Entrepreneur Reading List (Part 2): 5 Tools for Making Products People Love

I made up a few lists of resources for the soon-to-be entrepreneurs attending my talk at Fairfield University Business School on April 16th, so I figured I’d share it. This post is the second part of the list; you can find the first part of the list on how to transition from a standard 9-5 job here.

This list of 5 resources is about how to make a product that people feel an emotional connection to.

Not just like, but love.

Rave about.

Go boy band crazy for.

1. Do You Matter? How Great Design Will Make People Love Your Company
by Robert Brunner, Stewart Emery and Robert Hall

This is the best book that I’ve read to date.  I became the web designer of our company just a few short months ago, and I have been obsessed with learning about design ever since.  But this book threw me for a loop. As I turned to the final page, I hadn’t learned a single thing about design in the classical sense, but I was certainly not disappointed.

Design is more than how your product looks; it’s a philosophy ingrained into your company from the very top to the very bottom of the corporate ladder and from the very beginning to the very end of the product’s creation. This book will change your perspective on creating the customer experience so that your product can live among the ranks of legends like the iPod, BMW and the “W” hotels. “Do You Matter?” does highlight many achievements in technology and innovation, but it is written to be applicable to any business, of any size, anywhere.

I strongly recommend that anyone who actually cares what customers think about their company read this book.

2. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
by Seth Godin

This was the first book that changed my world view of marketing. There are trillions of products in the marketplace today, why would anyone even stop to consider yours?

Godin tells of a road trip through the countryside with his family. He says that cows are boring, but his children would have demanded that he pull the car over immediately had they seen a purple cow. How can you get people to be so interested in your product that they would do anything to be a part of the “in” crowd?

By being remarkable. In this day and age, viral marketing is the name of the game. No one pays attention to advertisements anymore. You need to get people to talk about your product both in person and via the Internet if you want to succeed.

The book explains the concept of a Purple Cow, gives examples and then finally puts you on track to making your own. If you want to create a remarkable product then you need to read it.

3. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
by Steve Krug

“Don’t Make Me Think” was the first book that changed my perspective on product design. It likened good web design to great use of street signs. It’s really, really simple and you can figure it out within a few seconds without spending too much time thinking.

This book gave a lot of great real-world examples of what to do and what not to do when laying out a basic or even a complex website. It’s a standard read for anyone making anything on the Internet.

4. Paul Graham’s Essays (again)

This topic was on the previous list as a whole, but I’d like to point out some specific essays that help you create a great product. Six Principles for Making New Things, Copy What You Like, Taste for Makers, and Design and Research.

5. Founders at Work
by Jessica Livingston

This book was admittedly a difficult read, and I did not read every chapter. So why recommend it?

It is a series of interviews with startup founders such as the people who started the following companies: Apple, Gmail, Yahoo!, Adobe, Hot or Not, Craigslist, Blogger, PayPal, TiVo, Research in Motion, and about a dozen others.

I read about the companies that most interested me and that I admire; that is how I recommend going about this book. The amazing part is that you get to hear the firsthand stories about what the people who founded these organizations went through at the very beginning of their journeys, something you almost never get a glimpse at.

I’d recommend picking it up when you’re trying to come up with some ideas for your company or if you’re thinking things are going to be too difficult. There are some amusing tales of blunders and nearly-averted-disasters that could have sent some of the biggest names in business to the netherworld, but didn’t.


Entrepreneur Reading List (Part 1): 5 Tools for Making the Transition from the 9-5

I made up a few lists of resources for the soon-to-be entrepreneurs attending my talk at Fairfield University Business School on April 16th, so I figured I’d share it.

The books in this list are great while you’re in the very early stages of your journey– coming up with ideas, trying to find co-founders, figuring out what type of company structure you want (LLC vs. C-Corp vs. Partnership), and just plain figuring out if being an entrepreneur is what you want out of life.

Here you go:

1.  The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
by Tim Ferriss

This book is really great at preparing you to make the mental leap from stuck-in-a-rut employee to free-thinking entrepreneur. A lot of the methods and claims made in the book are a little outlandish for the average person, but then again, if you’re planning on becoming a successful entrepreneur you’ll need to be anything but average.

