More and more business books are flying off the shelves every day, making it hard to know which ones will really help you and your business. To help you in your quest for the knowledge you need, we asked some successful local entrepreneurs for their recommendations on the books they read (or that they wish they had read!) when they were starting out.

So here are 11 entrepreneurs and the 19 books they think you should know about if you are looking to start or grow a company.

rosie-bennett (1)Rosie Bennett,
Entrepreneur in Residence,
University of Bath Innovation Centre


The Dip by Seth Godin

the dip seth godin

Rosie’s business is to help others succeed in business, and The Dip is the book that she recommends to company founders: “I’m a big fan of Seth Godin’s blog and books, not just because I come from the product/market camp but because he has great insight into the emotional investment that you put in as a founder looking for customers.

“The Dip is essential reading when you are in that ‘trough of despair’ growth period following your first seed round.”


tessa-cookTessa Cook,
Founder of Olio – the food sharing app that connects neighbours to shops


The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

the lean startup eric ries
Tessa revealed her favourite book for people who are thinking about creating a business at our ‘Doing well and doing good in tech’ Techie Brekkie. She tells us “The Lean Startup is all about how to go from idea to launch, and provides a really practical, customer driven methodology to enable you to get there.

“The core premise is about establishing a hypothesis(es) that you want to test, and then building the minimal viable product in order to learn whether that hypothesis was valid or not. And as you continue to gather more data, and learn, you can iterate your product on the basis of this customer insight, and so dramatically increase your chances of success.”


nick-sturgeNick Sturge,
Director of Engine Shed – a tech and creative incubator based in Bristol 


The Beermat Entrepreneur by Mike Southon and Chris West

he beermat entrepreneur mike southon
Nick is constantly providing mentoring and advice to others at the Engine Shed, and has three book recommendations for us. The first is The Beermat Entrepreneur, a no-jargon, no-nonsense, back-to-basics guide to turn your scribbles into a big successful business. Nick tells us, “it covers the cornerstones of basic business, and reinforces it’s all about people.” 

From Good to Great by Jim Collins

From Good to Great by Jim Collins
The second is the bestseller Good to Great; “It challenges some basic assumption about successful business leaders, such as: success and ego rarely correlate; the best businesses historically get the right team ‘on the bus’ and then decide where to go, rather that set a strategy and then build a team.”

Watching the English by Kate Fox

Watching the English by Kate Fox
And the third, Watching the English is more about observing behaviour and using it to your advantage. The saying by American radio and television writer Andy Rooney, “The English language is more complex than calculus because numbers don’t have nuances” certainly comes to mind when reading this book. Nick says, “It’s a fascinating study of English characteristics, rules and class. It really helps with understanding language and humour.”


nicolas alpiNicolas Alpi,
Director of Cookies HQ – a Ruby on Rails and Javascript web development agency


Sprint by Jake Knapp

Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days
Nicolas’s company Cookies HQ is always helping startups and his 4 book recommendations are perfect for those looking to start a business. The first is Sprint. He tells us: “This book will give you all the recipes to run successful prototype workshops and test your ideas in just five days. It was a really interesting read, and fun to realise that we were using a lot of the concepts explained.

“A must read if you are planning to test out a new idea”


“To me, it’s a must read if you are planning to test out a new idea, and are either in a position to run the workshop/develop the prototype yourself, or understand what a good prototyping team will need from you.”

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

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
And if you are looking to build a digital product, Nicolas’s next recommendation, Hooked, is for you: “If you’re planning to build a web/mobile app, this book will explain in great details the various cognitive mechanism and patterns used by those websites that you use on a daily basis.”

Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future
Nicolas says about Zero to One, his next book recommendation for wannabee startup creators, “Read the work/build stories behind the biggest companies of the world today. From treating your startup as a business, managing sales, recruiting, and ignoring competition, this book will give you a high-level point of view on how the others did it.”

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weiberg and Justin Mares

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth
The last book Nicolas suggests is called Traction. He recommends it because, “Any kind of starting businesses needs metrics and goals to make sure it’s progressing in the right directions. Traction consists of a collection of actionable idea on how to move the needle in the right direction.

“Thankfully, this book follows any startup progression, and is full of ideas for a starting-up bootstrapper to more established business. With a little creativity the concept can be applied to any type of businesses.”


andy jackson entrepreneurial sparkAndy Jackson,
Excellence Engineer at Entrepreneurial Spark – a national business accelerator programme


Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Think and Grow Rich By Napoleon Hill
Andy is one of the top business mentors at Entrepreneurial Spark and he’s a big fan of Think and Grow Rich: “It’s one of the best books ever written on the power and significance of the mind/mindset when it comes to achievement and success. I prefer the original classic written in 1938 after the Great Depression. All of the case studies are 70 years old but still relevant today.”


