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