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Startup Wise Guys Bookshelf

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#SWGMafia is reading non-stop and we’d love to share with you the books our mentors, investors, partners, and team members suggest. Keep this saved in your Bookmarks list as we will be updating it once in a while with more and more new suggestions. 🤓

PERFORM: The Unsexy Truth about (Startup) Success by Stoyan Yankov and Cristobal Alonso

PERFORM – The Unsexy Truth about (Startup) Success is a book about the extra mile startups need to go in order to turn into a well-oiled machine. UNsexy tips, stories, and interviews that will later help you master the sexy part.

Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behavior and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business (and in Life) by Thomas Erikson

Simple, but interesting approach to human typology. It might explain frictions in the team and how to go about it, as well as help in hiring.

Suggested by Zane Bojāre.

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

We negotiate all the time. When it really matters it tends to be that we are in a situation that is new and different. It takes practise and experience to learn from mistakes. Joshua N. Weiss has put together cases demonstrating different situation and how they were carried out. The stories vary from the outset and power dynamics but they resemble situations that you may face in the future.

Suggested by Patrick Collins.

Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie

This is an eye-opening book, explaining how algorithms of social media can shape our vision of the world and how it can be used against us. As a bonus: it is a full story of Cambridge Analytica, the Brexit campaign, and the 2016 US election from first-hand witness and whistleblower.

Suggested by Darja Ogorodnik.

The Book of Real-World Negotiations: Successful Strategies From Business, Government, and Daily Life by Joshua N. Weiss

We negotiate all the time. When it really matters it tends to be that we are in a situation that is new and different. It takes practise and experience to learn from mistakes. Joshua N. Weiss has put together cases demonstrating different situation and how they were carried out. The stories vary from the outset and power dynamics but they resemble situations that you may face in the future.

Suggested by Petri Kajander.

The Startup Community Way: Evolving an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem by Brad Feld

The Startup Community Way explains why some communities thrive where information, talent and capital flow freely, and social capital or “networks of trust” are plenty. Social capital is based on virtuous and high-trust relationships where quality is more important than quantity, and the results are non-linear and highly impactful.

Suggested by Petri Kajander.

The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb

Big Nine helps you to understand what the impact of AI could be on humanity for good and for bad and what needs to be changed. You will probably want to switch off your internet browser by the time you finish reading it.

Suggested by Patrick Collins

Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin West

A biologist and a data scientist manage to take you on a roughly 300-page journey of critical thinking. It covers Freud’s cocaine-fuelled rhetoric and the hidden cause of Murphy’s law. It even throws in an experiment with a dead Atlantic salmon in an fMRI machine. I read it in gradual bursts with my morning coffee while leaving fiction for the evening. Cat people will love it*.

* See pages 41-44.
Suggested by Gleb Maltsev

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson

Naval is my favorite modern philosopher, he is a founder of Angellist and a successful angel investor. He has captivated the world with his principles for building wealth and creating long-term happiness. This book is a collection of Naval’s wisdom and experience from the last 10 years. It’s also available for free download in PDF and e-reader versions on

Suggested by Dag Ainsoo.

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac

If you liked Bad Blood, you will like this one as well, this time it’s about the queen of all unicorns – UBER. It’s a story about power and the lengths to which some startup founders will go to amass it and hold on to it. It’s a delicious read!

Suggested by Dag Ainsoo.

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

There’s an old saying: if you eat a live frog first thing each morning, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. As a startup founder, you have to handle too many things at the same time. Eat That Frog tells 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done at the same time.

Suggested by Günce Önür.

What is a ‘gut feeling’? And where does it come from? In his book, ‘Blink’, Malcolm Gladwell explores just this and reveals how and why a snap judgment is often more powerful than a considered decision. This book sheds light on why that first impression really counts and therefore gets us thinking about how we can make every interaction count.

Suggested by Anna Boon.

