Books for Startups

See the “Startup Tools” Tab for Tools and Blogs.

For Books on Silicon Valley History see here

Free Harvard Business Review article here

Entrepreneurial Management Stack
Over the last few years we’ve discovered that startups are not smaller versions of large companies. The skills founders need are not covered by traditional books for MBA’s and large company managers. There are now a few books that specifically address founders needs. Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Generation is the first book that allows you to answer “What’s your business model?” intelligently and with precision. Make sure this one is on your shelf.

Osterwalders follow-on book Value Proposition Design describes how to get product/market fit right.  It’s another “must have” for your bookshelf.  And Testing Business Ideas, is the best summary of how to run Customer Discovery and Validation experiments in print.

Eric Ries was the best student I ever had. He took the Customer Development process, combined it with Agile Engineering, and actually did the first implementation in a startup. His insights about the combined Customer Development/Agile process and its implications past startups into large corporations is a sea change in thinking. His book, The Lean Startup is a “must have” for your shelf.

Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a series of essays about what CEO face in the “Build” phase – the transition from searching for a business model into a company.

It’s impossible to implement any of this if you don’t understand Agile Development. Extreme Programming Explained by one of the pioneers of Agile, Kent Beck, is a great tutorial. If you don’t understand Values, Principles and Practices in XP it makes Customer Development almost impossible.

If you’re in a large company, The Other Side of Innovation makes sense of how to actually insert innovation into an execution organization.  If you’re starting a medical device company Biodesign:The Process of  Innovating Medical Technologies is a must have. It has a great customer discovery process.

Talking to Humans is a great simple primer on Customer Discovery.

Four Steps Hardcover cover
Order Here

And my newest book, The Startup Owners Manual

SOM cover

The Founders Workbook – The Checklist Companion to the Startup Owners Manual

Must Read Books
The subtitle of Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital is the “dynamics of bubbles and golden ages”.  A must read to understand the long 50-year innovation cycle we’re in. The other side of innovation is the closest recipe I’ve read for getting entrepreneurship right in large companies. Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution helped me refine the notion of the Four types of Startup Markets.  I read these books as the handbook for startups trying to disrupt an established company. The Innovators DNA rings true about the skills founders need to have. Crossing the Chasm made me understand that there are repeatable patterns in early stage companies. It started my search for the repeatable set of patterns that preceded the chasm.  The Tipping Point has made me realize that marketing communications strategies for companies in New Markets often follow the Tipping Point. Blue Ocean Strategy is a great way to look at what I’ve called “market type.”

Strategy Books for Startups
The Marketing Playbook gives marketers five strategy options, teaches you gap analysis and offer tactical marketing campaign advice. Do More Faster identifies issues that first-time entrepreneurs encounter and offer useful adviceGetting Real is web-focussed. Wasserman’s Founders Dilemma is essential reading to building a great startup team.

These books are classics but timelessThe Entrepreneurial Mindset articulates the critically important idea that there are different types of startup opportunities.  The notion of three Market Types springs from here and Christensen’s work.  The book provides a framework for the early marketing/sales strategies essential in a startup.  Delivering Profitable Value talks more about value propositions and value delivery systems than you ever want to hear again.  However, this is one of the books you struggle through and then realize you learned something valuable. Schumpeter’s book Theory of Economic Development is famous for his phrase “creative destruction”  and its relevance to entrepreneurship. Peter Drucker’s Concept of the Corporation was the first insiders view of how a decentralized company (GM) works. His Practice of Management defined “management by objective” and Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a classic. While written for a corporate audience, read it for the sources of innovation. If you write software you already know about Fred Brooks classic text the Mythical Man Month. If you manage a software company you need to read it so you don’t act like Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss. Peppers and Rogers, The One to One Future opened my eyes to concepts of lifetime value, most profitable customers and the entire customer lifecycle of “get, keep and grow.” Bill Davidow’s Marketing High Technology introduced me to the concept of “whole product” and the unique needs of mainstream customers. Michael Porter is the father of competitive strategy. His books Competitive StrategyCompetitive Advantage, and On Competition are still the standards.

Startups Entering a Regulated Market
Regulated marketplaces are ones that have significant government regulation to promote (ostensibly) the public interest. In theory regulations exist to protect the public interest for the benefit of all citizens. In a regulated market, the government controls how products and services are allowed to enter the market, what prices may be charged, what features the product/service must have, safety of the product, environmental regulations, labor laws, domestic/foreign content, etc.

If you’re a startup trying to disrupt an existing business you need to read The Fixer by Bradley Tusk and Regulatory Hacking by Evan Burfield. These two books, one by a practitioner, the other by an investor, are must-reads.

The Fixer is 1/3rd autobiography, 1/3rd case studies, and 1/3rd a “how-to” manual. Regulatory Hacking is closer to a “step-by-step” textbook with case studies.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Enterprise
How large companies can stay innovative and entrepreneurial has been the Holy Grail for authors of business books, business schools, consulting firms, etc.  There’s some great work from lots of authors in this area but I’d start by reading the other side of innovation. Next I’d read The Alchemy of Growth to understand the three horizons of innovation and The Future of Mangement and consider its implications.  Rita McGrath’s The End of Competitive Advantage shows companies how to take advantage of transient competitive advantage.  Stanley Mcchrystal’s Team of Teams is a real world example of chapter 6 of the Four Steps to the Epiphany.  Ed Catmull’s description of the Pixar innovation process in Creativity, Inc is a great synthesis of how founders in startup innovate translated into a corporate continuous innovation process.

