Thoughts on product innovation
Must read books

5 must-reads for aspiring entrepreneurs

Here are 5 must-read books for aspiring entrepreneurs. If you think you’ve got a great technology and are looking to create a start-up company to bring it to market these offer some food for thought.

1. The four steps to the epiphany – Steve Blank

The basic premise of this book is that the usual path a start-up follows to market—the Product Development path—is mis-used to guide all other business functions: Marketing, sales and operations. What works for product development turns out to be ill-suited for launching novel products into uncharted or undefined markets: A situation faced by many technology-driven start-ups.
The alternative Blank promotes is the path of Customer Development, where the most significant milestone is not “product ready for launch”, but “sales model validated by customers”.

2. Business model generation – Alexander Osterwalder

Osterwalder presents the Business Model Canvas, a modern classic. He argues that all business models—which he defines as “the rationale of how an organisation creates, delivers and captures value”—are built up from nine elements: Customer segments, value propositions, contact channels, relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, partnerships and cost structures. The canvas is a great tool to explore how all these elements (should) come together for a new venture.

3. What customers want – Anthony W. Ulwick

Ulwick poses that paying too much attention to customers’ needs, wants and requirements leads to uninspiring products and missed opportunities. He promotes outcome-driven innovation as an alternative: A focus on the measurable outcomes customers want to achieve, rather than the product features and benefits they can articulate. “Customers don’t know what product they need, but they do know what job they want done”.

4. Angels, Dragons & Vultures – Simon Acland

Acland speaks from experience, as he’s been all three. Angels invest their own money, Dragons are angels with such a thirst for publicity that investing becomes secondary, and Vultures invest other people’s money to try to become as rich as angels. He sketches the pitfalls of dealing with early-stage investors. As he puts it: “How to tame your investors…and not lose your company”.

5. The lean start-up – Eric Ries

“Entrepreneurship is a lot like management”, according to Ries. He means that a start-up business can be created by following a process, one that is builds on lean manufacturing, agile software development, design thinking and customer development (see the third book on this list). He states: “The fundamental activity of a start-up is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere”. The Minimum Viable Product is that product which enables you to make one complete build-measure-learn cycle.

I hope you will read and enjoy these books. If you feel other books should really have featured on this list, do let me know.