Brilliant Coaching by Julie Starr

For the busy manager, coaching needs to be both practical and accessible. Brilliant Coaching presents key information, explanations and guidance in an appealing, user-friendly format, allaying any fears that coaching is difficult or complex. Valuable for anyone managing people and figuring out ways, how to grow talent.

Suggested by Zane Bojāre.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

Suggested by Jon Bradford.

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp

From three partners at Google Ventures, a unique five-day process for solving tough problems, proven at more than a hundred companies. A practical guide to answering critical business questions, Sprint is a book for teams of any size. It’s for anyone with a big opportunity, problem, or idea who needs to get answers today.

Suggested by Cristobal Alonso.

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns

For those who are eager to understand the storytelling world. This is a wonderful book full of inspiration not only on how stories can be built and told, but also on the power of humans.

Suggested by Luīze Sila

Start with NO…The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know by Jim Camp

A book about the best way to drive sales. It sets out negotiation rules for enterprise sales.

Suggested by our SaaS mentor Alexander Galkin.

How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use by Randy J. Paterson PhD

“There are so many things we do on autopilot everyday that are making us miserable – although many of them might seem obvious. The book is well written, easy to read and fun, you might not even notice that you have completed it. And don’t even get me started on how useful this is for founders – did you know that founders are 49% more likely to report mental health conditions?” 

Suggested by our own Andra Bagdonaitė.

Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street: How to Practice Global Public Relations and Strategic Communication by Kara Alaimo

A modern guide for how to practice public relations and strategic communication around the globe. 

Suggested by our PR mentor Julia Petryk.

Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal by Oren Klaff

“Amazing insights on selling ideas and dealing with sales meetings.”

Suggested by our own Cristobal Alonso.

Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets from the Best of the Best by Alan Stein Jr., Jon Sternfeld

“Why do I love this book? It teaches you how to adapt the mindsets and habits of world-class athletes and use it to enhance your productivity, leadership qualities, and achieve success in professional but also personal life.”

Suggested by our marketing and communications mentor Rene Rumberg​.

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke

“Everyone should read this. 🙂 My main takeaways – to improve your life, work, business – the quality of your decisions is the key. And even tiny incremental improvements lead to huge returns in the long term. And at the same time – admitting that all the decisions can never be ‘right’, removes a lot of mental strain on you and your colleagues. Focus on being always ‘true’ instead of being always ‘right’.” 

Suggested by our own Lauma Gailīte.

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

“Great book that looks at how to deal with key conversations at meetings and also your personal life.”

Suggested by our own Cristobal Alonso.

How to Go Digital by MIT Sloan Management Review

“It helps to understand the mindsted of corporate CIO in view of incremental innovations/vs disruptive innovations.”

Suggested by Askar Aituov, CTO and co-founder at ClickLog, B2B SaaS Batch 18 startup.

Transforming NOKIA: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change by Risto Siilasmaa

“Probably the best book about board work. Great examples of scenario thinking and how to negotiate in tough spots. It makes also a thrilling read about Nokia’s turnaround.”

Suggested by our mentor Petri Kajander.

3-d Negotiation: Powerful Tools to Change the Game in Your Most Important Deals by David A. Lax and James K. Sebenius

“Lax and Sebenius distinguish three dimensions of negotiation: from building interpersonal relationships, through the actual creation of value and the shaping of a deal to the third dimension. Are the right partners really at the right table and how much room do they have for negotiation? This is about getting the maximum potential out of your next negotiation.” 

Suggested by our investor negotiations mentor Petra Wolkenstein.

The Culture Map by Erin Meyers

“Erin Meyers provides a great structure to understand and compare how different cultures do business around the world. It is very helpful for entrepreneurs who are starting to expand their operations abroad. She also has an online tool that companies can use to compare different cultures and better understand how to deal with other countries.”

Suggested by our marketing and international business mentor Rodrigo Olmedo.

Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

“I was convinced, for a long time, that with stamina and skills I could have done anything, succeed in everything. (Un)fortunately, this is not true. The greatest asset a senior professional (and a startup founder) can have is his network. Whether you are fundraising, selling your product, team building, you should never underestimate the importance of your network. This book will give you valuable insights on how to do it.”

Suggested by our Partner in Italy Andrea Orlando.

The Brain Audit: Why Customers Buy (and Why They Don’t) by Sean D’Souza

“Great book that looks at the 7 stages the human brain goes through when making any buying decision. Presented in a way that isn’t very technical or boring. using the analogy of having 7 bags on an airport baggage belt. You wouldn’t leave one of your bags behind.” 

Suggested by business growth mentor Dan Wheatley.

Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

“Why “free” works like a magic wand? How pricing anchors are established? Why do you want to play according to social norms not monetary norms? I rarely come across a book that is entertaining, useful and based on quality research. This is one of them. One of the cornerstones of behavioral economy.”

Suggested by strategy and leadership mentor Greg Albrecht.

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

“Being the CEO of a startup is never easy, but have you ever considered how difficult it is to be the CEO of a traditional company which wants to transform and adapt to change? This book offers numerous valuable insights into how to lead, both a company and its people.”

Suggested by our own Andra Bagdonaitė

Winners: And How They Succeed by Alastair Campbell

“He interviews successful people from around the world and looks for what is similar and what differences they have. Its interesting to see the same characteristics and experiences happen time and time again to people all over the world.”

Suggested by business growth mentor Dan Wheatley.

Couples That Work: How Dual-Career Couples Can Thrive in Love and Work by Jennifer Petriglieri

“Useful in all ways of life and relationships,” suggested by Cristobal.

“I wish I have had this book earlier in my life. It gives great guidance for couples, where both partners are looking for ways to fulfill them professionally and going over 3 big transitions in life. I think it is valuable even if you don’t have a couple,” adds Zane.

The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli

“This book has made an unexpected impact. Despite having been written some 500 years ago, it’s packed with actionable people management advice that is still applicable today, and has surprising parallels to building and running a company (nation-state in Machiavelli’s terms).”

Suggested by business strategy mentor Artyom Chelbayev.

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle

“A true and amazing inspiration for everyone on how to manage people and/or coach startups.” 

Suggested by Cristobal.

Into the Woods A Five-Act Journey into Story by John Yorke

“It is about the stories we tell. This book shows that no matter the form of the story there’s always a structure that works. If you are eager to know why and how stories work – read it.”

Suggested by Luīze.

A Guide to Marketplaces by Boris Wertz and Angela Tran Kingyens

“The MOST useful book about building a marketplace business. Highly recommended!”

Suggested by our alumni Vahagn Grigoryan.

F*ck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems by Michael Bennett MD and Sarah Bennett

“Written by a psychiatrist and his comedy writer daughter, this book will make you laugh through tears, let go of the control and finally realize that there are things in the life that you can’t change.” 

Suggested by Karina.

Venture Capitalists at Work: How VCs Identify and Build Billion-Dollar Successes by Tarang Shah and Shital Shah

“I like books in which the author doesn’t tell you what to do, but provides a lot of separate cases and leaves it to the reader to make conclusions. This book is one of them. Overall, the book consists of short interviews with hyper-successful VCs and startup founders, who tell about their successful investment decisions and failures.”

Suggested by our mentor Elena Mazhuha.

Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick by Alexandra Watkins

“Awesome book! I wish I have read it this book before coming up with my company name.”

Suggested by our alumni Vahagn Grigoryan.

The Art of Making Sh!t Up: Using the Principles of Improv to Become an Unstoppable Powerhouse by Norm Laviolette

“Sometimes good advice come from unexpected sources. How to listen, negotiate,  do teamwork and give better presentations are some of the things this book can give you.”

Suggested by our mentor Petri Kajander.

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West

“This book offers a different way of looking at the term ‘scale’ that founders and investors throw around during matchmaking.”

Suggested by our pitch coach Gleb Maltsev.

