Harvard Business School runs the “Launching Tech Ventures” class on the MBA course and I recently came across their reading list which I cross post here. IT’S THAT GOOD.
Unlike most MBA classes they don’t rely only on case studies and books but also utilize a ton of really great blog posts. I have read most of the articles and books over the last years below and can only recommend them – this is the best stuff out there!
The list contains the following categories:
- Lean Startup Concepts
- Business Model Analysis
- Product Management
- Customer Conversion Funnel Analysis/Optimization
- B2B Selling
- Public Relations
- Business Development
- Recruiting/Organizational Issues
- More Books and Tools
Lean Startup Concepts
- Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany details Blank’s customer development process. This MUST READ book lays the foundation for lean startup principles; Blank’s blog amplifies the ideas in his book, e.g., why you need to get out of the building to interview users, attributes of a scalable startup, the definition of a business model, and why startups should track progress with hypothesis validation, not traditional accounting metrics.
- Eric Ries explains lean startup principles in a series of MUST READ blog posts; topics include the minimum viable product concept, when to release your first product, the use of Toyota-style “five whys,” the value of split test experiments, how to manage a business model transition, a case study of continuous deployment, macro vs. micro testing in lean startups, and the merits of continuous deployment.
- Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz on product-market fit.
- Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz on the lean vs. “fat” startup tradeoffs and the elusive nature of product-market fit.
- Getting to Plan B by John Mullins (London Business School) and Randy Komisar (Kleiner Perkins) explains why and how entrepreneurs should pivot.
- Running Lean, by entrepreneur Ash Maurya, summarizes lean startup/customer development principles and does a great job of adapting Alex Osterwalder’s business model generation process to web startups. Maurya’s blog extends these ideas; he applies customer development processes to his current startup in this post, and discusses metrics in this one.
- The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits provides a clear summary of Blank’s ideas and other lean startup concepts.
- Reflections on lean principles from Bradford Cross.
- The case against releasing early/often from Jason Cohen at OnStartups.com.
- A 3-part post from Ooga Labs on startup management practices for “going fast.”
- Alistair Croll and Sean Power of Watching Websites on lean startup metrics to track.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners on the wisdom (and ethics) of failing fast.
- Michael Woloszynowicz on misperceptions about minimum viable products.
- Introduction to “>lean startup principles by Abby Fichtner (@HackerChick), Microsoft’s developer evangelist for startups.
- Tristan Kromer, co-founder of StartupSQUARE, develops a taxonomy of pivot types.
- Design firm slicedbread on when continuous feature/fix releases are good and bad for users.
- Aardvark co-founder Max Ventilla on user-driven design.
- A step-by-step example from Aymeric Guarat-Apelli of “smoke testing,” i.e., assessing the viability of a new business concept by measuring consumer response to ads for a dummy site; Aymeric was inspired by this post by Tim Ferriss on how he used social media and A/B testing to build “Four Hour Workweek” into a best-seller.
- Donald Reinertsen is a consultant and author of Principles of Product Development Flow. The book is dense and theoretical, but patient readers will learn a lot about the economic benefits of fast development cycles.
Business Model Analysis
- Presentation by David Skok of Matrix Partners on the SaaS business model plus related post.
- Steve Carpenter’s TechCrunch teardown of generic web business models and key metrics for each.
- Dave Chappell, founder of TeachStreet, on challenges when transitioning from a free to paid model; MailChimp on their experience with this transition.
- Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot lists 16 factors for success with a SaaS model; another post from Shah on the same topic.
- Nice summary of the freemium model by Spencer Fry, CEO of Carbonmade. For more, see Chris Anderson’s book Free.
- Chris Dixon post describing Geoffrey Moore’s concept of the “bowling pin” strategy for solving the chicken-and-egg problem when mobilizing network users.
- Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group’s Inspired is a comprehensive guide to the product manager role; a MUST READ book; the SVPG blog extends the book’s insights.
- All product managers should be familiar with Geoffrey Moore’s classic books Crossing the Chasm (a MUST READ) and Inside the Tornado
- Rob Go of NextView Ventures had compiled a series of interviews with senior product managers.
- The Product Box, a technique from Innovation Games for eliciting product feature ideas from consumers.
- Quora response by Ian McAllister of Amazon on Amazon’s approach to product management.
- David Barrett, founder/CEO of Expensify, on “Why products suck” and how to improve them; Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group on the same topic.
- Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group on pros and cons of having a startup CEO as head of product.
- Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures on challenges in product and engineering as startups scale and principles for web app design.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners on designing products for mass adoption.
- Jacques Murphy of Pragmatic Marketing on introducing formal product management at a startup.
- Presentation by Joshua Porter of Performable on designing social media products for virality.
- User experience designer Whitney Hess on how to conduct user interviews.
- Vikas Vadlapatla on resources for learning about usability.
- Marketing guru David Meerman Scott offers examples of buyer personas and how they are used in product development and marketing.
- Creating Passionate Users blog on managing expectations and securing useful feedback with a product demo.
- A primer from Six Revisions on wireframing.
- Hacker News thread on how to learn design basics.
- The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper (“The Father of Visual Basic”) makes the case for interaction designers playing a pivotal role in tech product development.
- Extreme Programming Explained by software guru Kent Beck and Cynthia Andres provides a good introduction to the advantages and key practices of agile software development.
Customer Conversion Funnel Analysis/Optimization
- Avinash Kaushik, analytics evangelist for Google, is the author of the Occam’s Razor blog and Web Analytics 2.0, a MUST READ book that provides comprehensive and practical guide to analytics.
- Viral marketing analytics, including viral coefficients, explained by David Skok of Matrix Partners in one of several MUST READ posts, which also include customer acquisition funnel optimization, the need to balance average customer acquisition cost with lifetime value of a customer, and metric-driven business model analysis.