Then I’d read the short Harvard Business Review articles. Eric Von Hippel work on new product introduction methodologies and the notion of “Lead Users” offer many parallels with Customer Discovery and Validation. But like most books on the subject it’s written from the point of view of a large company. Von Hippel’s four steps of 1) goal generation and team formation, 2) trend research, 3) lead user pyramid networking and 4) Lead User workshop and idea improvement is a more rigorous and disciplined approach then suggested in our book, the Four Steps to the Epiphany.  If you’re a mid-level manager in a company or government agency trying to figure out how to your ideas adopted, you need to own a copy of Rebels@Work – it will save your sanity. And Corporate Cultures is a classic about the stories, heroes, values, and rituals that build a corporate culture.


Harvard Business Review Articles

“War as Strategy” Books
The metaphor that business is war is both a cliché and points to a deeper truth.  Many basic business concepts; competition, leadership, strategy versus tactics, logistics, etc. have their roots in military affairs. The difference is that in business no one dies.  At some time in your business life you need to study war or become a casualty.  Sun Tzu covered all the basics of strategy in The Art of War until the advent of technology temporarily superseded him. Also, in the same vein try The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi.  These two books have unfortunately turned into business clichés but they are still timeless reading.  Carl Von Clausewitz’s On War is a 19th century western attempt to understand war. The “Boyd” book, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War is a biography and may seem out of place here, but John Boyd’s OODA loop is at the core of Customer Development and the Pivot. Read it and then look at all the web sites for Boyd papers, particularly Patterns of ConflictThe New Lanchester Strategy is so offbeat that it tends to be ignored.  Its ratios of what you require to attack or defend a market keep coming up so often in real life, that I’ve found it hard to ignore.

Marketing Communications Books
Ries and Trout positioning books can be read in a plane ride, yet after all these years they are still a smack on the side of the head.  Regis McKenna has always been a favorite of mine. However, as you read Relationship Marketing separate out the examples Regis uses into either startups or large sustainable businesses.  What worked in one, won’t necessarily work in another.  Read these books first before you dive into the 21st century stuff like Seth Godin.

Seth Godin “gets deeply” the profound changes the internet is having in the way we think about customers and communicating with them.  Godin’s All Marketers are Liars talks about the power of storytelling in marketing. His Permission Marketing book crystallized a direct marketing technique (permission marketing), which was simply impossible to achieve pre-internet.  Read his Ideavirus after you’ve read Permission Marketing. Made to Stick gives you the tools to make your messages “sticky.” I put Sway here because great marketers know how to find these irrational behaviors Lakoff’s book, Don’t Think of an Elephant! while written for a political audience has some valuable insights on framing communications.

Trustworthy On-line Controlled Experiments is a detailed guide to A/B testing from the guys who ran it at Amazon and Google. Lean Analytics is a great discussion about metrics that matter for web/mobile startups. Predictable Revenue is one of those short, smart, tactical books that you need to read if you have a direct sales force. Thomas Freese is the master of consultative selling. Both his books are a great start in understanding how a pro sells. Cracking the Sales Management Code provides a best practice approach to on how to effectively manage a sales forceJeff Thull’s Mastering the Complex Sale has a lot of elements of Customer Discovery and Validation, but skip the first 50 pages. Many of the ideas of Customer Validation are based on the principles articulated by Bosworth, Heiman and Rackham. Bostworth’s Solution Selling and it’s successor, The New Solution Selling are must reads for any executive launching a new product.  Its articulation of the hierarchy of buyers needs as well its description of how to get customers to articulate their needs, makes this a “must read”, particularly those selling to businesses. Yet in his new book What Great Salespeople Do he says, ignore those books follow this advice. Heiman’s books are a bit more tactical and are part of a comprehensive sales training program from his company Miller-Heiman.  If you are in sales or have a sales background you can skip these.  But if you aren’t they are all worth reading for the basic “blocking and tackling” advice.  The only bad news is that Heiman writes like a loud salesman – but the advice is sound. Rackham’s Spin Selling is another series of books about major account, large ticket item sales, with again the emphasis on selling the solution, not features.  Lets Get Real is of the Sandler School of selling (another school of business to business sales methodology.) Jill Konrath has great strategies and insights for large sales. Baseline Selling uses baseball metaphors but it’s an effective explanation of how to do consultative selling. I sure could have used the Complete Idiots Guide to Cold Calling when it was just me and the telephone. The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing provides a great framework for thinking about “how much should I charge for this?”

Startup Law and Finance
If you don’t pay attention to the law from the day you start your company it can kill you. But most books (and lawyers) speak in their own arcane language. David Weekly’s An Introduction to Stock and Options should be your first read (unfortunately its Kindle only.)  The Entrepreneurs Guide to Business Law is the one book you ought to have on your shelf.  While not written explicitly for Silicon Valley startups it demystifies the most common areas you need to know. Term Sheets and Valuations is a great read if you’re faced with a term sheet and staring at words like “liquidation preferences and conversion rights” and don’t have a clue what they mean.  Read this and you can act like you almost understand what you are giving away.

Silicon Valley/Regional Clusters
Brad Feld’s Startup Communities posits a big idea: startup communities are driven by entrepreneurs who are the leaders and everyone else is a feeder. Essential reading if you’re trying to build your own cluster. Anna Lee Saxenian’s Regional Advantage  is the definitive text of why Silicon Valley beat Boston as the hub of U.S. entrepreneurship. Startup Nation is the story of how the Israeli government engineered the country into becoming the hottest cluster outside the U.S. for startups. In contrast, Josh Lerner’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams describes the multiple ways governments can screw up a cluster. Jessica Livingston’s Founders At Work are the best case studies/vignettes without a PR rewrite of how founders really start companies. The Startup Playbook  also does a good job of offering founders advice. An Engineer’s Guide to Silicon Valley Startups is one of those quirky books that perfectly match Silicon Valley culture. If you’re an engineer in the valley or coming out, this is a useful read. It describes what types of startups are there, how to get a job at one, negotiating your salary, stock options, etc. Geek Silicon Valley is part history and part travel guide. Also useful.

