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Books That Have Shaped Our Founders

Jodi Joffe

December 5, 2022

One thing entrepreneurs unanimously agree on is the value of a good book.

For founders, taking the time to read adds tremendous value- it creates opportunities to expand the mind and thus contribute more to one's company, it opens one to alternative ways of thinking and problem solving, it strengthens the ability to focus, not to mention reading has been proven to reduce stress levels by up to 68%- an invaluable tool for a founder.

A while back, we asked a few of our founders at F2 for their favorite books, those that have helped shape them as leaders. Almost all of them recommended books that connect to their experiences as a founder, and the influence of these books and their authors is clear when chatting with our founders face to face. 

Looking to be inspired or supported throughout your founder experience? Check out these reading recommendations.

“The Hard Thing about Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz

Benny Lakunishok, Co-founder and CEO of Zero Networks, Oded Barak, Co-founder and CEO of Five Sigma, and Mickey Balter, Co-founder and CEO of Oriient, all recommended this as a must read, and for good reason. In “The Hard Thing about Hard Things,” Horowitz delves into his own experiences as a startup founder, giving the reader an inside look into what the process looks like - the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Through his introspection, Horowitz guides the reader through key junctions in the startup process with a refreshing sense of realness and vulnerability. He highlights the fact that most businesses can’t *actually* be perfect, and that screw-ups are a part of the ride. He gives clear cut lessons, decision roadmaps, and guiding tips to help founders navigate the complicated highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are pervasive among founders and this book legitimizes these hard feelings with support, guidance and makes those going through the journey feel that much less alone.

“Hard things are hard because there are no easy answers or recipes. They are hard because your emotions are at odds with your logic. They are hard because you don’t know the answer and you cannot ask for help without showing weakness.” 

“The great CEO within – a practical guide for startup scaling, from being a founder to
being a CEO” by Matt Mochary

If you are looking for the holy grail of tips and tricks to becoming the ultimate CEO, Tomer Kashi, Co-founder and CEO of VOOM, recommends you check out this book.

Mochary’s breakdown of key lessons in leadership provide readers with a checklist on which to base their individual evolution as a founder, as well as tactics for building a strong company from the ground up. These include getting interested in your employee’s backstories, fostering a sense of camaraderie, and ensuring that “thank you” is the first word in a company’s vocabulary. He encourages the reader to focus on both internal and external traits that will push them in the most efficient and effective ways possible. 

Mochary provides a well-rounded strategy, with tips ranging from encouraging employee growth to guided internal reflections. This book is considered to be a CEO bible, and is a highly useful resource for those looking to reinforce their top-down company strategy.

“Agreeing on what your values are is the kind of statement that needs maximum buy-in, so it should involve your whole company. Send out a survey, and gather contributions from everyone. Ask your team to suggest both a value and the name of an employee who exemplifies it.” 

"Crossing the Chasm"  by Geoffrey A. Moore

Itzik Malka, Co-founder and CEO of 4M Analytics, highly recommends this book for founders looking to keep a beat on the entire product lifecycle.

In this book, Moore discusses the empirically proven strategies which help entrepreneurs “cross the chasm,” and introduce their product from small groups of early customers, to large scale major market customers in an easy to understand guide. He breaks down what this “chasm” actually looks like, and highlights the different groups one should market to throughout the go-to-market lifecycle. Emphasizing the importance of this chasm is key, as marketing can sometimes fall by the wayside in an early stage startup priority list. Moore’s response to that is clear: you could have the best product in the world, but if it’s not marketed correctly, nobody will know enough about it to pique real interest.   

Moore brings real life examples, showing exactly what went right and what went wrong throughout certain companies' go-to-market, allowing the reader to learn from past founder’s trials and triumphs. Though the book is focused on hi-tech product marketing, the methodology is simple and applicable to all types of entrepreneurs, and should definitely be in your bedside table book stack. 

“Entering the mainstream market is an act of burglary, of breaking and entering, of deception, often even of stealth.” 

"From Zero to One" by Peter Thiel

When the seasoned startup founder turned billionaire writes, odds are that you should read. Oded Barak, Co-founder and CEO of Five Sigma, recommends reading “From Zero to One” to boost entrepreneurial thinking. Thiel’s unique experience founding PayPal and Palantir provides him with insights that he openly shares in “From Zero to One.”

A controversial character, Thiel has some hot takes on the founder's journey, like utilizing contrarian beliefs as motivators, or having monopoly, rather than competition, as the ultimate goal. He advocates for some out of the box thinking, and provides specialized methodologies based on his personal experience and success. Though you may not agree with everything he says, Thiel definitely adds tremendous perspective to the founder’s journey, and plays the devil's advocate to get the creative process flowing. 

“Today’s “best practices” lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.”

It’s clear that the successful founder learns from other successful founders, and these books are just the beginning. When you set aside small increments of time to consider the wide breadth of knowledge your fore-founders have shared, you will certainly find yourself leaning into new ideas, creative ways of thinking, and personal growth that will filter into the growth of your company.

Any other suggestions to add to the list? Please share with us!

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