The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

The top 10 business books every professional and entrepreneur should read — July 31, 2015

The top 10 business books every professional and entrepreneur should read

There are hundreds of thousands of books about business available today, which can make it tough to cut through the noise to find those that actually provide actionable advice. From great reads for startup CEOs to books about the importance of team building and psychology, we’re sharing a few of our favorites:

  1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

    It’s an unfortunate fact that 80 percent of startups fail, but Ries believes that many of them don’t have to. When writing, he considers that a majority of failed companies don’t have the surplus time, money or manpower to complete extensive A/B testing and other market research strategies — so he offers advice about how to reduce product development cycles, find out what customers really want, and adapt to the marketplace before resources run out.

  2. Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

    There’s a reason why this book landed on both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Best Seller lists. A company is only as good as the talent it attracts and keeps, so Bock offers an in-depth explanation for a proper manager-employee relationship. Furthermore, he lists the exact qualities to look for when adding members to a team and explains the importance of finding balance between encouraging creativity and maintaining structure. Google is consistently rated one of the best places to work, and the insights shared here make it easy to understand why.

  3. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick

    How did a student create one of the fastest growing companies of all time, completely transforming the Internet and how humans interact online? Here, veteran technology reporter Kirkpatrick offers a detailed history of Facebook and how it became the incredible company that it is today. This impressive, inside story speaks to why Facebook was started, the company’s early missteps, power of uncompromised vision, struggle between growth versus profit, and what’s next.

  4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

    It’s a well-known fact that it’s easier and more cost-effective to keep a customer than acquire a new one. Eyal takes this concept a step further by exploring intriguing questions such as: why do some products get mass attention while others just flop? What makes a product so addictive that the customer can’t put it down? Is there a pattern as to how technologies hook us? Based on years of research, experience and consultations, Eyal is able to share smart findings along with practical, actionable steps for building a successful product.

  5. Hot Seat: The Startup CEO Guidebook by Dan Shapiro

    One of the best ways to learn is by example, and Shapiro’s book is chock-full of summaries that cover companies with varying degrees of success. Vividly explained are the five stages of a startup CEO, how to finish with respect to board members, staying loyal to a management team, and tips for maintaining financial security. As one reviewer wrote, “The thing that sets Dan’s writing apart from other startup books/blogs is his focus on translating his experiences (across several different types companies) into actionable advice for other entrepreneurs.”

  6. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

    “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.” We’ve all heard the popular phrase “mind over matter,” and Dweck builds on this age old theory that with the right mindset, you can change your internal dialogue from being judgmental to helping one to grow; from praising talent to acknowledging hard work. Many have deemed this a must-read for anyone in a leadership position (including managers, teachers, parents and even CEOs).

  7. Hackers And Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age by Paul Graham

    Graham takes the unique approach of drawing on historical events and examples to explore what he calls, “an intellectual Wild West” in this series of essays. As computers swiftly take over our lives, Graham discusses the roles of programmers, hackers, and software designers and how they will forever change how we think and live. While you may disagree on some of his views on life, it will certainly get you thinking.

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

    In the 1980s, Kawasaki helped shape Apple into one of the greatest companies of the century. As founder and CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, he has field-tested his ideas with dozens of entrepreneurial companies. With the incredible experience and success to back up his theories (presented with humor and real-world savvy), Kawasaki brings an arsenal of ideas to equip any business owner for potential challenges.

  9. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

    Theil started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002 — establishing a new era of fast and secure online commerce. Here, Theil shares his personal insights and anecdotes while raising important questions for budding entrepreneurs, including: Is now the right time to start your particular business? Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future? Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product? Are you starting with a big share of a small market? With strong ideas and principles to help build the foundation of any business, Thiel’s advice shouldn’t be missed.

  10. The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz

    If you want a simple, cut-to-the-chase approach to launching a startup, this is it. Michalowicz explains his path to success in just three simple steps: 1) Plant the right seeds by identifying the thing you do better than anyone else and focus all of your attention, money, and time on figuring out how to grow your company doing it; 2) Weed out the loser customers that waste your time and invest in the customers that add the most value and provide the best opportunities for sustained growth; and 3) Nurture the winners by focusing on how you can make their wishes come true and deliver on every single promise.