Copywriting: Successful Writing for Design, Advertising and Marketing by Mark Shaw

“Even if you are not a natural writer this book will inspire you to give it a go with small hacks that you can use in your daily life, as well as by setting a structure around it.” 

Suggested by Luīze.

Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.) by Anthony Bourdain

“This is the only book that I recommend to all startups no matter what business they are in. It is about starting, failing, starting, failing and starting all over again. It is about big dreams, tram spirit, trust and passion.”

Suggested by CyberNorth alumni Pinar Soyata from autom8. 

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund and Ola Rosling

“It allows to look at the world and its development through facts. It is a great surprise how much subjectivity we have in our understanding about things happening around us.”

Suggested by our own Dima.

The Art of the Good Life: Clear Thinking for Business and a Better Life by Rolf Dobelli

“Dobelli has written one of the simplest guides for leading a Good Life. Through the fifty-two short chapters, he uncovers most of the thinking based problems that are holding us back.”

Suggested by Batch 6 alumni Sander Gansen. More suggestions from Sander here.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank

“This is a book about how to build a proper customer development and pricing. It helped us save half a million dollars when we started building our company.”

Suggested by our mentor and co-founder of Competera Alexander Galkin.

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan

“If you don’t have anybody in your team who’s experienced in building products, then this book is what you need. It gives a lot of good insights on how to build a team and what processes you need to implement so that you can faster build a product avoiding building stuff that you don’t need.”

Suggested by our Batch 12 alumni Eero Veider from eXpact. 

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and
Morten T. Hansen

“One of the best books I’ve ever encountered. I skip the phrase “business books” with a purpose – its principles apply to life in general.”

Suggested by Wise Guys Fintech I alumni Ansis Farhad Lipenitis

Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected by Devora Zack

“Networking doesn’t have to be stressful, building relationships has to be comfortable for you in the first place. An easy read to find your comfort zone in growing the network.”

Suggested by our Business Development mentor Mariia Tintul.

Decoding Silicon Valley: The Insider’s Guide by Michelle E. Messina

Book written by our mentor Michelle Messina about Silicon Valley best practices for growing and scaling companies, the Valley’s unique vantage point for evaluating startups, and what rules can and should be broken in the course of building a global business.

Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It by Scott Kupor

Suggested by Dag. He has not read it yet, as the book was published only at the beginning of June, but he preordered it and is sure that it’s going to be good. 

The Follow-Up Formula by Steli Efti

“The Follow-up Formula is geared towards salespeople but no matter who you are or what your job title is, you can get what you want by following up more.” 

Suggested by our mentor and sales guru Mario Krivokapic

Bargaining for Advantage – Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People by G. Richard Shell

“This book will help founders in several areas – from negotiating with investors, to closing sales.”

Suggested by Yuriy Mikitchenko.

Talking to Humans by Giff Constable

Practical guide to the qualitative side of customer development, an indispensable skill for vetting and improving any new startup or innovation. This book will teach you how to structure and run effective customer interviews, find candidates, and turn learnings into action. 

Suggested by Farid.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the one-time multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes. “Sometimes fake it till you make it is a wrong philosophy to have”.

Suggested by Cristobal and Zane

Diplomacy by Henry Kissinger

“As Kissinger put it “Intellectuals analyze the operations of international systems; statesmen build them.” This can be well applied to startups too… In the world where so many things are unknown, it is impossible to simply copy one companies approach to things and build it the same way. So it is up to you, if you spend time analyzing successful companies, or you invest time in building one.”

Suggested by Ernests Štāls.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares

Traction will teach you the nineteen channels you can use to build a customer base, and how to pick the right ones for your business.

Suggested by Patrick Collins.

Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Have you ever thought about how you can improve your checklists? In this book Atul Gawande reveals the hidden gems of mastering the art of turing your to-do into a checklist.

Suggested by sales mentors at SWG Patrick Collins

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

“This book helps you to stop running like crazy in your everyday routine and deadlines, take a step back and analyze your actions and WHY behind each of it. It helps to understand the difference between real values and short term heights to make right decisions and define your priorities.”

