The best books about building and growing a startup

Who am I?

I’m a serial entrepreneur who’s built and sold several startups. I’ve been helping non-venture-backed startup founders since 2005 and now I run the first startup accelerator for bootstrappers, called TinySeed. I’ve invested in 57 startups, but I don’t believe the only way to start a SaaS company is to raise money. I host the most popular podcast for bootstrappers, called Startups for the Rest of Us. I also run the most well-known conference and online community for non-venture-track SaaS founders, called MicroConf.


I wrote...

Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup

By Rob Walling,

Book cover of Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup

What is my book about?

Start Small, Stay Small is a step-by-step guide to launching a self-funded startup. If you're a developer, this book is your blueprint to getting your startup off the ground with no outside investment.

This book intentionally avoids topics restricted to venture-backed startups such as: honing your investment pitch, securing funding, and figuring out how to use the piles of cash investors keep placing in your lap. There's nothing wrong with pursuing venture funding and attempting to grow fast like Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Facebook. It just so happened that most people are not in a place to do this.

The books I picked & why

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Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

By Gabriel Weinberg,

Book cover of Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

Why this book?

There are many traction channels that we can try to leverage as founders and oftentimes it’s difficult to know which channel will work best. This book provides you with the framework to methodically discover and test different traction channels effectively and systematically grow your startup. If nothing else, this book is a great list of marketing approaches that you can use as a starting point for your growth efforts.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth

By Gabriel Weinberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Traction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Traction, serial entrepreneurs Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares give startups the tools for generating explosive customer growth

'Anyone trying to break through to new customers can use this smart, ambitious book'
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup

Most startups don't fail because they can't build a product. Most startups fail because they can't get traction.

Building a successful company is hard. Smart entrepreneurs know that the key to success isn't the originality of your offering, the brilliance of your team, or how much money you raise. It's how consistently you can grow and acquire new customers.

Traction will…


The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need

By Anthony Iannarino,

Book cover of The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need

Why this book?

Selling is and always has been about the personal relationship between the buyer and the seller. People buy from people they know and trust. Iannarino does a fantastic job outlining the essential behaviors (self-discipline, accountability, competitiveness, resourcefulness, storytelling, diagnosing) for effective sales and these principles will be requisite for all startup founders.

The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need

By Anthony Iannarino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The USA Today bestseller by the star sales speaker and author of The Sales Blog that reveals how all salespeople can attain huge sales success through strategies backed by extensive research and experience.
 
Anthony Iannarino never set out to become a salesman, let alone a sales manager, speaker, coach, or writer of the most prominent blog about the art and science of great selling. He fell into his profession by accident, as a day job while pursuing rock-and-roll stardom.
 
Once he realized he'd never become the next Mick Jagger, Iannarino turned his focus to a question that's been debated for…


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown,

Book cover of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Why this book?

As startup founders, we are often trying to do too much. By spreading ourselves thin, we lose. I love this book because McKeown provides a selective criteria framework for making decisions about what is important and essential -- decisions that any founder has to make on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Essentialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The life-changing international bestseller that started a global movement - now updated with the new 21-Day Essentialism Challenge and an exclusive excerpt from EFFORTLESS

Have you ever found yourself struggling with information overload?

Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilised?

Do you ever feel busy but not productive?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is to become an Essentialist.

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown, CEO of a Leadership and Strategy agency in Silicon Valley who has run courses at Apple, Google and Facebook, shows you how to achieve what he calls the disciplined pursuit of…


The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together: How to Run Your Business Without Letting it Run You

By Sherry Walling, Rob Walling,

Book cover of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together: How to Run Your Business Without Letting it Run You

Why this book?

The mental game is perhaps the most important part of being a successful founder while also living a sane and happy life. Sherry Walling is an entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and helps us understand how to properly equip ourselves for the startup journey. For full disclosure, I am married to Dr. Walling and credited as a contributing author since we collaborated on several of the ideas that served as the basis for this book. But this book is recommended far and wide by those who read it and understand the need to be aware of how difficult this journey can be.

The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together: How to Run Your Business Without Letting it Run You

By Sherry Walling, Rob Walling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Entrepreneur's Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Learn how to stay sane and ensure both you and your business thrive for years.
You run a business. And running a business is hard. It can ruin your health. It can ruin your relationships. It can ruin your life.But only if you don’t equip yourself for the journey.The responsibility, stress and loneliness of being an entrepreneur are a far cry from your friends who work salaried jobs. The path of least resistance is to let the stress and isolation of starting, running and growing a business infiltrate most aspects of your life.

Over and over we’ve watched our fellow…


Strengthsfinder 2.0

By Gallup, Tom Rath,

Book cover of Strengthsfinder 2.0

Why this book?

Knowing yourself can be difficult, but essential for success as a founder. Instead of focusing on our weaknesses, Rath argues that we should double down on what makes us unique and he provides us with the tools to discover those strengths. We wear many hats as startup founders, so by understanding our own strengths, we can be more effective leaders and build a more balanced team.

Strengthsfinder 2.0

By Gallup, Tom Rath,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strengthsfinder 2.0 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

StrengthsFinder 2.0 features an access code for the new and upgraded version of the StrengthsFinder program, the main selling point of mega-bestseller Now, Discover Your Strengths (over a million copies sold).

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

Chances are, you don't. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths.

To help people uncover their talents, Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment, StrengthsFinder, in the 2001 management book Now, Discover Your Strengths.…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in execution, decision making, and sales?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about execution, decision making, and sales.

Execution Explore 12 books about execution
Decision Making Explore 44 books about decision making
Sales Explore 17 books about sales

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The War of Art, Overcoming Overwhelm, and How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids if you like this list.