About our contributor // Christina Morales is a freelance writer specializing in creating online marketing content. Her dream is to one day rule the world with just an iPad, a case of Cherry Coke, Twizzlers, and a glue gun.

7 must-watch talks from Lean Startup Conference — December 27, 2013

7 must-watch talks from Lean Startup Conference


On Monday December 9, on one of the coldest days of the year, a thousand people came together to the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco. I had been looking forward to this conference for a while, and despite the brisk walk up a very large hill to the Masonic Center, was delighted to meet and learn from some of the best practitioners of the Lean Startup movement.

This year’s conference displayed the breadth of just how much “Lean” has grown. From its roots in engineering and startup culture, the Lean Startup movement has sparked a passionate and often very visible community interested in using lean startup principles. Conference attendees and speakers this year hailed from diverse industries and backgrounds, ranging not just from startups and traditional tech, but also healthcare, government, manufacturing, large industry, and especially notable this year – social impact organizations.

Eric Ries kicked off the conference with a status check on the Lean Startup community. “What are the new things we’ve learned in the last year? Or since the books came out? If we’re not learning, we’re wasting time.”

“A startup is not a product, it’s a human institution developing something under conditions of great uncertainty.” Eric further noted.

We certainly live in interesting and uncertain times. For all its merits as a new management theory, Lean Startup has the fervor of a social moment. There were so many great moments to the conference, here are my top 7 highlights for every entrepreneur (or for everyone for that matter).

1. Learning to Be an Organization that Pivots

ElectNext’s Keya Dannenbaum gives a very wise and informed talk on how entrepreneurs should recognize that passion is fleeting, but dedicated practice leads to success.

“Whereas passion crashes & burns, practice sets up on the path for steady progress” @keyajay @ElectNext #LeanStartup
— Jin Zhou (@soulcandies) December 10, 2013

Video of the presentation:

2. Frame Before You Build, Measure, Learn

Zach Nies of Rally Software spoke on the importance of framing before taking up the central Lean Startup conceptual loop of build-measure-learn. You’ll need to frame the problem by using empathy and insight documentation, and how hindsight bias eliminates surprises. Consider this a ten minute crash course on the design thinking approach in conjunction to lean.

“Learning lives at the intersection of what we expect to happen and what actually happened.” @zachnies @RallySoftware #LeanStartup 
— The Lean Startup (@leanstartup) December 10, 2013

Video of the presentation:

3. Using Kickstarter to Run an MVP

“Screw investment banking, screw consulting. Full time mushroom farming for us!” Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora on how they raised $250K on Kickstarter for their MVP product. I loved these guys. A crowd favorite.

Lean viable “mushroom kit” & #aquaponics. @nikhilarora @VelezAlejandro @bttrventures #LeanStartup on #kickstarter 
— Jin Zhou (@soulcandies) December 10, 2013

4. The Medium Is the Message

Patrick Vlaskovits, author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development and an old friend in the Lean Startup Movement, describes how it is not enough to have an innovative product, but also to have an innovative medium. He goes on to talk about TupperWare parties as being the “original growth hack”.

Innovative products don’t fit into existing distribution channels, they demand new ones. @pv with one of the best talks at #leanstartup — christiegeorge (@christiegeorge) December 10, 2013

Video of the presentation:

5. Risk, Information, Time and Money

Dan Milstein of Hut 8 Labs talks about how you should be really terrified of working on the wrong thing. How do you use your time wisely and tackle your riskiest assumptions?

You only get information when there is uncertainty and risk. If you’re not surprised, it’s not useful. @danmil #leanstartup
— Davender Gupta (@coachdavender) December 9, 2013

Video of presentation:

6. Acquiring Your First Users Out of Thin Air

The Muse’s very own Kathryn Minshew dishes out how the “build it and they will come” concept is a horrible idea. She further goes into five zero-cost strategies for customer acquisition.