Venture Capital
If you buy one book to understand how VC’s and fund raising works, Venture Deals is the one. Wish I had it when I did startups. Same for Mastering the VC Game. If you read two books about how to deal with VC’s start here. The rest of the books are personal stories. Bill Draper’s book is both history and advice from a VC pioneer. If you have never experienced a startup first hand, Jerry Kaplan’s bookStartup and Michael Wolff’s book Burn Rate are good reads of a founder’s adventure with the venture capitalists.  Eboys is the story of Benchmark Capital during the Internet Bubble.  Ferguson’s book is a great read for the first time entrepreneur.  His personality and views of the venture capitalists and “suits” are a Rorschach ink blot test for the reader.

Venture Capital History

These books tell the story of the formation of the Venture Capital Industry.

Startup Nuts & Bolts
Nesheim’s book High Tech Startup is the gold standard of the nuts and bolts of all the financing stages from venture capital to IPO’s. If you promise to ignore the marketing advice he gives you, Baird’s book, Engineering Your Startup is the cliff notes version in explaining the basics of financing, valuation, stock options, etc. Gordon Bells’ book High-Tech Venturesis incomprehensible on the first, second or third read.  Yet it is simply the best “operating manual” for startups that has been written.  (The only glaring flaw is Bell’s assumption that a market exists for the product and that marketing’s job is data sheets and trade shows.)  Read it in doses for insight and revelation and make notes, (think of reading the bible) rather than reading it straight through.

Startup Textbooks
If you take an entrepreneurship class in a Business School or University you’ll probably encounter one of these textbooks.The reason you don’t see them on the desks of working entrepreneurs is that at $100-$150+ they’re all priced for a captive student audience. (Some do have paperback versions for $50-$85.) The other uncomfortable fact is that most startups in Silicon Valley ignore these textbooks once they leave school. In the real-world startups are now built using the business model/customer development/agile engineering stack. Not one of these textbooks teach that.

Of all the texts, Technology Ventures is “the gold standard” of entrepreneurship textbooks. Jeff Timmons’ New Venture Creation has too much great stuff in it to ignore. At first read it is simply overwhelming but tackle it a bit a time and use it to test your business plan for completeness. Business Plans that Work summarizes the relevant part of Timmons’ New Venture Creation book and teaches how to write a document (the business plan) that no one ever reads. However, both books are worth having if you’re in a large company thinking about introducing follow-on products.

I’ve yet to meet a manufacturing person that does not reference The Goal when talking about lean manufacturing principles first. It’s a book inside a novel – so it humanizes the manufacturing experience.  Lean Thinking is the best over all summary of the lean manufacturing genre. Toyota Production System is the father of all lean manufacturing – it’s simple tone is refreshing.

Presentation and Product Design
Nancy Duarte’s two books, Slid:eology and Resonate are about presentation design. These are the two books I refer entrepreneurs to who want to build a killer customer presentation. The advice may not work for all audiences but it’s a great place to start. Cooper’s book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum, is about product design. It had the same impact on me as Moore’s Crossing the Chasm – “why of course, that’s what’s wrong.”  It’s important and articulate.

Culture/Human Resources
What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 and InGenious are the books I give all young entrepreneurs.If you are in a large company and wondering why your company isn’t going anywhere your answers might be found in Good to Great.  Written by Jim Collins, the same author who wrote Built to Last, both are books that “you should be so lucky” to read.  What differentiates good companies versus great?  How do you institutionalize core values into a company that enable it to create value when the current management is long gone?  When I first read these, I thought they were only for companies that were lucky enough to get big.  Upon reflection, these books were the inspiration for the “Mission-Oriented Culture.”  Read these two books together.

Ironically, the best HR stuff for anyone in a startup to read is not a book.  It is the work James Baron at Stanford has done.    Download his slides on the Stanford Project on Emerging Companies.  Baron’s book, Strategic Human Resources – is a classic HR textbook. Finally, if you are working at a startup and wondering why the founder is nuts, The Founder Factor helps explain a few things.

I’m not sure how to characterize The Checklist Manifesto so I stuck it here. It’s a quick read with some insights that match why Business Model strategy need to be translated into Customer Development checklists.

Business History (See here for Silicon Valley History)
Alfred Sloan’s My Years with General Motors is a great read, but not for the traditional reasons.  Read it from the point of view of an entrepreneur (Durant) who’s built a great company by gut and instinct, got it to $200M and is replaced by the board.  Then watches as a world-class bureaucrat grows into one of the largest and best run companies in the world.  Make sure you read it in conjunction with Sloan Rules and A Ghost’s Memoir. If you’re an entrepreneur the one founder you probably never heard of but should is William Durant. Read Madsen’s biography. The Nudist on the Late Shift is a book you send to someone who lives outside of Silicon Valley who wants to know what life is like in a startup. If you want to understand how the modern corporation formed Chandlers’ Strategy and Structure is the “Ur text.”

Silicon Valley – Books


Silicon Valley History

Books/Articles on the Entrepreneurial University
Stephen Spinelli President of Philadelphia University offered this great reading list on the activity of the university in tech transfer/collaborations with business, community and government.  The list also covers the activity/behavior/leadership of the university president.

