Must-Read Books for Startup Founders and Leaders

Founders are too busy running the business, dousing the fires, hunting for investors, chasing customers, building products, hiring new teams, managing cash, and being good family members. During any given day, the founders get a ton of free advice from a range of sources. As they wade through this overload of information, some more falls in their lap. The last thing most of the founders would like to do is to read books. 

Our experience has been different. In our conversation with most founders, they did mention that books are their greatest source of knowledge. It helps them streamline the information they’re getting and create behaviors of their own that suits the organization. After all, startups grow faster on how much and how fast they learn and unlearn. 

There are too many books and there’s just too much to read. Where do we start? Here’s a curated source of books to help you get started. If you find any interesting book that would help your peers, share the details with us and we will update the list. You will see that we will not give any commentary on the books as each book speaks different language to its reader. 

NOTE: We are neither endorsing these books nor do we get any commission from the book publishers. The images and credits belong to the respective owners. We have used the images to ensure that the readers pick the right book.

Atomic Habits

Author: James Clear

Category: Self-Help

Our View: Goals do not differentiate winners and losers. The process does. This book talks about building a system of small improvements to make tiny changes to help achieve remarkable results.

Books for Founders Building a Brand Story

Building a Brand Story

Author: Donald Miller 

Category: Marketing and Branding

Our View: This book enables you build a clear and distinct message for your business such that your employees and customers connect with the story at an emotional level.  

Books for Founders Measure What Matters

Measure What Matters

Author: John Doerr

Category: Management

Our View: In the OKR model objectives define what we seek to achieve and key results are how those top­ priority goals will be attained. This book helps in reimagining goals, setting meaningful objectives and institutionalizing it through fun, engaging, and measurable key results.

Books for Founders Play Bigger

Play Bigger

Authors: Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, Kevin Maney

Category: Strategy and Management

Our View: Memorable companies create and own categories and not just great products. This book helps you to think, design, and build a legendary category and dominate it over time.

Books for Founders Technology as a Service Playbook

Technology as a Service: Playbook

Authors: J B Wood, Thomas E. Lah

Category: Strategy and Management

Our View: This book gives a basic to advanced understanding of how an “as a service” business works and how can one make it super successful. It helps you in making all the decisions from team structure to pricing to sales model and everything in between. 


Books for Founders Subscribed


Author: Tien Zuo

Category: Strategy and Management

Our View: The world is moving from ownership to a usership model. This book gives us insights into the journey to the subscription model and helps you reinvent your organization inside out from strategy to accounting to organizational structure. 

Books for Founders Lost and Founder

Lost and Founder

Author: Rand Fishkin

Category: Management

Our View: A startup leaves several invisible yet painful scars on each founder. This book will make the founders feel less alone and provide several learnings from hard-won lessons. 

Books for Founders Positioning

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

Authors: Al Ries, Jack Trout

Category: Marketing and Branding

Our View: Perhaps one of the most read and followed books when it comes to insights on cutting through the clutter and entering the subconscious minds of a skeptical buyer. 

Books for Founders Measure What Matters

Steve Jobs

Author: Walter Isaacson

Category: Biography

Our View: A story of intensity, passion for perfection, ferocious drive, fearless leadership, insane innovation and brutal honesty with self and team. All that a founder needs in this rollercoaster journey.

Books for Founders The Hard Things about Hard Things

The Hard Things About Hard Things

Author: Ben Horowitz

Category: Management

Our View: It’s easy to start a business, but to run and maintain one demands a lot from the founders. The authors share practical wisdom on building and managing some of the toughest problems in the start-up journey. 

Books for Founders The Innovators Dilemma

The Innovators Dilemma

Author: Clayton Christensen

Category: Tech Management

Our View: “Why do most companies miss out on new waves of innovation?” Even successful products get pushed aside if they don’t stay ahead of time. This book gives a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation. 

Books for Founders The Psychology of Money

The Psychology of Money

Author: Morgan Housel

Category: Financial Management

Our View: How do we make decisions about one of the important aspects of the business – Money? This book shares several short stories and lessons on the way people think and behave with money. 

Books for Founders Zero to One

Zero to One

Authors: Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

Category: Management

Our View: Are you adding more of something familiar or creating something new from 0 to 1? This book takes us to the depths of a startup, the reason behind starting, and how to build a monopoly of one. 

Books for Founders The Innovators Dilemma

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Author: Stephen R. Covey

Category: Self Help

Our View: A timeless guide to change self to change the world. This book shows how can we tap into our physical, mental, and spiritual strengths to make a huge difference to ourselves and society and everything in between.