It is the new academic season—use your chance to raise your business awareness! We decided to outline the top business books of 2021 that are worth reading if you are looking to expand your management, deal-making, sales, and financial acumen in the world of innovative startups and large corporations. Learn the best strategy tips and leadership insights from iconic businessmen and visionaries that have changed their industries and turned their names into a brand itself.
Check below our BooksRun list of top-rated business books—you can also buy these books on our website.
By Reid Hoffman
Reid Hoffman is the co-founder of the largest professional network in the world—LinkedIn, one of the most well-known members of the PayPal mafia, and a partner at the 2nd most influential Venture Capital firm in Silicon Valley—Greylock Partners. He wrote his new book, one of the best business books to read, explaining that the mega-success of such companies as Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, and Airbnb arrived due to blitzscaling. This means that the companies were determined to grow their size and presence in the market despite the rising concerns about efficiency. To achieve fast-paced global industry transformation, the company needs to scale rapidly because, when product cycles change monthly or even weekly, 2-3 months of procrastination may result in irrevocable losses and missed competitive advantage for the business founders. By aggressively raising massive amounts of capital to dominate a market, the company gets a chance to marginalize its rivals, which is a strong competitive advantage nowadays.
Blitzscaling does not concern only rapid growth—growth level, the number of attracted customers, or margin—more than anything else, it means how the industry-transforming businesses prioritize speed over efficiency in an environment of uncertainty. In this case, by efficiency, the author means spending capital on business management and hiring new employees and by uncertainty, Reid means that business founders may not understand what their business model is, they have no idea about customer acquisition cost or unit economics.
Reid Hoffman has built a unique ecosystem of talented and driven peers and entrepreneurs that includes Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Eric Smidt of Google, and the most successful Venture capitalist in Silicon Valley—Peter Thiel. Since Reid’s early days at Stanford, where he studied Symbolic Systems and Cognitive Science, and later at Oxford, where he read Philosophy, and afterward at PayPal, where Reid got to know many people, his fame as a fixer to arising problems grew in a geometric progression. In his early days at Paypal, he started to be referred to as Peter Thiel’s firefighter-in-chief—everything that went wrong, Hoffman was able to fix. During controversial times arising for PayPal, Hoffman successfully made sure that eBay did not drive PayPal off the service and that Visa didn’t shut PayPal down, as well as explained to the Federal Government that it’s OK that PayPal isn’t a bank. With his help, PayPal became a true disruption of a very established and very regulated industry – banking payments. It would not be possible without Hoffman’s strong competencies—strategic thinking, risk-taking, and knowledge of how to build teams and make the right decisions when faced with the existential crisis of a company that every startup goes through.
Read the content of this top business book to understand why you scale your business, how to define your goals, find a profitable niche, identify your target clients, and how to pitch the idea of your startup! The quality of this book speaks for itself since Bill Gates wrote the introduction—what more can you wish?
Check below the video where Reid Hoffman describes his ground-breaking ideas on blitzscaling a startup to become a company with global influence:
By William H. Donaldson
Entrepreneurial Leader is another top-notch business book that offers the best insight on how to harness your leadership skills. Bill Donaldson is the co-founder of the innovative investment company; he worked alongside Henry Kissinger in the State Department and was one of the founders of the Yale School of Management. Other accomplishments of the author include directing the work of the insurance giant Aetna when it was going through difficult times of the Enron implosion as well as the NY Stock Exchange. Also, Donaldson was the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, so he is perfectly aware of life that is full of challenges, and in this book, he willingly offers his innovative problem-solving skills. It is one of the best books on success in life, filled with lifetime observations and insight about how to build lasting value in organizations of any kind. The author teaches how to apply the principles of “entrepreneurial leadership” to various life situations and how to make tough decisions to craft your personalized success story—learning fast, calculating risks, and finding unique ways to create more value. This innovative problem-solving will teach you what it takes to be a true leader these days and what leadership is.
By John Chambers
Referred to as one of the top-selling business books of all time, Connecting the Dots is the prime source of insight on building an innovative business empire widely recognized as an industry-transforming business. John Chambers is the Silicon Valley visionary who went all the way from being a dyslexic kid from West Virginia to becoming one of the most successful leaders and global tech influencers of our time. Having joined the company Cisco in 1991 with only 400 employees and a single product on offer, Chambers succeeded in bringing it to Olympus by turning Cisco into a global tech brand. He stepped down as CEO in 2015 when the company was worth $47 billion and became the world leader in various IT sectors, from cybersecurity and the internet to data center convergence. During the time that Chambers presided over Cisco, there 180 companies were acquired, and more than 10,000 employees turned into millionaires. This made Chambers one of the best CEOs in the world and widely acknowledged as an industry leader and innovator who outrivalled practically every competitor in the industry, including such giants as Nortel, IBM, Alcatel, Dell, and HP.
