Required Reading: The Venture Essentials

May 11, 2021

Ten thousand hours or four hundred sixteen and two-thirds days seems like a long time. It is. Much has been said about the 10,000-hour rule in developing mastery over anything. As a founder or small business owner, learning and developing mastery must be an essential part of your journey. No shortcuts exist toward developing the competence needed to run a great business. Over the past thirteen years of helping thousands of founders and small business owners, I’ve developed some strong opinions about which books should be an essential part of your venture toolkit.

Here they are:

  1. Running Lean by Ash Maurya. This is the best book available for understanding the lean startup methodology. Ash is an experienced entrepreneur and software engineer. This book is essential if you want to be sure you have a validated business model for your new venture, new product, or new service. The teachings in Running Lean can apply to any business of any size in any sector. We’ve applied these processes with the largest companies in the world and with concept-stage side hustles equally well. For those who think “reading” means watching a YouTube video, here’s a snapshot of what you’ll find in the Lean Canvas video on the Startup Junkie YouTube Channel.

  2. Talking to Humans by Giff Constable. Running Lean and Talking to Humans “go together like peas and carrots” or peanut butter and chocolate if you aren’t a Gumpian scholar. Whereas Ash Maurya provides the framework for how the lean canvas can help validate or invalidate your assumptions about your business model, Talking to Humans gives easy-to-understand guidance about creating really good questions for customer discovery that avoid confirmation bias. And there’s a good bit of Far Side like humor (means pictures) for those of us with gnat-like attention spans. But if 75 pages of 20 font text triple-spaced with pictures on every page seems like a tome to you, here’s a 5-minute Customer Discovery video on the Startup Junkie YouTube Channel that will give you the high points.

  3. Venture Deals, 4th Edition by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. The venture world has developed a ton of deal jargon over the last 75 years. If you want to understand it and the venture capital firms and your lawyer, this book is the decoder ring. The book is dense in detail, but the authors make it relatable for most founders and early-stage investors. Give this a thorough read if you ever intend to raise outside capital. Here’s another primer on Early-stage Capital from the Startup Junkie YouTube Channel. If you want to go deeper on the subject and are an accredited investor, consider joining the Ark Angel Alliance.

  4. Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross. Every business lives or dies by sales. Aaron Ross provides a fantastic framework that details how to acquire customers using all the modern digital tools efficiently. This is a must-read book. Most of the successful venture-backed companies have adopted some form of Aaron Ross’s approach. Aaron and his partner also run a consultancy using this framework by the same name – Predictable Revenue.

  5. Youtility by Jay Baer. Predictable Revenue gives you a sales process framework. In Youtility, Jay Baer offers a compelling philosophical approach to customers that starts with a mindset of “helping” before “selling.” This is the best of “pay it forward,” with supporting evidence showing why a bigger ROI is possible with this approach.

  6. Give and Take by Adam Grant. Adam has a big brain, and he has written some of the best stuff I’ve read. He was the youngest tenured professor at Wharton. This book will help founders define a culture that will attract the best talent. Startups and small businesses with the strongest cultures deliver the best results. His fundamental premise is that people tend to gravitate toward three ways of interacting with others – 1) takers – who seek to optimize their position at the expense of others, 2) matchers – who look for reciprocity, and 3) givers – who work to help others without any expectation of a benefit for themselves. The interesting part of the book is that he shows both anecdotal and empirical evidence that indicates “givers” deliver the best results.

These are books that have impacted the team and me over the past thirteen years at Startup Junkie. Check them out. If you want to understand more about the Startup Junkie journey how we’ve helped build a venture scene in an unexpected place, check out our bookCreating Startup Junkies: Building Sustainable Venture Ecosystems in Unexpected Places.