The best books to help you grow start-up ideas


HAV­ING been in­volved in the study of en­trepreneur­ship for the last quar­ter of a cen­tury, I thought that I would share with you the eight books that have in­spired me over the last few years and can hope­fully do the same for you.

As we all know, new ideas are the lifeblood of any en­tre­pre­neur­ial busi­ness, and two ex­cel­lent books which ex­am­ine the ori­gin of ideas are The Idea in You, by Martin Amor and Alex Pellew, and Thinker­toys, by Michael Michalko.

What I re­ally love about The Idea in You is that it fol­lows one of my main mantras, namely that en­trepreneur­ship is ev­ery­where.

While there needs to be sup­port for tech­nol­ogy-based start-ups, this mustn’t be at the ex­pense of de­vel­op­ing en­trepreneur­ship more widely within busi­ness and so­ci­ety. Through won­der­ful ex­am­ples, this book demon­strates that ideas can come from any part of so­ci­ety and can have real im­pact upon com­mu­ni­ties in dif­fer­ent ways.

Thinker­toys then takes this con­cept a stage fur­ther by de­vel­op­ing a se­ries of tools and tech­niques that are not only use­ful for en­trepreneurs to de­velop new ideas, but for any­one wish­ing to solve prob­lems within ex­ist­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions. Even for those of us who think they can solve any prob­lem go­ing, the tech­niques within this book can de­velop longterm skills that can help us all to be more cre­ative.

The next two books are slightly au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal, in that they take the en­tre­pre­neur’s ex­pe­ri­ence and try to gen­er­ate lessons for the oth­ers who want to un­der­take this jour­ney.

Daniel Pri­est­ley is not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea but I have al­ways en­joyed his ir­rev­er­ent and al­ways in­for­ma­tive style of writ­ing. His lat­est book, The En­tre­pre­neur Rev­o­lu­tion, cap­tures per­fectly the new en­tre­pre­neur­ial mind­set that many young peo­ple as­pire to, fo­cus­ing on chang­ing the way in­di­vid­u­als should think of busi­ness, how to net­work ef­fec­tively and how to make a suc­cess­ful liv­ing out of work­ing for your­self. Not for ev­ery­one, ad­mit­tedly, but it is a good read from some­one who has been there and done it.

Busi­ness for Punks: Break All the Rules is an­other pub­li­ca­tion that de­scribes how one com­pany avoided the con­ven­tional rules for do­ing busi­ness and be­came a £1bn com­pany along the way.

It is es­sen­tially the story of Brew­dog, ar­guably the most suc­cess­ful craft brewer in the UK, and how its founders did things on their own terms. In­deed, while this is very much an in-your-face ac­count of the rise of Brew­dog by one of its founders, the most im­por­tant mes­sage is about car­ing about what you do as an en­tre­pre­neur and be­ing true to your val­ues

For those who have de­cided to take the next step to turn their idea into a new busi­ness, there are prob­a­bly two great books that they should read.

The first is un­doubt­edly the Bi­ble for new firms, namely Lean Start-Up, by Eric Reis, a book that rev­o­lu­tionised the way that many en­trepreneurs and their sup­port­ers man­age this process. Un­like many books on how to start a new busi­ness, it pro­vides a clear set of ex­pla­na­tions on how to man­age the de­vel­op­ment of the new ven­ture and, im­por­tantly, fo­cuses on build­ing a sus­tain­able busi­ness rather than just grow­ing quickly and mak­ing money.

Dis­ci­plined En­trepreneur­ship is one of the best books on the process of build­ing a busi­ness that I have ever read. Writ­ten by Bill Aulet, who is not only the head of the Martin Trust Cen­tre for En­trepreneur­ship at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, but also a suc­cess­ful se­rial en­tre­pre­neur in his own right, it draws on his ex­pe­ri­ences in start­ing and de­vel­op­ing new and grow­ing firms. Through de­vel­op­ing a 24-step guide which at­tempts to cre­ate a frame­work for those wish­ing to de­velop their in­no­va­tions into a suc­cess­ful firm, it is a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach to many other how-to books on start-ups and pro­vides a nice coun­ter­bal­ance through pro­vid­ing a dis­ci­plined route to grow­ing the firm.

Fi­nally, I can’t dis­cuss any col­lec­tion of books on en­trepreneur­ship with­out men­tion­ing the two pub­li­ca­tions that have had the most im­pact on pol­icy-mak­ing in this area dur­ing the last decade.

Writ­ten by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, Start-Up Na­tion ex­am­ines how Is­rael, a coun­try of just over seven mil­lion peo­ple, has pro­duced more suc­cess­ful start-up com­pa­nies than larger coun­tries such as Ja­pan, China and In­dia while at­tract­ing more than twice as much ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vest­ment per per­son as the USA and 30 times more than Europe. It is a fas­ci­nat­ing ac­count of how the cul­ture of this small na­tion has cre­ated a so­ci­ety that is both en­tre­pre­neur­ial and in­no­va­tive.

Start Up Com­mu­nity is the mas­ter­piece from Brad Feld, a start-up founder and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist from Boul­der, in Colorado, which de­scribes how en­trepreneurs within his com­mu­nity have cre­ated a new type of ecosys­tem where they, and not large com­pa­nies or gov­ern­ment, are driv­ing the lo­cal eco­nomic agenda.

Cer­tainly, there are a num­ber of lessons for Wales within this book, not least that en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­mu­ni­ties must be led by en­trepreneurs and sup­ported by the other ac­tors within the lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity who feed into the sys­tem. Such com­mu­ni­ties can­not be built overnight and there must be a long view and com­mit­ment to en­abling this to hap­pen over a pe­riod of at least 20 years em­brac­ing both suc­cess and fail­ure.

There also must be an en­vi­ron­ment of in­clu­siv­ity where any­one with an in­ter­est in en­trepreneur­ship is wel­come to con­trib­ute to the process and, crit­i­cally, a range of sub­stan­tive ac­tiv­i­ties that en­gage the en­tire busi­ness com­mu­nity to help start-ups to de­velop.

These are my cur­rent favourite books on en­trepreneur­ship and if you are run­ning your own busi­ness, think­ing about be­com­ing an en­tre­pre­neur or ac­tu­ally help­ing new firms to start and de­velop, these books could not only help you, but are also crack­ing good reads in their own right.


> En­tre­pre­neur­ial com­mu­ni­ties must be led by en­trepreneurs and sup­ported by the other ac­tors within the lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity

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