This was the first book I read that really inspired me to get serious about quitting my job (or not get one in the first place) and come up with a great idea; I read it twice in one week while I was on vacation, and immediately got to work upon returning home.

2. The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)
by Seth Godin

The concepts in this book were invaluable to me.

In the beginning of the educative process, things are fun and rewarding to work on. Whether you’re learning an instrument, practicing a sport or starting a business, it’s easy to do in the initial phases because it’s so interesting.

But eventually you hit a point where you get to the hard stuff.  This is where things start to get dull, or require a lot of practice, or a lot of  time, or are painful and difficult to do. This is The Dip.

Godin teaches you that you should actually rejoice when you hit a Dip; all the rewards lie on the other side because so few people can make it through the hard times without giving up. E.g., it takes a lot of work to become a professional athlete, but the rewards are amazing.

Godin teaches you how to identify and embrace The Dip in whatever challenge you’re taking on, and use it to your advantage. Every time you recognize a Dip, you realize that 99% of your competitors just gave up.

Amazing read. Check it out.

3. Paul Graham’s Essays

Paul Graham has been the person I admire most in the startup community, as I’m sure is the case with most founders these days. He sold his company ViaWeb (which eventually became the Yahoo! Store) to Yahoo in 1998 and has since started reinventing the venture capital and angel investing industry (you’ll need to learn more about these later).

He started an early seed-stage investment firm called Y-Combinator that invests a small amount of money in really smart companies. I was fortunate enough to end up at a private party at his house in the hills of Palo Alto during last year’s Startup School at Stanford. It’s an amazing thing when you get to meet one of your heroes (and enjoy their free food & drinks all night).

Some of the essays I’d recommend when you’re just starting out are: Why to Not Not Start a StartupHow to Start a Startup, Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy, Ideas for StartupsBe Relentlessly Resourceful, and How Not to Die.

I’ve read every single one of his essays, many of them more than once. He is extremely knowledgeable, and you should really take his lessons to heart– he’s worked with hundreds of startups in the past few years so he certainly knows what he’s talking about.

4. Entrepreneur.com

This is not a riveting, inspiring read like some of the others on the list but it’s just as valuable. Entrepreneur.com will provide you with a lot of insights on the skills you’ll need to acquire in the early stages of being your own boss. You won’t be used to not having someone tell you what to do when you run into a snag, so you’ll need some advice.

This site can teach you all the basics you’ll need to get started on marketing, accounting, finance, management, fundraising, design, and basically anything you may have slept through while you were in business school. I literally read nearly every article on the entire site when I was first starting to learn about entrepreneurship.

5. StartupNation

This site is cool because you can network and communicate with other entrepreneurs to get advice. There are also lots of good articles you can check out as well. The best aspect of this is that you can get open and honest feedback from other people in a similar position. It’s a great place to put out a few different versions of a design and get experienced, knowledgeable people to give you an honest critique.

Hopefully you’re well on the way to discovering the joys of being an entrepreneur.

Don’t forget to check out the next part of the series here!

Kicknote CEO invited to speak at Fairfield University

Kicknote Co-Founder & CEO Brian Erickson was invited to speak the Fairfield University Dolan School of Business on an Entrepreneurial Panel.  The hour-and-a-half forum, entitled “How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur,” will take place at 5pm on April 16th in the Dolan School of Business Dining Room and is open to the public.  The event is sponsored by the Dolan School and the DSB Advisory Council, and is being used as a stepping-stone in the Dolan School’s instituting of a new Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development program in the Management Department.

Other featured entrepreneur panelists include Thomas Hughes of LNR Property Corporation, Hugh Davis & Andy Greenfield of Greenfield Online, and Shep & Ian Murray of Vineyard Vines, among others.  The Kicknote team is honored to have been included in this prestigious list of invitees, and we are very much looking forward to the event.


Upcoming Beta Launch

We are proud to announce that the beta version of the new Kicknote.com is scheduled to go live on April 15th. The first phase of the site will be fairly basic, but we have a ton of features lined up that will be rolled out immediately after the launch. The site’s functionality will increase dramatically over the first few months. For now, submit your email at kicknote.com to be reminded when the site goes up.