Top 10 Outstanding Books for Pioneering Nontechnical Founders

You are what you know. Before starting your startup, you need to know processes behind building successful businesses. You also have to be ultra smart in your domain of expertise as well as product design and programming. These books will give you a primer on how to breath life into the startup of your dreams. As a founder you are inundated with constraints on your time an energy. It can be difficult to get a book in there. Still, to run the startup of your dreams, you need to know what the best know.

The Lean Startup

Build products and services that people actually want. Entrepreneurs launch startups with the hopes that they’ll become the next Mark Zuckerberg. But yet, they waste their time and energy building products that nobody wants. In this book, Eric Ries gives you a framework that helps you do just that. The Lean Startup  focus your team in the features that matter most to your customers. He teaches you to test your riskiest assumptions before building them. Once you build them, you prototype, test, and accumulate knowledge from your customers. He coins this the “Build, Measure, Learn” loop. You can use this loop to start building better products today. It’s a must read for every founder.


Often times when you’re living the #StartupLife, you run into roadblocks. When you work with a team, everyone believes that their idea is the best one. It’s up to you, the founder, to figure out what your customer wants. Sprint helps you solve your biggest questions in 5 days. The book gives a practical format for you to test your biggest ideas with your team and real customers. You can use the learnings to build a better product. It also prevents you from building a product that nobody wants. At the end of your product sprint you’ll know whether you’re building in the right direction.

the ONE thing

Focus. The most important attribute that you and your entire organization should have is focus. The ONE thing encourages you to focus on one thing. One feature, one customer segment. The power of one allows you to focus your efforts on building the right product. The book contains practical advice on how to manage your time as well as the time of the people you manage. This book will help you manage your day to day startup activities. You’ll focusing on the most important “thing” of the day. You’ll move faster than your competition because of your incredible focus.

Zero To One

How did the big tech companies like PayPal get their start. This book gives you insight on how they took their idea from concept current selves. Here’s a hint, they were 10x better than the competition. Peter Thiel reminisces about his successes and failures though the dot com era. He gives you practical tidbits of knowledge that you can use to make your startup better today. There is also a history lesson that parallels our current tech bubble. Be wise, take his advice, he’s a billionaire for a reason.

The Virgin Way

Richard Brandson is a charismatic enigma. The book chronicles his audacious journey building the Virgin brand. Throughout this journey he challenged giants like British Airways and Coca-Cola. He faces large wins and losses as he builds his companies with a focus on his employees and his customers. The Virgin way teaches you how to manage a growing company. It tells you to take risks, make mistakes and you’ll always come out on top. It’s an adventure in the life of Richard Brandson packed with enough wisdom to make you grow a beard.

The Phoenix Project

You follow Bill, the IT guy, who has the task of fixing his entire IT department in 90 days. If he doesn’t everyone get canned. Though it is a fiction, it teaches the reader complex ideas through allegory. This book will give you a relateable course in IT management. It touching on more complex topics like automation, Kanban boards,  and work in process. The story follows the core team as they learn how to manage work across departments. They solve problems and launch 2 products. 1 is destined to failed, while the other succeeds. The later, succeeds because of the techniques gleaned from their experiences. Read this book twice and read it with a notepad. There are countless lessons that you can learn from these characters. If you’re able to internalize the lessons in this book, you will be unstoppable. Teaching the techniques to your team will transform your organization. We’ve used the techniques outlined in this book to plan and deliver complex software on time and within scope.

The Goal

The Goal teaches you that process is more important than work. This book and the Phoenix project teach complex ideas through story. The Goal goes deeper into the idea of constraints. When running your startup you will run into constraints. The Goal equips the reader with the tools to manage and “protect the constraints.” You’ll know exactly what this means after you read it. To touch on the idea, your constraint could be the amount of features that you can deliver to your users. Another constraint can be the amount of users you can onboard per month. The great (not so great) thing about constraints is that once you solve for one, another pops up. Managing constraints is one of the key pillars to converting your startup to a business.

Value Proposition Design

Do people want use your product? Why would they interact with your brand? Why don’t they stick to your competitors? Why use something new when the old one works just fine? These are all questions that your value proposition should answer. With a weak value proposition, your startup will not survive it’s launch. Value Proposition Design teaches you how to craft exceptional value propositions. It gives you a powerful premise that speaks to your target user. You’ll learn a quick easy to learn process that analyzes your current value.  where you position your products and services against the mind of your user. Once you’re able to solidify your footing in your users mind, your product or service will be loved. The book also gives you a shared language that you can use with your team to discuss and design new value propositions for your users.

Business Model Canvas

Most startups struggle to find a good value proposition. Once a proposition that achieves product market fit arises, the next challenge is finding a suitable business model. A polished business model matures your startup into a full fledged business. Business Model Generation teaches you how to construct and prototype different business models. This rapid process of prototyping different business models allows you to be strategic. You gain insights and solve problems as an brilliant organization. You will find the best model for your startup. You’ll save time, energy, and most importantly money.

100 Dollar Startup

This book give you a practical guide on coming up with a solid business idea and launching it to your audience. This walks you through the stories of entrepreneurs who had a small budget and a lot of heart. Chris Guillebeau teaches you how to quit your job and live off of your ideas. The book does not contain many instances of tech entrepreneurs. Still, it is still an inspiration for all founders that have dreams of living a different life. You’ll enjoy the practical advice and the adventures of other entrepreneurs who started living their drams.

These 10 books are an excellent start for the entrepreneur who wants to build an amazing product. The next best thing would be to start building your product today.

Ken Vermeille
Ken Vermeille
The founder and CEO of Vermillion Sky. Ken Vermeille has 15 years of experience in product design and development. Creating his first website at 12 years old, he continues to build his talents by leveraging his ability to learn and implement any technology. In the past he's worked on mobile and web apps, video games, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, business model generation, and anything to keep Vermillion Sky at the cutting edge of product design and development.

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