Kevin RammKevin Ramm,
Founder of Crocodile – the app that makes it easier for parents to get their children walking to school together


How to Build a Billion Dollar App by George Berkoswki

How to Build a Billion Dollar app
Kevin has built his own prize-winning app, and thoroughly recommends this title by George Berkowski for people looking to make their own. He tells us it’s “for those interested in entrepreneurship involving apps. For me it provides useful framing for the overall app market with key principles for how to build a digital business.

“While the title might to some seem overwhelming or even irrelevant for startups, the path described in the book along with the ingredients for success are common regardless of enterprise ambitions and scale.”

Value Proposition Design by Strategyzer

Value Proposition Design by Strategyzer
And to help you on that product journey Kevin also recommends Value Proposition Design: “A method and workbook to guide you towards developing products that people might actually need.”


NickDavies_neighbourlyNick Davis,
Founder of Neighbourly – a platform that connects big businesses to local community projects


The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman

The Founders Dilemmas Noam Wasserman
Nick also shared his book recommendations at our ‘Tech for good’ Techie Brekkie. He says The Founder’s Dilemma “is useful because everyone offers different opinions on how to start up. Bootstrap vs enterprise, where and how to raise money, how much to give away? This book is a useful dataset.”


David Maher RobertsDavid Maher Roberts,
Founder of TechSPARK – the information hub for all things tech in the South West of England


Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Rework by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
David, TechSPARK’s founder, is no stranger to starting and running businesses and he has four recommendations for entrepreneurs. He says of Rework: “This short and punchy book revolutionised the way I worked. It makes you feel uncomfortable as it questions all of your habits. It is based on the philosophy from the founders of 37 signals the company behind Basecamp. A must read.”

Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo

Game Storming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo
Game storming David tells us “is like a cookbook for running workshops or creative meetings with your teams. Not every recipe works but if you need to get creative and innovative ideas flowing there will definitely be a way of doing that in the book. Worth experimenting first before relying entirely on any of the proposed recipes.”

The Intention Economy by Doc Searls

The Intention Economy by Doc Searls
This recommendation is a little different, it imagines a world where unknown companies can’t track your every move online, and where you don’t have to click, agree and assume all the liability in every transaction. As David explains: “This is a must read if you want to understand how technology and the availability of granular personal data is completely changing the digital economy.”

“A great book to read if you have had ideas for businesses but have not done anything about it”


Hack the Entrepreneur by Jon Nastor

Hack the Entrepreneur by Jon Nastor
And David’s last recommendation is Hack the Entrepreneur. David says, “Based on a successful podcast series, this is a great book to read if you have had ideas for businesses but have not done anything about it. The book will give you common-sense advice and also build up your confidence. It will make you realise that failure is OK, what isn’t OK is not doing anything!”


ideasquares-kirsty-ranger (1)Kirsty Ranger,
CEO of Ideasquares – a start to finish toolset for supporting crowdfunding success


If You Build It will They Come? by Rob Adams

if you build it will they come rob adams
Kirsty spends her days helping people build successful crowd-funding campaigns and developing business ideas. She advises reading If You Build It Will They Come?: “The key point to take away from this is not just to know your market, but invest your time in your marketing plan before you invest your cash.

“With chapters such as ‘Market Validation as a Cultural Attribute’ this book leaves leaves no marketing stone unturned. If you have a marketing department – they should read this book from cover to cover.”


James-BinnsJames Binns,
CEO of PC Games Network – provides feature content on PC gaming


How to Get Rich by Felix Dennis

how to get rich felix dennis

James, who created his own games publication and community from scratch, recommends the writing of another publisher: “How to Get Rich is a madcap ride from entrepreneurial start to huge scale.”  Author, Felix Dennis made his fortune from publishing tech magazines, the annual Sunday Times Rich List estimates that he is the 65th richest individual in the UK.

A final note

mike-jacksonMike Jackson, Founder of Webstart – the Bristol and Bath internet incubator, encourages reading from some companies closer to TechSPARK’s home. On our request for book reccommendations he replied: “Books? Dead Trees? I’m a Digital Native (V1.0)! The pace of change and development is such that I find reading an hour a day of some key news sites and twitter feeds is the only way not to quickly lose touch.

“As a generalist trying to cover latest trends on investment, tech, marketing, coworking and business both local, national and international I rely on some key reliable Twitter feeds: @TCEurope, @TechCityNews, @E-nation, @swbusinessnews, @investbrisbath and the technology feed on Flipboard

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Thanks to Waterstones , we ran a Twitter competition using the hashtag #TechSPARKneedtoknow to win £50 to spend in-store and online. It ended midnight Sunday 24 July 2016, see our lovely competition winner below claiming his prize:


T&Cs: You must be 13yrs or over to apply and a resident of the United Kingdom. You may be required to provide proof of name, age and address to validate that they meet these entry requirements. Competition entries must be made by 11.59pm Sunday 24 July. The winner of the prize draw will be selected at random. Terms of this competition may be changed by TechSPARK. The editor’s decision is final.