The start-up process is about learning, both firsthand and vicariously. Reading is one of the best ways to learn from others’ experiences and allows us to become better entrepreneurs. We spoke to Steven Arthur, founder of Desk Space, about the top three books every emerging and established entrepreneur should read.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

Eric Ries


The Lean Startup is based on Eric Ries’ premise that start-ups should treat their product and business like an experiment, continuously testing, adapting and adjusting their vision before it’s too late.

Ries developed the idea of the lean start-up from his experiences as a start-up advisor, employee and founder. “Start-ups make so many mistakes… But believing in your own plan is probably the worst,” Ries has said. “We were convinced that if we did a really good job developing and implementing a good plan (writing a business plan, doing focus groups, all the traditional stuff) we would be rewarded with success… The only problem is that reality didn’t conform to our plan.”

Having learnt from these experiences, Ries argues that start-ups should instead focus on potential customers and research discovery, then build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and test and iterate quickly. The idea is based on lean manufacturing – a management philosophy that can be adapted to the start-up world – with a build-measure-learn feedback loop that will result in less waste and better product market fit.

Ries gives an example of Food-On-The-Table, which started with only one customer. The founder did the menu planning by hand and met weekly with the customer near their local supermarket. The customer didn’t know they were the first and only customer, but the founder learned how to serve that customer and brought on board other customers before they invested in automation.

The lean start-up methodology is intended to minimise risk and resources while maximising impact and potential success by experimenting at a fast pace. It is based on the premise that if start-ups invest time into iteratively building products or services to meet the needs of early customers, they can reduce market risks and upfront funding.”– Steven Arthur.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Peter Thiel with Blake Masters


Zero to Oneis a condensed and updated version of online notes taken by Blake Masters for a class PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel taught at Stanford University in Spring 2012.Thiel starts with the simple thesis that a new idea is a singularity that changes the world, and he shows how entrepreneurs can explore unchartered frontiers and create new inventions.

The overriding philosophy of Zero to One isthatthe future is rooted in today’s world, and the way the world progresses can take either a horizontal or vertical form. Horizontal progress means copying things that already work (1 to 1), while vertical progress means doing new things (0 to 1).

Vertical progress is achieved by learning to think for yourself and investigating new and untried paths. For this reason, there is no definitive road plan toward creation as every formula for innovation is new and unique.

“Thiel’s key takeaway in Zero to One is that entrepreneurs shouldn’t waste time competing with others. Instead, start-ups should focus their efforts on creating something new, valuable, unexpected and unique.” – Steven Arthur.

Rework: Change the Way You Work Forever

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson


In Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of software company 37signals (now Basecamp), explore the reality in which anyone can start a business. The book takes an easy-is-better approach that is reflected in the straightforward language and size of the book: it’s a short three-hour read.

The premise of Rework is that doing is more valuable than planning and thinking. People tend to make business difficult by making excuses or worrying about things that don’t matter.Instead, they should be doing.

Fried and Hansson offer ideas that upend traditional, status quo thinking with principles that readers can evaluate and mould to their individual business model. It’s abetter, faster, easier way to succeed with less than you think you need: less staff, less paperwork, less planning, less analysis, less meetings.

“Rework is a quick and easy read that speaks to the philosophy of the book: getting things done. Stop making excuses and start doing. The messages are straight and to the point, so like your start-up, you can focus on getting back to work.”– Steven Arthur