5 essential reads for every founder

Occasionally, we stumble upon a book, a paper, or a publication that changes our professional lives forever. Having spent the last eleven years building a FinTech company, I consider myself fortunate to have encountered five such moments. I would like to share these invaluable gems with every tech-startup founder or leader.

Paul Graham’s Blog

Paul Graham, the founder of YCombinator and a board member of some of the most prolific startups of the last 20 years, including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and many others, is a tech-startup god. Despite its quirky UI, his blog, one of the best things on the internet, attracts 25 million visitors each year. Graham’s ‘essays’ cover a range of topics, from digital and product strategy, through to raising capital, through to scaling your business. The first I read was “Default Dead or Default Alive”, and how it resonated with many of my experiences blew my mind. One that recently caught my attention was “Billionaires Build,” resonating with the foundations of Fifty One Degrees. In particular, I loved this line: “Newly started startups have no choice but to delight users, or they’ll never even get rolling. But this never stops being the lodestar, and bigger companies take their eye off it at their peril. Stop delighting users, and eventually someone else will.”

No Rules Rules, by Reed Hastings

Reed Hastings, the founder and former CEO of Netflix, penned “No Rules Rules” to share his experiences in building the most effective culture. Your choices as a leader shape your culture, and consequently, everything else about your company. Hastings advocates for a deliberate approach to leadership, emphasising the importance of creating an environment where a healthy level of failure is not only possible but is a requirement for innovation. “No Rules Rules” serves as the blueprint for achieving this.

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

Introduced to “The Lean Startup” just before the launch of the FinTech company I founded, I found it to be enlightening. While it is now considered gospel for leaders and product managers on how to build effective brands, products and marketing with the least budget, when I first read it in 2013, it was revolutionary. Harvard Business Review even declared, “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything. A faster, smarter methodology for launching companies may make business plans obsolete.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz, a veteran in the tech industry, shares the most challenging moments from his eventful career in “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” Having worked on one of the first web browsers, Netscape, and co-founded Andressen Horowitz, one of the most prolific VCs globally, his insights are invaluable to any startup or scaleup leader.

The Techno-Optimist Manifesto, by Marc Andreessen

The other half of the Andreessen Horowitz duo, Marc Andreessen, recently published “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto,” a fascinating counter-argument to common fears about advances in technology and artificial intelligence (AI). While this piece may not necessarily help you lead your business, it might help you define and understand your passion for technology better, as it did for me.

If you’ve experienced a knock-you-back literary moment, I’d love to hear about it, so please get in touch.

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