All of the following four chapters are in the:  Journal of the Programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education, Higher Education Management. Vol. 13, No. 2, 2001.  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Also see Tom Eisenmann’s Reading list from his Harvard Lean Startup class.

135 Responses

  1. I highly recommend Amar Bhide’s “The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses”. A serious academic inquiry into the nature of the entrepreneurial endeavor, this book provides some very helpful and surprising insights about what makes a new venture work.

  2. Thanks for the mention on the list. Glad you like the site.

  3. There are two books I always tell people to start with. The first is Crossing the Chasm which you mention, the second is Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker. I’m also a fan of Timmons’ work, although I leave that for a phase two reference material, which it sounds like you do as well. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised that none of Drucker’s work made your shortlist.

    • Great list though I would love to add Peter Church’s book Added Value-the life stories of Indian business leaders. Amazing insight on some truly inspirational people. The book is an excellent primer for anyone seeking to do business.

    • 3 of Drucker’s books are listed above, including the one you mentioned. Not sure if they were added after your comment or not.

  4. […] has outlined his must read books in categories(sales,marketing,founder self development,etc ). Must Read Books by Steve Blank.He has so many selected especially for books for […]

  5. Good collection, I can definitely endorse this.

    However, it is crucial that any startup focuses on sales as the top priority (it’s easy to get caught up in the entrepreneurial literature, but that doesn’t pay the bills).

    Going to a trade fair, talking to potential customers early, trying to build relationships and attempting an early sale are the crucial steps. But definitely have a read through Steve’s list in the evening.

  6. […] Ries What are lean startups? Eric Ries What is customer development? Steve Blanks must read books Books/blogs for Startups A podcast version of a similar kind of speech can be found from the  STVP Entrepeneurial Thought […]

  7. It would be awesome to have this in PDF form or on Scibd so I could take it offline without wasting paper (aka the Green option).

    Thanks so much for this fantastic list of books. I was surprised by two omissions:
    1) Art of the Start
    2) Founders at Work

    I think the two free videos of Jeff Haskins at the Stanford E-corner you highlight in your syllabus as incredibly on point too.

    Finally, I’m curious if books on software (for instance Joel on Software), project management (for instance Scott Berkun), and outsourcing would be increasingly valuable as globalization revolutionizes what start ups look like and how they behave.

    Again fantastic list….Looking forward to reading your book.

  8. Simply wanted to share my gratitude for providing this list. After spending all day reading your articles and watching your engrossing “Secret History of Silicon Valley” presentation, I now find a brilliant capper.

    Thank you.

  9. hi Steve,

    Love your work and insights. Thank you for all of that.

    This note, however is to say a very big thank you for the visual representation of ‘tenacity’. It is awesome. Something very special and personal. Wonderful. The end is very moving.


  10. […] Books/Blogs for Startups « Steve Blank [new tab]Read this, then buy all the books – read all of them.February 12, 2010 […]

  11. […] Books/Blogs for Startups « Steve Blank Clayton M. Christensen (tags: books entrepreneurship startups startup business reading management reference gyaan) […]

  12. […] Books/Blogs for Startups « Steve Blank Clayton M. Christensen (tags: books entrepreneurship startups startup business reading management reference gyaan) […]

  13. Hi Steve,
    Love the Four Steps and have left the building myself. Loved the Secret History which is still largely unknown. I reviewed your book in my blog

    All the best,

  14. Hi Steve,

    Your book should be the bible for every online entrepreneur. Love it. Thank you. Thanks for sharing all these books as well.



  15. Thanks Steve,

    A number of the books I have read, or have given to others in our team to review. Some reviews are on our blog:

    I will be adding all the others to our shopping cart in due course (and we will also divvy up a watch on the blogs you mention).

    However it surprises me that I did not see a mention of the following 3 books:
    1) “7 Habits” = (about becoming a real person)
    2) “Speed of Trust” = (why it is important, and how to improve how someone trusts you)
    3) “Adversity Quotient” = (as you will need a high AQ, guaranteed, for your enterprise to succeed – AND, what’s more, you can improve it).
    I give a copy of each of these books to pretty much everyone who comes to work with our company.

    An absolutely essential starting point in terms of human behaviour – start with the person first, before they are able to contributed interdependetly in an organisation.



  16. […] April 28, 2010 · Leave a Comment Books/Blogs for Startups […]

  17. Great variety of book list 🙂
    Thanks for the post, now I can get the specific book for I need for start-ups 🙂

  18. There are two books I always tell people to start with. The first is Crossing the Chasm which you mention, the second is Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker. I’m also a fan of Timmons’ work, although I leave that for a phase two reference material, which it sounds like you do as well. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised that none of Drucker’s work made your shortlist.

    • Thanks. I have a stack of Drucker reading on my shelf. This is another good reminder to attack the pile.


  19. Steve,

    We really appreciate your reference to our Compensation Section in your “books/blogs for startups” page. We’re continuing to build our content, and are working hard to get CEOs to contribute redacted information. The link below will take anyone interested to a discussion forum with some more information on this.

    Ken Ross

  20. Thanks for the list. I’ve read some and there are a bunch I need to check out.

    I would add Marty Cagan’s Inspired to the product design list.

    I would add “The Machine that Changed the World”, “Regional Advantage” and “The New Argonauts” to the Business History list.

    Others I would add:
    Art of the Start
    Made to Stick
    A Whole New Mind

  21. Fantastic list!

    Cheers for Davidow, Miller & Heiman, Ries & Trout, and Goldratt.

