Why a venture capital reading list?
Social media has its place, but much of it is “tweet length” or sound-bite. It’s sliced, diced, and derivative. There’s value in deep dives. Thus, the old-fashioned reading list for associates at Valor began as a work of love-and survival-for our venture capital interns.
We started sharing it publicly after many asked about it, and this version is the one for 2020. I’ll share what each of these has meant to me as an investor along with the recommendation, and hope you find something that will shape your perspective as I have.
What I loved about this journey with trained psychologist and New Yorker writers as she tackled becoming a World Poker champion is the focus on evaluating risk. Her personal journey on evaluating risk through the lens of poker is a fairly perfect metaphor for how well a VC has to know themselves to craft a perfect deal, a great term sheet, or an above-market exit.
The Great CEO Within — A Practical Guide to Company Building — Matt Mochary. A no-nonsense take on how a leader scales a business — from a coaches perspective. What I loved about this was the “coach” mentality in clarity. As VCs, we are all coaches, and this books nails some of that reality with plenty of tips and approaches that work.
Never Split the Difference — Chris Voss.
What is not to like about a former FBI hostage negotiator talking about how to cut a deal? The book was solid, but I prefer Chris’s many TEDx talks to the read because he has a terrific personal presence and style. One of the favorite take aways at Valor is that a No is a positive — it shows you where the other party needs control and reassurance, and then Chris shares ways to respond that respect the other party’s perspective using “tactical empathy.” Fun stuff.
Getting (More of) What You Want — Margaret Neale.
Also on the art of negotiation, Margaret, who teaches the subject at Stanford, grounds you deeply in how to negotiate from strength — and even how to figure out your strengths. She pays special attention to negotiating as a woman, which is empirically and in research quite different.
SuperForecasting: The Art & Science of Prediction — Philip Tetlock.
This remains one of my favorite books of all time because it teaches how to improve your own risk analysis incrementally over time. Terrific investment in time for any investor.
The 1% Rule — Tommy Baker
365% improvement seem like a stretch? Break it down into 1% a day. Tommy’s take on breaking big goals into tiny, almost insignificant ones is timeless.
Alpha Girls — Julian Guthrie
To not repeat history, you have to know it. All VCs need to read this one.
Reset: My Fight for Inclusion — Ellen Pao
Same as above. Love Ellen’s honest voice and her struggles, self-questioning, and integrity shine off the page.
Principles: Life & Work — Ray Dalio
Want to build a firm, not a fund? This book from Ray Dalio helps readers see the difference between a smart strategy any one or two investors could do together, and a culture of excellence.
Elon Musk — Ashlee Vance
If you haven’t read it already . . . no words. :) But many of our associates are young, and haven’t, and so it’s on our list.
Bad Blood — John Carreyrou
This one is specifically on the list because it brilliantly details what can go wrong and it’s the kind of gripping business tale young VCs can learn from easily. Hype is real, and Bad Blood really details what it looks and feels like at scale. But as we all know, this kind of thinking is in deals at every stage.
Traction — Get a grip on your business — Gino Wickman
One of the clearest “how to build wings while flying” books for founders — and thus, hugely helpful for VCs who want to have stronger operational understanding. As an operator myself, two thumbs up.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Thrive and Others Die — Chip & Dan Heath
Given that every pitch is for “the next big thing,” this book gives aspiring great VCs several lenses to potentially evaluate how dreams do, and don’t, realize.
Good to Great — Jim Collins
Classic. I’m 48. I can’t help it. I still think this book is ageless. Great research, great insights. For founders, it can helps them look into the window of the future around how great CEOs of larger firms think. For VCs, it is very counter-culture in a good way. Reading it casts doubt on a lot of things many VCs believe to be givens, and aren’t given — they’re just accepted. It’ll make you think.
**Most of these books can be checked out for free digitally at your local major city library. Use the free Libby app and your free library card to do it.
See something you like? Let us know.
And what did we miss? Which books are inspiring or shaping you as an investor?
Originally published at https://valor.vc on January 2, 2020.