As children, Dr. Suess always taught us, "the more you read, the more things you know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." Today, the statement remains just as true, especially when it comes to entrepreneurs with the vision to build massively successful startups. When LinkedIn chairman, PayPal co-founder and Apple's marketeer each write a book highlighting techniques on building a pioneering startup or on the entrepreneurial lifestyle, you know these are definitely must reads. But who inspires the Arab world's most trailblazing founders? We asked nine entrepreneurs about the books that left a mark in their journey, from famously renowned The Lean Startup to psychology-driven The Power of Now.
1. The Lean Startup, by Eric Reis
Not one but two entrepreneurs recommended The Lean Startup; educational Egyptian gamechanger and founder of iSpark, Mostafa Hashisha and Joy Ajlouny, co-founder of Dubai-basedon-demand delivery startup Fetchr. “It shows you the full process of building your startup while being cost and time-efficient. It's the best book one can ever read!” Hashisha exclaims. The book is divided into three parts: vision, steer, and accelerate. The first one introduces entrepreneurial management, while the second one digs into the Lean Startup method - that is, the build-measure-learn feedback loop, minimal viable product and learning when to pivot or persevere. The last chapter explores scalability techniques, organisational design and product growth.
Hashisha explains that what struck him out most was the fact that the Minimal Viable Product of Dropbox was a video, which is what helped them build a product worth billions of dollars. “It taught me that one should let go of perfectionism and start small, launch MVPs faster and with minimum cost.”
On the other hand, what captured Ajlouny’s attention was that “it gives you real insight on what is expected when raising funds.” She adds, “the book helped me to really think about what my value proposition was and to start by releasing an MVP and seeing how and when to persevere the original idea and when to pivot into another approach based on the the lack of traction.” Ajlouny believes that “if you're going to fail, fail fast. See what your customers wants, talk to them and hear them, there you will find your answers.”
The Lean Startup covers topics starting from defining a startup to the most powerful scalability techniques.
2. Invisible Influence, by Jonah Berger
Najjar explains that noticing these trends can benefit or change your startup entirely, which is why "you have to be aware of what is influencing people and know how to use it properly to make your business grows." Najjar says that the book also illustrates the reality of human nature and the things and people that impact our decisions; "this made me realise that my kids are influenced by whoever is around them, which is why I try to be the perfect role model for them, so they can imitate the positive actions, such as the habit of reading. Remember, every decision in life we take, is surely influenced by someone or something, so make sure you surround yourself with great people that influence you or else you're doomed," she concludes.
Invisible Influence sheds light on how to identify and use what influences people to grow your business.
Daring Greatly is the fruit of 12 years of research. Researcher and thought leader, Brene Brown, makes you take a good look at yourself through the lens of vulnerability, as Vested Summit co-founder Sherin Wafaai describes to Startup Scene ME. "Most people think that vulnerability means weakness, but that's the furthest thing from the truth," Wafaai argues.
According to Brown's Daring Greatly, to be vulnerable means to put yourself out there completely; to fall in love, to go to a job interview, or to move to a new country. "These things are terrifying because you're venturing into the unknown," says Wafaai, "In all these situations, Brene shows us that vulnerability actually means courage. Courage comes from Latin and it means to tell your story with your whole heart." The entrepreneur interprets that as being authentic, being who you are regardless of who's watching. One of the quotes that resonated most with Wafaai was this: "What's the greater risk? Letting go of what people think - or letting go of how I feel, what I believe and who I am?"
Written by PayPal co-founder, Zero to One emphasizes on the importance of creating something new.
5. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
Kamelizer's CEO Hanan Abdel-Meguid recommends Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull who co-founded Pixar Animation Studios with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, and wrote an incisive book about creativity in business. "It is a sincere, real story by the founder of Pixar that humanizes the journey to success and failures as they come hand in hand in a lot of iterations - when someone makes it big, they call him/her genius but they don’t see the zillions of times in which s/he was wrong and stupid," she reflects.
The book also values qualities like honesty for reaching best results, the no-fear work environment, as well as openness. Creativity, Inc also remembers and honours the company's early investor, who persisted and stayed true to their mission, according to the book, even when he was losing a lot of his net worth; Steve Jobs. "I cried in the chapter that they dedicated at the end of the book for him," the CEO tells us.
6. The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
"Dwelling on the past or worrying about the future would only make things worse," Ahmed Zaki, cofounder of Rakna App tells us.
7. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
Beyond all the hype and the fun culture of entrepreneurship, this book approaches the toughest challenges faced in starting your own business.
8. The Art of The Start, by Guy Kawasaki
Ex-Apple Marketeer illustrates his insights on starting a business through The Art of the Start.
9. The Start-up of You, by Reif Hoffman and Ben Casnocha
Using his expertise in cofounding LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman guides readers on how to accelerate their career in today’s competitive world.
10. The Mom Test, by Rob Fitzpatrick
Angela Solomon, CEO of trusted child care on demand in Lebanon Jaleesa, recommended this book because "it helped us get better at talking with people who use our service - instead of seeking positive feedback, we try to understand our customer better so we can really learn," she says. Solomon explains that two of her mentors recommended this book in the same week, and it lived up to their feedback. She continues, "the book is really short and easy to put into practice straight away," adding that Jaleesa is a child care startup, which is why the book was extremely relevant to launching her startup. The book explains that you shouldn't ask your mom or anyone really whether your business is a good idea, because everyone will lie to you at least a little. It's not their responsibility to tell the truth; it's actually yours to find it and assess whether it's worth doing.
Focusing on customer experience and lean startup, The Mom Test teaches entrepreneurs the way to build, measure and learn based on your customers.
11. It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
On Fustany CEO's Amira Azzouz' recommended reading list is Paul Arden's It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be. "This book is mainly interesting for people in the marketing and advertising fields," Azzouz says, explaining that the book inspires the readers to shift their perspectives for better outcomes in the world of advertising.
Beginning his career in advertising at the age of 16, Arden was Executive Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi for 14 years. During his time there, he was responsible for some of Britain's best known campaigns for the likes of British Airways, Silk Cut, Anchor Butter, InterCity and Fuji. In his book, Arden addresses issues as diverse as problem solving, responding to a brief, communicating, playing your cards right, making mistakes and creativity - all notions that can be applied to aspects of modern life.