    I was surprised, though, that Competitive Stragey (Michael Porter) is not on this list. Forbes’ “Checklist: The 20 Most Important Questions In Business”, for example, relies heavily on Porter’s five forces. No business plan or ppt, or even value statement is complete without an understanding of competition.

    Prolific A. David Silver (e.g. Venture Capital) might also be considered for this list.

    In the HR section, how about “Who” by Street and Smart? This definied ‘A Players’ and how to attract them.

    With respect to an overall plan and execution, there are two books that jump to mind. Harnish’s “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” builds a critical ‘Right Things Right’ model. Second, Thomson’s ‘Blueprint to a Billion” does a fantastic job of reverse engineering the seven critical sucess elements from those companies that made it big.

    Regards, David

  22. Just completed an interesting, new survey on incentive compensation for private technology companies. It’s on our site at:

  23. Hi Steve,
    My current ACTiVATE class (see for more details) is reading and discussing your Epiphany book. The content is invaluable as we pursue the opportunities presented by tech transfer and own own entrepreneurial projects. If you ever want input from a professional editor (I teach technical writing at the university level) for your next edition, please let me know. I have been editing each chapter as we progress through our assignments and would be happy to discuss how an edited presentation of your experience/knowledge can communicate ideas more effectively. Who knows, it might increase sales? In any case, thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  24. What books should entrepreneurs read?…

    Steve Blank has a list of books & blogs here:…

  25. […] every book recommended by Steve Blank, not on the PMBA […]

  26. Do not forget “Loosing my virginity – Richard Branson” it is a great and inspiring book about Mr Branson’s journey towards prosperity.


  27. Another vote for:

    1. Founders at Work
    2. Loosing my virginity – Richard Branson

  28. Hey Steve,

    One of the most formative books recommended to me on complex sales is “Exceptional Selling” by Jeff Thull. I found it to be very complimentary to your book “The four steps to the epiphany.”

    I would be interested to here your perspective on this book. I recommend it to budding entrepreneurs as it forces them to validate their value hypothesis with a “real” problem, the problem’s cost for the customer, and the priority of the problem for the customer.

  29. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for compiling very useful list of books and resources. I have read some and the rest I will when it may be required.

    I wanted to thank you for a great presentation on ‘Retooling early stage startups’ at Stanford edcorner. I live in Tokyo and have listened to this when on the subway at least a 100 times and can almost say the words before you say it on the podcast 🙂 It is a testament to how valuable you words and thoughts have been to me as I make way through various entrepreneurial ventures.

    Would love to meet you if and when you do come to Tokyo. Your dinner will be on me. Seriously! So do give me a shout and I will be honoured to meet you.

    Best regards.

  30. […] Minimal Viable Product (MVP) from The Four Steps To Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank […]

  31. The list is great, but very long and impossible to read in a short time span. Thus could you please indicate the most “actionable” book in each category?

    Here goes my vote to a book that changed my company: Getting Real, by 37signals.


  32. Steve, have you considered making an audio book of The Four Steps to the Epiphany? I’m a member of the LeanStartupPhilly group and find that our members have a hard time reading… and believe they’ll do better with an audio format. I have a person who can make the audio book–we’d just need to work out permission and royalties with you…

  33. What an incredible list! Thanks for compiling this for everyone . . I’ve got to now figure out how to get a few more of these read.

  34. Great list, useful post! I finished business school in 97 and have used my original copy of Timmons’ New Venture Creation in every job since. Slideology is a close second in the ‘books that are dog-eared from too much use’ race.

  35. Hi Steve,

    I’m from Europe and have just launched a tech startup. On recommendation by some other startup CEO’s I’ve bought your excellent book The Four Steps to Epiphany.

    My congralutaions on consise writing and down to earth approach.

    About my question:

    At the end of your book there are number of Worksheets.

    Is there any way ( if I prove it to you that we have actually bought your book) I can
    download an electronic version of these worksheets ?

    It would save of my time though…

    Thanks in advance

  36. I want to read:

    # The Deal Maker: How William C. Durant Made General Motors by Axel Madsen
    # Billy, Alfred and General Motors: The Story of Two Unique Men by William Pelfrey
    #The Toyota Way

  37. […] Check out the awesome resources and book references. […]

  38. Dont forget The world is flat by T. Friedman!
    But very useful list indeed, i have just put most of it on my wishlist:-)

  39. Wish I could get your books on Kindle… I’m trying hard to go paper-free, better for the environment and easier to carry around with me.

  40. […] 5, 2011View All 0 CommentsCannot add comment at this time.  Senthil Nambi Have you seen… It isn't exactly confined to lean startup method, but the list is by Steven Blank, who […]

  41. Hi,

    Just gone through all the books you listed on your “Must Read Books” list. ( except Dealing with Darwin, I want to save that one for a later time)

    Just want to THANK YOU!! now we can speak the same language ^___^

  42. ^ or at least try to on my part =]

  43. What are some great online resources or talks about startup ideation?…

    Check out the blog of Steve Blank – and the list of start-up books that he’s compiled:

  44. What are the best books on startups or entrepreneurship? Why?…

    Here are the books people mentioned more than once in the answers below: Start ups and Entrepreneurship 1. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank 2. Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston 3. Rework by 37signals people 4. How to Get Rich by Felix…

  45. What books should social entrepreneurs read?…

    Great Books for Social Entrepreneurs: Six Quick Suggestions 1. Bornstein’s 2nd book is a quick read & a great overview of the field (conceptually & organizationally) 2. Life Entrepreneurs (targeted more at a career of social enterprise & change) 3. If…