Therefore, all the principles shared in this business book are trustworthy and can help you win in the digital world we live in! The author shares his knowledge on building teams, finding growth partners, acting before the market shifts, and disrupting the industry. These tips have been skilfully implemented by the author himself during his consulting work to transform governments and help global leaders including President Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to create new growth models. This business book by Chambers should be on your list of the best motivational books because it provides necessary critical tools to thrive in a contemporary business world and accelerate the disruption of the digital age industries. You will find inspiring answers to leadership definition questions, how to tackle difficulties as well as insights on how to become a great leader and scale your company successfully. We highly recommend this book for reading!
By Julian Guthrie
Alpha Girls is a top business book of all time that details the development of the venture capital industry and the role of the top female executives in it. A new addition to the New York Times best-selling list, this business book opens up about the venture capital, why it is one of the most important drivers of growth in the US and it brings the attention of its readers to the so-called “bro-culture.” Julian Guthrie looks back how the VC culture used to be white and male-dominated through the lens of the experience of Magdalena Yesil, Mary Jane Elmore, Theresia Gouw and Sonja Hoel who played major roles in launching such breakout companies as Salesforce, Facebook, Trulia and McAfee. You can check yourself that this situation has slightly changed since that time: just look at most VC websites and you will notice that most partners are white men!
“Progress isn’t happening fast enough, and credit in Silicon Valley still flows disproportionately to men,”
—Judy Loehr, the founder of Bayla Ventures
Julian Guthrie’s story of the struggle and success of these excellent top female professionals isn’t dedicated to female readers only. Even though so often the main characters of this book were the only women in the room, it did not incur their ability to bring instrumental changes to the business development of the companies that soon became world-famous. You will find certain examples in the book that will sound appalling to us today but which were rather recurring at that time: for example, Magdalena tells how she was working at AMD in the 1980s and at a sales meeting that she had to attend, there were topless women for entertainment! Despite the fact that she could be laid off easily, she went to the CEO of the company, Jerry Sanders, and she confronted him directly about the subject. Most likely, today, this situation will not be possible since the #Meetoo movement will not let it happen… There are many other examples presented in this top business book that proves once again that our cultural expectations for men are so different than for women.
For example, in 2004, when there was an IPO of Salesforce, Magdalena was supposed to ring a bell on the NYSE— instead of that, she decided to stay at home with her sick son. Nobody in the company could understand her behavior, and she would later regret her decision—no male would ever do the same. Another character, Theresia, was a talented and successful networker at Accel Partners. She had to face constant rumors that she was sleeping with the founders—particularly during the nine months she was pregnant. And that was happening despite the fact that she was instrumental in investing $12.5 million in Facebook—today, her net worth is nearly $580 million! It’s difficult to earn that much money by just being around men, isn’t it? On top of that, when she wanted to take a sabbatical, her partners refused her—whereas other men had no problem with theirs. “Alpha Girls” is a very motivational book that fills in the gap in the VC history that has been ignored for so long—that is why it is worth reading!
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
By John Carreyrou
During his time at Wall Street Journal, where he was working as a reporter, John Carreyrou was the one who uncovered the fraudulence of the medical startup Theranos in 2015. The information that he found about the company led to its liquidation, and as a result, its co-founder Elizabeth Holmes had to confront federal charges. Based on this scam story, Carreyrou wrote his bestselling book about what can go wrong in Silicon Valley—Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. In this top business book, you will find out an interesting story about how Vice President Joe Biden arrived to visit the startup that positioned itself as a “laboratory of the future”—and the company organized numerous devices to be staged for his visit. In reality, they were useless, and the company fooled the same way other notorious investors such as Carlos Slim and Robert Kraft donated around $900 million in total! Media adored Theranos: Henry Kissinger and George Shultz were invited to the company’s board. Moreover, even an associate dean at Stanford was amazed by the results Elisabeth Holmes announced on behalf of its startup. Such businesses as Safeway and Walgreens were persuaded to shell out millions of dollars to set up clinics for Theranos’ revolutionary technology. Elisabeth Holmes was regarded as the new Steve Jobs of medicine and a genius college dropout who became one of America’s Richest Self-made Women in 2015 (with a net worth of $4.5 billion!). She was set out to make blood testing as simple and convenient as the use of the iPhone!
