I’ve worked in venture capital, management consulting and design thinking. But nothing prepared me for the intensity of working inside a startup. I’ve been lucky to have gradually absorbed the startup mindset over several years of working in startup incubators and accelerators. This mindset has allowed me to cope with the intensity of startup life. But the mindset needs to be learned.
Some of the things that you need to succeed in a startup are techniques and information, but the bedrock is the “startup mindset”. This mindset takes time to acquire. I enjoy a good TED talk or conference video. But spending a several hours listening to an audiobook written and read by someone who lives the mindset is one of the best ways you can start to think like a startup person.
I work with some wonderful colleagues at SeedInvest and we’re growing rapidly. One of our new joiners asked me recently if I had any recommendations for books to read before they joined the team. I’ve been too busy to read many books recently, but I’ve kept up my audiobook listening so here are my top five audiobooks to help you prepare for life inside a startup. I’ve mostly chosen books that are narrated by the author because then you get to absorb their tone of voice, diction, personality and mindset as well as the content.
The Lean Startup
To me, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is the one book that every person working in a startup should read. But be warned the first third is a retelling of Eric’s last startup project and is pretty boring. Most people who say they have read the book really haven’t because they gave up about a quarter through it. But if you persevere, the last half of the book is seriously awesome. That’s why I recommend the audiobook. The audiobook is narrated by Eric so you get 8 hours of hanging out with one of the brightest minds in startups today. The audiobook is also on iTunes The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Unabridged) – Eric Ries
Start with Why
I really wanted to ignore Start With Why by Simon Sinek because I’ve found that for tech marketing it’s more important to be honest and cover the practical details than to fart around with mission statements and hollow promises. But Bernie Mitchell and Klaus Bravenboer just wouldn’t stop talking about how awesome Simon was. When I saw his new work on management (Leaders eat Last), I decided to dip back into his old book on marketing. Start with Why is a rousing manifesto on how to communicate effectively by being more humble, honest and direct. The audiobook is narrated by Simon so you get 7 hours of one-on-one time with him. You can also get the audiobook on iTunes Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Unabridged) by Simon Sinek.
I still love Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is loud and aggressive. But he’s also one of the smartest champions of service-led approaches to social media and entrepreneurship. His argument is that the single biggest competitive advantage you can have is your ability to care deeply about what you are doing. The audiobook is narrated by him and he constantly goes off-script to add personal anecdotes. It’s like hanging out with a friend for 3 hours in a coffeeshop.
Other required listening
- Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
- Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
- Angel Investing by David Rose
All of these audiobooks are available on both iTunes and Audible. You can of course also read them in hard copy and on Kindle. But I like listening to the author narrate the book because you get a sense of their personality. I’ve also been listening to some great podcasts by Tim Ferriss, Bernie Mitchell and Mitch Joel.