There’s no shortage of startup advice out there. Some of it is good but — unfortunately — most of it isn’t.
Ev Williams argues that you should read it all anyway, but as with most things in life, startup advice inevitably follows a Power Law distribution. In other words, a very small number of books and articles offer almost all of the written-form learnings available to the public. Everything else could potentially be useful — at least in terms of generating ideas — but given the bottomless pit that is startup advice, it’s not a good use of your time.
That isn’t to say that you’ll build a successful technology company by reading a handful of articles. Being a startup founder is inherently experiential, like being a chef. You can spend years reading cookbooks, but you’ll only become good at it once you grab some olive oil and a frying pan.
For first-time founders, it can be daunting to step into the kitchen — especially if it means quitting your job or using up savings to get started. So although you’ll only learn how to run a startup by doing it, some reading before you begin can help you take the plunge.
When would-be entrepreneurs ask me for advice, I send them a short reading list. It gives enough insight to know what they’re getting into, provides them a handful of tips and tricks to employ in the first few weeks and sets them up to learn as they go during the crucial first 12 months.
Here’s the list. It comes to about 75 minutes of reading. So wake up at 6am, have a shower, brush your teeth and read these articles. Then start your company at 8am.
Day Zero: Getting Started
- The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship by Jessica Bruder
- You Are Not Late by Kevin Kelly
- The Only Thing That Matters by Marc Andreessen
- How To Start A Startup by Paul Graham
- Elements of Enduring Companies by Sequoia Capital
If starting a technology company isn’t for you, there’s a high chance that you have a smart friend who’s umming and erring about starting a business. Please share this post with them. I hope it gives them the courage to whip out the toque blanche.