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup is an absolutely brilliant story that details how Holmes could sell her fantastic idea about revolutionizing blood testing to a wider public and wow even the smartest minds in Silicon Valley! She would pitch how as a little girl, she was afraid of needles and how she dreamed of providing better blood tests. This speech honed itself irresistible even for seasoned investors. She would sell the idea that using only two drops of blood could help avoid the traditional “torture” associated with blood testing and perform a full range of blood tests in walk-in clinics and people’s homes. In real life, the premise for analyzing blood tests was not ready, unworkable, or could perform only a part of the tests that were promised. Most of the people who came to the Theranos’ clinics had their blood drawn from old-fashioned needles and graded by commercially available technology – rather than proprietary equipment as it was announced!
Despite the warnings from her employees that Theranos could not yet perform on human subjects (proprietary devices were equivalent to the ones in the eighth-grade science project) – Holmes did not want to disappoint her investors and commercial partners. The result was disappointing for everyone: the samples were stored at wrong temperatures, patients would receive faulty results and would be rushed to emergency rooms. A lot of effort efforts have been spent not to let the genie out of the bottle: those employees who questioned the technology developed by Theranos were fired, people who complained about the company were ignored. Consequently, a million tests conducted by Theranos in California and Arizona had to be corrected! “Bad Blood” is interesting reading for all those people who dream of working in Silicon Valley: a success story adored by the media that turned into fiasco and disgrace! Do not become a manic leader who preaches Steven Jobs and gets distorted regard on the real-life!
By Tien Tzuo
One of the top books to read this fall is definitely Subscribed by Tien Tzuo! It details a new business revolution that brought to us such companies as Adobe and Caterpillar in the form we know them today! This bestseller book will transform the way you understand and approach business. The author was one of the first employees hired at Salesforce and was responsible for building the company’s subscription infrastructure. From very early on he spotted that this business model will revolutionize businesses and industries. He quickly went on to confound Zuora which would specialise in providing cloud-based subscription services. According to Tzuo, subscription trend is at its infancy stage so there is a chance for everyone to rip off benefits at the moment!
Subscribed is one of the world best motivational books written lately which details business rules that you can apply immediately and achieve success in the competitive world as we know it today. Adam Smith who introduced the division of labour at pin factories, shaped the industrial revolution for many years ahead. In the 20th century it was Henry Ford who introduced the assembly line and gave an example of the technological innovation to other industries. Today we are living at the time of another transformational change: people do not care about owning things —they want services. For today’s customers, it is the milk rather than the cow that matters—that is why the way we eat, travel, shop, listen and watch content is under constant change. This book on subscription business model will open your eyes to the economic landscape and will explain why the internet of things (IoT) is a big thing coming to revolutionize manufacturing industries and how you can start transitioning to a subscription model.
This is one of the best entrepreneurship books because it explains that customers want products to reflect their changing needs. People want to have access to transport (Uber), music (Spotify) and Video content (Netflix) rather than own CDs, albums, videos and cars. If we have a look at the Fortune 500 list from 1995 and today—we will see that only 12% of the companies made it into the new list. Moreover, if we look closer, we will see that the contemporary versions of the companies have nothing to do with their earlier versions because of the major renovations they have undergone. If we take the example of General Electric, we’ll see that it used to be known as the manufacturer of light bulbs in the mid-twentieth century. Today, most of its revenue is generated by digital subscription services (data services). The same goes for another giant, IBM: it started by selling commercial scales and measuring equipment (61st on the Fortune 500 list in 1955) to continue with IT and business subscription services today (32nd in 2017).
In his bestselling book, Tien Tzuo draws on the experience of multiple companies that already implement subscription services: Netflix began streaming films in 2007 and in one decade it managed to attract more than 100 million subscribers! Spotify did even better: it went from zero to 500 million subscribers in less than 9 years and today accounts for 20 percent of global music industry revenue. The same goes for e-commerce: Amazon has more than 90 million US Prime members which equals out to 50% of all American households and which adds $9 billion in subscription fees every year to the company profits! Among less well-known examples can be stated Lyft: it radicalized innovation in the aviation industry. For a monthly fee, subscribers can take unlimited flights on the company’s private jets. It offers an unprecedented opportunity for regular travellers to cut out a lot of waster time in airports whereas for the company it means smarter scheduling because they will know how much money they will earn at the end of each month. Even Porsche now offers a service to drive their high-end cars for $2,000 a month. Unsurprisingly, with the shift to the subscription business model in the transportation industry (Uber, in particular, is responsible for this), the number of Americans aged 20-24 owning a driver’s license dropped from 92 percent in 1983 to 77 percent in 2014! Therefore, this nyt bestseller by Tien Tzuo offers an incomparable insight on how tailoring services to customers’ needs brings businesses to the very top!