Video of presentation:

7. Evidence-based Entrepreneurship

The godfather of Customer Development Steve Blank speaks on the difference between large companies and startups, bringing lean startup methods to the National Science Foundation, and the Lean LaunchPad Educators Summit.

Video of presentation:

And there we have it. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from the conference. Hope to see you there next year!

“The work you’re doing is too critical for you not to choose the riskiest and ultimately most profound path.” @akashtrivedi @kiva #LeanStartup
— The Lean Startup (@leanstartup) December 10, 2013

About our Ambassador // When not reporting for the Fetch, Jin Zhou is an avid bookworm and tea drinker, exploring the cross sections of technology, psychology, human potential, wellness and compassion. She has previously led marketing at several startups, including The Alchemist Series, VanceInfo and EventBacker. Follow her on Twitter @soulcandies.

Image credit: Lean Startup Conference 2013

Interview: SF Local, Eric Ries and Ian McFarland — November 30, 2012

Interview: SF Local, Eric Ries and Ian McFarland

This week we got some questions in with lean startup champions Eric Ries and Ian McFarland. For those who don’t know, Eric is the creator of Lean Startup methodology (we’re subscribers of this style at The Fetch!) and the author of the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned. Ian is the founder of Neo, a global product innovation company and all-round tech trends leader.

Eric Ries

They’re busy getting ready for the annual Lean Startup Conference to be held in the San Francisco Bay Area next week. As expected, it’s sold out already but you can watch the livestream most places in the world at one of these 300 locations. Eric was also on KQED’s Forum yesterday so you can check out the hour-long talk about lean startup and entrepreneurs online @

Finally, another solid initiative worth noting is their focus on diluting the ‘white male’ speaker dominance we commonly see at tech events. In this post, Sarah Milstein and Eric discuss their efforts on diversifying the speaker roster.

Kate: You recently highlighted that one of the largest companies in the world, GE, is using lean startup principles. Is the Lean Startup Movement just for startups? Why do you think corporates are adopting this way of thinking?

Eric: In the past, companies could be market leaders for decades on the strength of a single suite of products. Now, the market is moving faster, cycle times are falling, and companies are faced with much, much more competition. Continuous innovation is critical in order to survive and thrive. The best way to manage the creation of new growth initiatives is by creating startups or innovation centers within the larger organization. The Lean Startup gives companies a discipline of entrepreneurial management to create that continuous innovation.

Lean elements are slowly being applied to other disciplines such as marketing – is this due to the world’s current love affair with startups or will it be a part of a permanent vernacular? 

Eric: I hope it will be permanent, but time will tell. When the original lean manufacturing moved out of the factory floor into management, healthcare, IT, etc. people thought it was a fad. But it’s had remarkable staying power and success.

In less established startup ecosystems, like Australia, we find startups have no choice but to be lean. Is lean out of necessity always good? When is the right time to then scale?

Eric: Lean does not mean cheap. Lack of resources can help keep the mind focused (as it did for Toyota in post-war Japan), but lean is more about using resources well (not building the wrong thing) and figuring out what customers want with discipline and speed. When done right, lean startup techniques lead to hypergrowth and scale.

Ian McFarland

What other events happening around the conference should we check out? 

Ian: On Sunday night (Dec 2) at the Intercontinental, we’re hosting Ignite: Lean Startup. With so many great speaker candidates this year, we added an extra round of presentations. Each speaker gets five minutes and 20 slides – which advance automatically every 15 seconds. Fast-paced, thought-provoking and social, you’ll hear from in-the-trenches entrepreneurs ready to share their lessons learned. If you are a conference attendee, there is no fee for Ignite: Lean Startup, but you must register in advance to attend. We also have a limited number of tickets for the general public, so register today. (Link =

There are also some other great events leading up to our conference (these are sold out, but look for coverage): 500 Startups’ Warm Gun: Designing Happiness conference is on Friday, November 30; and Lean Startup Machine starts the evening of the 30th and runs through Sunday, December 2.

Stay tuned for the conference coverage via this blog and in our biweekly event email digest. We’ll also be tweeting throughout the day as @thefetch and @katekendall.