Suggested by Alona.

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL BIBLE TO VENTURE CAPITAL: Inside Secrets from the Leaders in the Startup Game by Andrew Romans

Read this book to understand better which is you next step in you startup journey and how it should look like.

Suggested by Dmitrij.

The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon, Brent Adamson

Is building relationships with your customers the best and only way? Definitely not! This book suggests that you need to challenge them!

Suggested by sales mentors at SWG Patrick Collins

The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki

If you don’t know how to start, then turn to this book to find out how to build a strong team, create an awesome product or service or how to face down your competition.

Suggested by Dmitrij.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

“This book will make you think about how you approach different kinds of situations in your life no matter if it’s an organizational, technical or a personal issue. Creativity, openness, confidence and ability to admit that you were wrong – those are the takeaways.”

Suggested by Luīze.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker PhD

“Sleep is crucially important for everyone, startups specifically. Cause without adequate sleep, brain has a harder time absorbing and recalling new information. Which is crucially important in case of acceleration.”

Suggested by one of our pitch coaches Gleb Maltsev

Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups–Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000 by Jason Calacanis

“A book aims to help business angels to invest wisely. So it’s super useful for startups to understand the way of investors’ thinking.”

Suggested by Alexandra.

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte

“Probably the most comprehensive book on slides, powerpoint and storytelling, so you can pitch like a boss.”

Suggested by Zane

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman

“One of my favourite books on personal productivity. The author offers simple solutions to master distractions and to focus our time and attention on what matters most: our core priorities. The book is filled with stories and examples which makes it a pleasant and enjoyable read. Give it a try!”

Suggested by productivity mentor at SWG Stoyan Yankov

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action by Simon Sinek

“If you want to understand why companies succeed and how they manage to communicate and build their purpose, read this book. Enough practical examples that will help you build, communicate and follow the important things, that make good leaders.”

Suggested by Farid.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath, Dan Heath

“The book explains why from the many ideas and concepts you hear every day, some ‘stick’ in your memory, while others do not. They suggest that ‘the first problem of communication is getting people’s attention. The book offers tools such as simplicity, storytelling and emotion to enable you to create a message that ‘sticks’.”

Suggested by Ginny Radmall

Creative Strategies: 10 approaches to solving design problems by Fridolin Beisert

“A designers approach to solving problems in Business. Incredibly powerful if you can master these design techniques in Business.”

Suggested by Farid

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss, Tahl Raz

“Never split the difference takes you deep into the world of FBI hostage negotiations and how all of this applies to real-life business scenarios. A must read if you want to become a master negotiator.”

Suggested by Sales lead mentor at SWG Mario Krivokapic.

High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil

“Learn from common patterns compiled by following the growth of tech companies like Airbnb, Twitter, Google, Instacart, Coinbase, Stripe, and Square.”

Suggested by Dag

The Rare Find: How Great Talent Stands Out by George Anders

“If you want to find the hidden gems..” This book is suggested by our SWG Getaway speaker & hiring guru David Bizer  (former staffing manager at Google Europe, and now founder of Talent Fountain).

Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed by Michael D. Eisner, Aaron R. Cohen

Some partnerships work better than others. Think Bill and Melinda Gates or movie producers Ron Howard and Brian Gazer. This book helps being a better co-founder. Suggested by both Herty and Cristobal.

Target Opportunity Selling: Top Sales Performers Reveal What Really Works by Nicholas A.C. Read

A must read, especially for those, who are into long sales cycles. Suggested by another SWG Getaway speaker and serial entrepreneur Bart Huisken.

Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model by John Mullins, Randy Komisar

“Although this book might be considered a bit of an “oldie” (from 2009), it is easy to read and I think it is very useful for early-stage startups to test assumptions, dashboards and getting to a sustainable version of initial idea,” says  Lone Jensen.