  46. […] questions are partners in a dance of creation.  Since then we’ve engaged with others in the lean start-up movement, which has been adding hot new rhythms to this […]

  47. What is the recommended reading list to learn basics about “lean startup”?…

    Six Possible Core Areas to Develop 1. Programming 2. Design & UX 3. Web Conversion & Analytics 4. Sales (primarily for B2B lean startups) 5. Arguably Dealmaking & negotiation 6. Entrepreneurial & success mindset

  48. I would like to add at least one book to the list. The topic is human behavior. As an entrepreneur I risk saying that on the end we’re all Illusionists, because we offer lust for a better future in uncertain present. And for us the only way to succeed is to create commitment, retention and passion on our customers, co-workers and employees. So the understanding of the mechanics of the human motivation, urgency and decision are key knowledges to the entrepreneur.

    After my long speech I suggest:
    Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion
    Robert B. Cialdini

  49. […] Books For Startups by Steve Blank – What books should entrepreneurs read? (Source: Quora) – The 99 Best Business Books (Source: […]

  50. […] chipping away at Steve Blank’s books for […]

  51. […] Steve Blank’s list of recommended books for startups if you intend to start a company or are running a startup. You Might Also Like:Entrepreneur […]

  52. Thanks for the great list. As a part of the course, I had to study “Starting something..” by Wayne McVicker, it was a great book on starting up, culture, making decisions, and everything in a company that started small , went public and got bought out.

  53. What a great reference list of good useful books/ references

    Start with the “Goal” even if not a manufacturing guy 🙂 The move to the “Art of War” and you can piece together what is happening to US competitiveness

    check out as a knowlegebase to deal with the gap

    Good luck
    Jon Kirkegaard
    DCRA Inc.

  54. Hi Steve,

    The link to Cross the Chasm isn’t working in the first bulleted list in this section at the top of the page.

  55. […] Blank also recommends a bunch of other great books here. This entry was posted in Announcements, Business of Software, Conferences, Project Management, […]

  56. […] I will explain into some details his theory but the main reason I love this book is how he explains why founders are critical in all the decisions of the early phases of a start-up. Not the usual “hire business people”, but “learn and become an expert until you reach your limits”. I should immediately add that it is not an easy book to read and certainly mostly useful to people in the process of launching a start-up. His web site is also very informative, you will find tons of slides of his teachings on the web and I particularly recommend the list of books he suggests reading. […]

  57. […] je vais expliquer avec plus de détails sa théorie mais la raison principale pour laquelle j’aime ce livre est qu’il explique pourquoi les fondateurs sont essentiels aux premières phases de développement d’une start-up. Ce n’est pas le discours habituel de “mettre en place les compétences commerciales et cacher les fondateurs” mais plutôt d’ “apprendre et devenir des experts jusqu’au point d’atteindre vos limites”. Je dois tout de suite ajouter que ce n’est pas un livre facile à lire et qu’il est surtout utile à ceux qui se lancent dans l’aventure entrepreneuriale mais aussi dans le développement de produits. Son site web est bourré d’informations, vous trouverez des tonnes de documents sur ses enseignements sur internet et je recommande en particulier sa liste de conseils de lecture Books for Startups. […]

  58. […] Steve Blanks Books for Startups also has a GREAT list. […]

  59. […] for those interested, Steve has an awesome (but very extensive) list of ”Books for Startups” on his own […]

  60. I see you have added textbooks also. Don’t you think the technology venutres by tom byers should be must read books other then that its highly priced. I see it covers everything holistically which is good as it really connect the dots.

    • Rob,
      I love Tom (he’s my boss at Stanford) and I think his book is the best of the bunch. If I had to pick one the textbooks it would be his.


      • thanks for the quick reply, steve. Do you know any books which gives a quick primer on how to be a great visionary and innovator?


  61. Great work Steve, this is a valuable resource for an entrepreneur or leader, thank you.

    I would like to share my list of recommended books:

    Jessica Livingston’s ‘Founders at Work’
    Guy Kawasaki’s ‘The Art of the Start’
    Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’
    William C Taylor & Polly LaBarre’s ‘Mavericks at Work’
    Michael J. Lanning’s ‘Delivering Profitable Value’
    Nirmalya Kumar’s ‘Marketing as Strategy’
    Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne’s ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’
    Michael Porter’s ‘Competitive Strategy’ & ‘Competitive Advantage’
    Kenichi Ohmae’s ‘The Mind of the Strategist’
    Peter Drucker’s ‘The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization’
    Rafi Mohammed’s ‘The Art of Pricing’
    C K Prhalad & Venkat Ramaswamy’s ‘The Future of Competition’
    Ram Charan & Noel Tichy’s ‘Every Business is a Growth Business’
    Mark Morgan, Raymond Levitt & William Malek’s ‘Executing Your Strategy’
    Jim Collins’ ‘Good to Great’
    Porus Munshi’s ‘Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen’
    Joseph Pine II & James Gilmore’s ‘The Experience Economy’
    Vijay Govindarajan & Chris Trimble’s ‘Ten Rules of Strategic Innovators’
    Rita Gunther McGrath & Ian MacMillan’s ‘The Entrepreneurial Mindset’
    Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman’s ‘First Break All the Rules’
    Steven Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’
    Warren Bennis’ ‘On Becoming a Leader’
    Seth Godin’s ‘The Purple Cow’
    Chip and Dan Heath’s ‘Made to Stick’
    Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point’
    James Surowiecki’s ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’

  62. […] 2. Steve Blank’s Books for Startups […]

  63. […] Books for Startups […]

  64. […] The book “Four Steps to the Epiphany” has become a popular manual for technology entrepreneurs seeking a strong match between their products and customer needs and behaviors that lead to strong business models. In his book, Steve Blank describes how important it is to be in front of customers getting continuous feedback throughout the entire product creation, go-to-market and business model development process. If you’re responsible for a product, developing a market, running business or starting a company, we highly recommend Steve Blank’s website: and book […]

  65. Steve,

    Don’t forget to add Ash’s book Running Lean O’Reilly Eric Ries, Series Editor.

