The highest achieving people in business are students, adept at analyzing markets and scrutinizing trends. And typically they read--voraciously at times. It's why founder and partner of venture capital firm Switch Ventures, Paul Arnold, asked a handful of successful founders and VCs for their top book recommendations. Here are quotes he gathered regarding their favorites.
Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency by James A. Miller
"[It] details the rise of CAA, one of the largest and most successful talent agencies in the history of the world. As the CEO of a real estate technology company, I found so many parallels between the experience of the talent agent and real estate agent. Michael Ovitz and his cofounders were well served by their incredible focus on clients--a principle we take to heart at our company.
--Robert Reffkin, founder and CEO of Compass, a real estate listing app that merges data analytics with in-house agents to make the search and sell experience intelligent. Backed by SoftBank Vision Fund, Fidelity Investments and other firms, the tech-driven real estate platform recently announced a $450 million Series E raise, bringing the startup's valuation to $2.2 billion.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
"This book offers the most compelling, foundational explanation for what is happening to our political discourse today. Although it was written in 1984, Neil Postman not only predicts our current political environment he also explains why it is happening."
--Jonathan Swanson, cofounder and president of Thumbtack, one of the largest local services companies in the United States, connecting consumers with a working professional in over 1,000 categories, operating in every county in the country. Thumbtack has raised over $270 million with venture firms such as Google Capital and Sequoia Capital and is currently valued at $1.3 billion.
Letters of Note by Shaun Usher
"My all-time favorite. Copywriting is my passion and written correspondence is a lost art. This collection of famous letters is wonderful for drawing inspiration and sparking creativity. I especially love Iggy Pop's note of encouragement to a teenage fan and F. Scott Fitzgerald's to his daughter, Scottie, on what to worry about."
--Polly Rodriguez, cofounder and CEO of Unbound, an online marketplace that creates a place where women can bring their perspective and needs to the male-dominated industry of sexual wellness. Rodriguez also cofounded Women in Sextech, a group of female founders that includes 70 female entrepreneurs across the globe.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
"It provides fascinating insight into the thought process and complexity of the world's most impressive CEO, Jeff Bezos. A combination of ambition, intellect, and vision led to Amazon's insurmountable dominance. The most exciting indicidation is that he's just getting started."
--Ethan Agarwal, founder and CEO of Aaptiv, a digital health app focused on creating audio based fitness content offering 2,500 workouts across 22 categories. The fitness technology startup has reached over $20 million in revenue after two years in business and recently announced its Series A and B funding rounds amounting to $38 million.
Legacy by James Kerr
"Includes unique insights into one of the world's most high performing teams, the legendary All Blacks of New Zealand. Its lessons are broadly applicable to all leaders."
--Byron Deeter, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners. Byron has directly led investments in numerous IPOs including Box (Box), Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD), and Criteo (CRTO) as well as many existing private industry leaders such as: GainSight, DocuSign, ProCore, and Intercom, among others. He has also been honored with inclusion on the Midas List several times, most recently in 2017.
The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class by Elizabeth Currid-Hallket
"Full of insights about building products for the people with 'first-world problems' and thinking about what is worth paying for when you can buy anything."
--Danielle Morrill, cofounder and CEO of Mattermark, a data platform for venture capital companies to quantify signals of growing and lucrative startups. Morrill is also a partner at XFactor Ventures, a seed fund focused on investing in the most promising female founders building the next billion-dollar technology companies.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
"I just reread this one--always a great read! It's obviously fun, and for being published in 1979, it predicted well where some technology would head."
--Nick Weaver, cofounder and CEO of eero, a consumer tech startup that offers a Wi-Fi system for use in households, pioneering the home mesh networking space. eero has received over $90 million in funding to date and is backed by Index Ventures, Menlo Ventures, First Round Capital and others.
The Way to Design by Steve Vassallo
"To be honest, the book I love most this year is the one that I wrote. And not because it's mine, but because it belongs to the scores of designers, designers-turned-entrepreneurs, and design scholars I interviewed. It's filled with their insights, as well as my own, about what designers need to know to start a company, and what everyone needs to know to create design-led organizations."
--Steve Vassallo, general partner at Foundation Capital, who sits on the board of directors of Sunrun (RUN), Sentient Energy, Pocket, Mode Analytics, Bolt Threads, and AutoGrid. Past investments include Control4 (CTRL) and PrivateCore, which was acquired by Facebook.
How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
"A great math book for the casual reader that I'd recommend to anyone. A well-written reminder of the power of math in making better decisions--whether investing or with anything else."
--Paul Arnold, former startup executive and founder and partner at Switch Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital firm, where he has built a high-performing portfolio by identifying the most talented startup entrepreneurs.