- Startup metrics discussed in this MUST READ presentation by serial entrepreneur and angel investor Dave McClure, in which he describes his “AARRR” framework: acquisition, activation, retention, referral, revenue.
- Inbound Marketing by HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah offers advice on how to use Google, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. to drive traffic to a website; presentation by Mike Volpe of HubSpot on this topic; HubSpots Marketing Hubs collect a wealth of resources and articles on online marketing.
- ReadWriteWeb on the pros and cons of A/B testing for startups.
- ABtests.com shows side-by-side examples of test pages and their performance.
- Chance Barnett, founder of GIG.FM, on landing page optimization; FormStack on the anatomy of a perfect landing page.
- KPI Library (via Mirror42) on measuring customer retention.
- Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners on how to calculate lifetime customer value with cohort analysis.
- Kontagent on conversion funnel metrics for social games.
- Ash Maurya on troubleshooting trial offers.
- Presentation on startup marketing by Highland Capital’s Michael Gaiss. See links to SEO/SEM online resources on slide 33.
- Design firm slicedbread on when to use A/B testing vs. qualitative user research.
- Tips on going viral from Irata Labs CEO Chris Abad; Mashable on how startups build online communities.
- Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, on how to set up a new site for analytics.
- Case study by Luke Wroblewski on how Twitter boosted sign-ups through gradual engagement.
- A Stochastic Technologies’ historious blog post cautions A/B testers to get more data from their tests; the post cites an A/B test of identical pages that yielded, with 99.8% confidence, a 30% improvement for one of the pages after 1,000 visits and 3 days! After a few more days with more data, the improvement faded. Jason Cohen, founder of Smart Bear Software, explores the similar issues in this post.
- David Skok of Matrix Partners on building a sales and marketing machine; a MUST READ post; Skok on how sales complexity impacts customer acquisition cost — and how to mitigate its impact.
- MUST READ Harvard Business Review article by Mark Leslie and Charles Holloway on the sales learning curve. Academics: note that Leslie, former founder/CEO of Veritas, has helped build a terrific case-based course on enterprise software sales management at Stanford Business School, STRAMGT 351.
- Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz on how the priorities of enterprise customers have evolved.
- Software entrepreneur David Cummings on cold-call hit rates.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partner on scaling a salesforce, why seasoned sales reps often don’t work out, tools/information required by a startup salesforce, and on dangers that startups face when they rely on channel partners for sales.
- Steve Blank on how sales culture must change as an enterprise software startup matures, customer development in big companies, and firing customers
- HubSpot co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah on building a sales team.
- Mark Hendrickson, co-founder of Worldly Developments (and former TechCrunch blogger) on how to pitch a tech blogger.
- Brant Cooper makes the case that startups should not hire a PR agency.
- TechCrunch post on PR impact of SXSW launches of Twitter and Foursquare.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners on how to manage relationships with journalists and on how to blog.
- Serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis on running a trade show booth and why you should fire your public relations firm.
- TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington on public relations in Silicon Valley.
- Xobni founder Matt Brezina on how to drive early traffic through PR strategies. Be sure to follow link in post to slideshow.
- Charlie O’Donnell of First Round Capital describes business development challenges for startups.
- Alex Iskold, founder of AdaptiveBlue, describes how biz dev is evolving in parallel with the APIs of platform-based businesses; Shaival Shah on how to substitute an API for bus dev.
- Angel investor/Hunch CEO Chris Dixon on how startups should think about incumbents.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners on why you’re most vulnerable right after you’ve won a deal.
- Mashable on key factors for success in biz dev jobs.
- HubSpot co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah on the dangers of partnering with big firms.
- Marc Andreessen on how dealing with big firms is like pursuing elusive, unpredictable and dangerous Moby Dick.
- Vinicius Vacanti, co-founder of Yipit, on how to find a technical co-founder and if you can’t, whether to hire a programmer or to teach yourself to build a prototype; Hacker News thread on whether a non-technical founder should teach him/herself to code.
- Michael Woloszynowicz on finding a technical co-founder.
- Miriam Naficy, founder of Minted.com on how to hire a startup CTO.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners on CTO vs VP Engineering roles.
- Angel investor/Hunch CEO Chris Dixon summarizes ideas from software guru Joel Spolsky about how to hire programmers.
- Ken Norton on how to hire a product manager.
- Jason Cohen on hiring startup marketing talent.
- Charlie O’Donnell of First Round Capital on reasons for hiring a design lead before a CTO or technical co-founder.
- Mark Suster of GRP Partners on which functions need to be co-located in a startup, and on hiring salespeople.
- Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz on organizational challenges confronting startups as they scale rapidly.
- Eric Ries on why startups should not have departments, sources of engineering-marketing friction, and the right amount of process for a startup.
- Investor/serial entrepreneur Furqan Nazeeri on what functions startups can outsource; Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures on outsourcing and offshoring; Vivek Wadhwa on the pros and cons of outsourcing product development.
- Steve Blank on how the transition to professional management can have unintended consequences as a startup matures; more from Steve on the same theme .
More Books and Tools
- Do More Faster, edited by Brad Feld and David Cohen, compiles advice across a range of topics from TechStars entrepreneurs and mentors.
- Founders at Work, by Y Combinator’s Jessica Livingston, collects her interviews with two dozen founders relating their lessons learned.
- Tom Hulme at IDEO has compiled and crowd-sourced a list of tools for tech startups, organized by function and company life cycle stage; a similar list compiled by Shyam Subramanyam; another list from Jaret Manuel; and my own list of free software tools for lean startups.