  66. Steve,
    A great collection of Books can’t. Wait to feast on many of them. I’m from Nigeria and might need to Handle the challenge of acquiring these greaT teXts. What advice will you give. I’m seriously considering a start up and also lecturing entrepreneurship at a post degree level. Was hunting for materialS when I discover your work.
    Pls do get in touch. I’ve done some short listing that I need urgently

  67. […] a startup’s probability of success. As customer development guru Steve Blank highlights in 4 Steps to the Epiphany, getting in front of customers is critical in the early stages of a startup’s […]

  68. Steve just saw your You Tube talk. Thought it was great. Fits in very well with my experience. I recently had my work on Business Strategy and SME’s published, . The focus was very much the same as yours, btw I also interpreted Clausewitz for SME’s in the same article.

    I also customised an MBA for Startups in a book called MBA for Startups. I focused on how Entrepreneurs could use Business Management to help them through the transition phase you highlighted.

    Hope they help and look forward to any comments.

  69. What are the best online resources for learning about business and entrepreneurship?…

    Here are 9 great resources, which are primarily free: * Two free courses at Udemy, which should prove helpful: * Steve Blank on Entrepreneurship & Lean Startup Methodology: * Jason Naazer of Doc Stoc on …

  70. […] Steve Blank’s Blog has an enormous list Books For Startups […]

  71. […] la suite des travaux de Steve Blank auteur d’un manuel pour les entrepreneurs innovants, distingue 6 tapes dans la vie d’une startup […]

  72. Master, when we have “The Four Steps to the Epiphany” in Portuguese?

  73. Dear Mr Steve Blank. We would like to invite you to give a lecture on new aspects of business models in Brazil.

    In the last three to four years, the tools that guide the business models were modernized and technicians in Brazil did not absorb the new techniques to the point of being able to make it available to startup.

    Very contribute to the dissemination of new techniques accepting our invitation.

    We have a good environment for discussion in our incubator that surely we can gather business and technical around a lecture.


    Ricardo Chagas

  74. […] development, it will be critical.  Steve Blank has written about this extensively in his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany and you should read […]

  75. […] Steps to Epiphany by Steve Blank (I haven’t read this personally, but I am a fan of Steve Blank’s blog and Customer […]

  76. Dear Steve,

    I am currently reading your book, startup owner’s manual. There is a little “vol 1” at the beginning of the book, and as you cover the customer discovery / validation phases in the book, I suppose vol 2 will be about customer creation / Company building.

    When do you plan to release vol 2?

  77. Hello Steve, when are we expecting an e-version of your Startup Owner’s manual? Pleeeeeeeeeese

  78. Dear Steve Blank,

    Greetings! I’m Ami Noh, a literary agent working at Amo Agency, based in Seoul, Korea. Nice to e-meet you.

    I have a publisher who is interested in your book Four Steps to the Epiphany. Would you let me know if the Korean translation rights are not yet sold?

    Looking forward to hearing from you

    Warm regards,

    Ami Noh

  79. […] Steps to the Ephiphany” Steve’s Book “The Startup Owner’s Manual” Steve’s Books For Startups Steve’s Tools For Startups Steve’s Presentations On Slideshare Om Malik Interviewing […]

  80. […] off campuses will tip their hat in return. The recent books by Marc Nager, Brad Feld, Eric Ries and Steve Bank are just the beginning of scholarship around the science of startups. As the literature makes these […]

  81. Steve,

    We met in Austin at SXSW, and again in Menlo Park this summer when we did an interview for Forbes. Here is the link:

    At SXSW I shared a copy of the book Startup: An insider’s Guide with you.(**Shameless Self Promotion**) It definitely belongs on your Startup reading list! It has gotten a lot of very positive feedback from the startup community, especially on how to make new ventures work when you are not in Silicon Valley.

    Have a great week, and thank you for posting such valuable information on Open Source Entrepreneurship.


    Kevin Ready

  82. Hi Steve,

    If you have the opportunity to read, “From Idea to Exit: The Entrepreneurial Journey” I’d love to hear your thoughts. Specifically, on the entrepreneurial formula.

  83. […] brain is to read works by those who are successful at what they do.  Below is a selection from a Startup reading list curated by Steve Blank on his blog.  As we try move forward on this blog, we will try to have […]

  84. Great !
    I would love to add Peter Church’s book The Added Value – the life stories of Indian Business Leaders. Amazing insight on some truly inspirational people. You should read this book not only because it was fantastically insightful and interesting in relation to the individuals but also gives the reader an incredibly helpful view of the mindset of the business leaders in the region.

  85. […] quick snapshot of why I think they’re good. If you’d like more ideas Steve Blank has a longer list. We also run a Bethnal Green Ventures Startup Book Club which you’re very welcome to come […]

  86. […] Blank, acclaimed Silicon Valley entrepreneur, author of books, and teacher at notable places like Stanford and for the NSF I-Corps program, calls it “Get out […]

  87. Steve,

    I am huge Colonel Boyd fan myself. Many of his teachings, in the spirit of Sun Tzu, were delivered as in person briefings.

