.: defining a sample in a survey) can completely change the outcome.
Why I like this book? Exactly to not make those mistakes; to make sure that when I present a conclusion, it’s solid enough.
13) Say It With Charts: The Executive’s Guide to Visual Communication (Gene Zelazny)
McKinsey dudes, wipe your tears of joy. Say it with Charts is a manual on how to present information in order to guarantee maximum understanding.
It brings no brainer stuff like “if you want to show an evolution, use a line chart”, and other not that obvious, such as the issues with using 3D graphs,
It’s worth browsing and keeping it on your shelf… correction, on your Kindle.
To be continued…