6 minutes

13 Must-Read Books According to Triangle Entrepreneurs

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I have to admit, I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm. I was the kid carrying unwieldy stacks of titles out of the public library on Saturdays (nerd alert!), and that love of words has continued into my professional life. But, like most of you, I’m hard pressed these days to make time for casual reading, and I understand the irony of sharing book recommendations when the texts we’ve come accustomed to are condensed into 140 characters or less. As entrepreneurs, creators, and serious “get shit done-ers,” though, there are moments when byte-sized content isn’t enough to inspire us, challenge us, and push us forward. So, I asked some of the Triangle’s most successful entrepreneurs, product designers, inventors, and investors to recommend some titles that will do just that.

  • “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish: This is the successor to his first book on Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. It’s top of mind because we’re using the book now to help us organize and articulate our strategy. The book is a “master-class” and collection of assorted strategy ideas all in one place. It includes models and frameworks for communicating strategy in a coherent way. Also, it has good feedback on habits and processes that top companies all do. Great read for entrepreneurs focused on scaling their business once initial product-market fit is met. — Todd Olson is a serial entrepreneur who most recently founded Pendo, a Raleigh-based customer analytics startup. In 2015, the company raised $11 Million and nearly doubled in size.
  • “Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz: This is a great book with great examples by a seasoned entrepreneur. Being a CEO/entrepreneur can be a very lonely job. This book helps you understand that you’re not alone. It’s reassuring and practical. — Todd Olson
  • “Good Work” by E.F. Shumacher is the book that has inspired my search for meaning throughout my career. — Aly and Beth Khalifa are the co-founders of Gamil Design and Designbox, a product design firm and innovation house, respectively. In 2014, their Gamila Teastick and Impress Brewer were acquired by Seventh Generation Ventures, and they are currently working on building the sustainable LyfShoes brand.
  • “Cradle 2 Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” is the bible on sustainability that influences every aspect of my design and engineering thinking. — Aly Khalifa 
  • “The Starfish and the Spider” allowed me to more fully understand what I was already doing with SPARKcon (the Triangle’s first creative conference).  Aly Khalifa 
  • Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. This book helps me to search for and to recognize “meaning” as a primary motivator and definition of success. Without meaning, I think work would be unsatisfying and unsustainable, regardless of the bottom line. — Beth Khalifa 
  • Nail It then Scale It” by Nathan Furr & Paul Ahlstrom, a book recommended to me by Adam O’Donnell of Buzz Report. It’s a manual for the lean start-up approach – very practical and down-to-earth, with great recommendations for precisely HOW to uncover customer pain and iterate to reach a value proposition that truly meets market need. — Jan Davis is one of the Triangle’s most connected angel investors, having spent time as the President of Triangle Angel Partners and as an Advisory Board member of several startups in the region. Jan is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at UNC and with the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network.
  • One book that fascinates me is “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse. I was “forced” to read it in high school and don’t recall gaining anything from that experience. But then when I re-read it 30 years later, it was filled with meaning and relatable experiences. Marshall Brain is widely known as the founder ofHowStuffWorks.com, which sold for $250 Million to Discovery Communications in 2007. He’s written over a dozen of his own books, is on the Engineering Entrepreneurship faculty at NC State, and is currently on the founding team of automated transportation startup, EcoPRT.
  • I am also a fan of “The No Asshole Rule” by Robert Sutton. Life is short, and eliminating assholes from your life can make the journey more enjoyable. But the flipside is, sometimes it is good to have assholes around. It is helpful to have someone who is able to call a spade a spade and can let you know when you’re full of crap. Or someone who can snowplow through red tape even if people don’t like it. It’s useful to understand both sides of the coin. — Marshall Brain
  • And then there is Tony Robbins. Some people don’t like him, but I am a fan. His latest book is “Money, Master the Game” and he has a lot of bestsellers before that— Marshall Brain
  • If you don’t have time to read a book, follow people on Twitter and read their Medium posts to get the idea of how this startup thing works. Otherwise, I like “The Big Idea” – although it’s a bit cheesy, it’s a good motivator with stories that are easy to relate. Another recommendation is “Hard Thing About Hard Things.” — Justin Miller is the Co-founder and CEO of dejaMi, makers of PhotoApp and the fast-growingWedPics App, a photo-sharing platform focused on disrupting the $100B wedding industry. The startup has raised over $12 Million to date with upwards of 4 million users.
  • Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.” Says Brooks, “This is at the top of our recommended reading list!” — Brooks Bell is the founder of Brooks Bell, Inc, a leading optimization firm that works on enterprise-level A/B testing with major clients like Amazon and Brooks Brothers. Her husband,Jesse Lipson, is the founder of ShareFile, a tech startup acquired by Citrix in 2011. Together, they also co-founded HQ Raleigh, downtown Raleigh’s entrepreneurial community.
  • “Every Good Endeavor” by Timothy Keller. I chose this book particularly for the inspiration in this passage: “If God exists, and there is a true reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.” — Scott Moody is the co-founder of K4 Connect, a venture-backed IoT startup developing smart home software for seniors and those living with disabilities. Prior to K4, Scott was the co-founder and CEO ofAuthenTec, the company we can all thank for the iPhone’s fingerprint technology (and that sold to Apple for a whopping $356 Million).

There you have it! Grab your library cards (just kidding, pick up your Kindle or iPad) and get reading. And if you have your own book recommendation, please share below in the comments or tweet them to me at@DIG_SOUTH!