    I recently restored his lecture at the Air University to help distribute his intellectual contribution to a larger audience.


  88. […] on disruption in the mid 1990’s and then reading the Innovators Dilemma. Each of these authors (along with others too numerous to mention) profoundly changed my view of management and strategy. All of this in one […]

  89. […] in the mid 1990’s and then reading the Innovator’s Dilemma. Each of these authors (along with others too numerous to mention) profoundly changed my view of management and strategy. All of this in one […]

  90. Hi Steve,

    I’m half way through The Startup Manual – I’ve been searching for something like it for a couple of years now! One of those moments where you know it when you see it. Thanks, its fantastic.

    Any book suggestions on forming a startup team, finding co-founders or choosing to employ?


  91. Hi Steve,

    I’m halfway through The Startup Manual and currently switching from a ‘small business’ to a new market startup. Its fantastic, thanks.

    Any book suggestions on forming a startup team, co-founders or employing?

    Jimmy (uk)

  92. Awesome List Blank….Thanks for sharing.

    There are three other books that should have made the list:

    1- Art of the Start- Guy Kawasaki
    2- Rules for Revolutionaries – Guy Kawasaki
    3- Re-Imagine- Tom Peters

    Which book(s) do you recommend on forming a partnership or finding a co-founder?

    Best Regards
    Lanre Dahunsi

  93. What about books that truly capture the entrepreneurial “struggle?” Any suggestions?

  94. At our company we are also looking to ways to speed up diffusion of innovations ( disruptive ), specially inside government institutions

    Do you know any reference beyond the book of Everett Rogers ?

  95. Hello Steve
    I would like to know when we have his book “the startups owner’s manual” in Spanish

  96. Hi Steve, for more than I look, I do not find in Spanish, you can tell me exactly where your ad takes me to amazon and there is in English and French

  97. I thought you might find the material we are generating useful. . The intention is to evetually generate it into a book, So the more you engage with the material there the more likely the book will meet your needs.

    Look forward to your comments and thoughts on what we have already posted.

  98. […] The Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Steve Blank. The author draws on his start-up company experience across a broad spectrum of roles to deliver a great manual for start-ups. Now teaching at Stanford and U.C. Berkeley, Blank helps you figure out your start-up’s right product and market through a disciplined step-by-step process. This book is the ultimate go-to guide for small business startups. […]

  99. […] Blank, serial entrepreneur, professor of entrepreneurship, and author of the seminal book that launched the Lean Startup movement, has long fought to change the mentality of software […]

  100. […] Steps to the Ephiphany” Steve’s Book “The Startup Owner’s Manual” Steve’s Books For Startups Steve’s Tools For Startups Steve’s Presentations On Slideshare Om Malik Interviewing […]

  101. […] of his first published work that details his insight on the Customer Development process, ‘The Four Steps to Epiphany‘. The book explains his outlook on entrepreneurship and that it can be practiced, but not as […]

  102. […] Blank is among the most respected authors[1] and teachers[2] in the world on the topic of modern startups. His work at Stanford, Columbia, […]

  103. I believe that How Google works from Eric Schmidt should definitely be on the list.

  104. […] The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank, (subtitled Successful Strategies for Products that […]

  105. Greetings from Mexico. I think the book: “Inside the box-A proven system of creativity for breakthrough results” (Drew Boyd, Jacob Goldenberg) is a veri interesting method for product innovation.

  106. Dear Mr. Blank i think it is a great list and i need two lives in order to read all of them :). However if i can i would suggest to add Running Lean By Ash Maurya.

  107. I recently came across this short paper on Entrepreneurial Organisations – . It looks this from an organisational psychology view. I thought the focus on risk and people was really good.

  108. […] are more like teams out there too! More reading Steve Blank’s books and reading suggestions Tips for intrapreneurs (and image credit) […]

  109. Hi Steve,

    I think if you make a wishlist in I can add everything to my cart at once… might save some time and improve the conversion.

    Thanks and looking forward to some good books !

  110. We just published our own eBook as well. It may be a valuable FREE resource to those in the startup community looking to incorporate! Check out our link to download a copy:

  111. This is a free biz knowledge base we have built up at the Business Mentoring Meet up Group in London. .

    The topics cover everything from Negotiations, Business Model Innovation to organising blogger out reach programs. The papers are good introductions to the business areas and the videos are from industry.

  112. […] Books For Startups by Steve Blank – What books should entrepreneurs read? (Source: Quora) – The 99 Best Business Books […]

  113. […] to know if you do not really know? Steve Blank, acclaimed Silicon Valley entrepreneur, author of books, and teacher at notable places like Stanford and for the NSF I-Corps program, calls it “Get out […]

  114. Hello Mr. Blank,

    Why there is no audio book for your book “The four steps to the Epiphany” ?

    It actually helpful for some readers to publish audio books, and here are the benefits I think that worth it:
    * Listening and following the hardcover book at the same time double the comprehension, because I’m using two senses here..
    * Some people like to hear audio books while driving and commuting.


  115. […] Also. Here is the gold-standard entrepreneurial readings list. […]

  116. longtime lurker here…Thank you so much for all of the content Steve, it has been incredibly valuable and fun.

  117. Please, is there a Brazilian Portuguese edition of The Four Steps to the Epiphany? And what about the Owners Manual?

  118. Thank you for the awesome list, some very interesting materials

  119. Thank you so much Steve for the list.

  120. There are pleinty of books dedicated to startup and entreneurship. For french readers, I recommand

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