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  • Writer's pictureDima Syrotkin

Startup Books are Useless

Updated: Jun 3, 2022

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio

"Practice over theory" is one of those notions that is often silently applied, but rarely explicitly preached. Most would agree that reading medicine books, no matter how many, won't make you a surgeon: practice is an essential part of the learning process.

The limits of theory

Albeit less dramatic, it is still very true for startups founders. Startup books have been flourishing in the past years, and the numbers of "20 Startup Books You Must Read" articles are countless on the Internet. While some of them might be entertaining reads, they won't be of much use in your everyday decision-making. Theoretical knowledge is only that: theory. Very much like the surgeon, the startup founder needs the practice to attune his skills, gain in efficiency, and develop confidence. Over time, this practice transforms into solid experience, which influences his decision-making and management choices for the better.

One-way learning VS peer to peer learning

The appeal of some startup books is the promise of benefitting off the experience of someone else, usually other successful CEOs. In theory, it sounds good, but reading is a one-way learning method.

Social learning is a known branch of research on education and effective learning. It points out that acquiring knowledge is a social construction developed through social interaction, and highlights the importance of group work and eye contact in our ability to learn the material on a deeper level (Volmink, 2015).

While the exchange of information between peers is encouraged in classroom education, it is often forgotten once we enter the workforce. In the case of entrepreneurs, especially solo ones, the lack of peer interaction can create a sense of stagnation.

Having a startup community to interact with instead, makes you learn better and faster, as it is a proactive approach rather than a passive one. Being able to ask questions relevant to your needs and getting a direct answer tailored to you is also an important advantage compared to a book, which cannot take into account the specific details of your situation, idea, environment, etc. Check out this list of not-just-a-forum online startup communities or check out GrowthClub as an example of communities that nourish such peer to peer learning.

Read something else instead

Seriously. You will gain more from opening your world to diverse topics and hindsight rather than losing precious time and energy on binging startup books in the hopes to memorize them. Stripe CEO, Patrick Collison, is a great example of an entrepreneur whose private library is multidisciplinary. He has commented in the past about his approach to knowledge and reading, which is more focused on choosing wisely what you spend your time reading:

Well, I discard a lot of books. I like the insight that there’s a set of great books that are really worth reading, and there’s a subset of those books that are really enjoyable to read.

Want to take a look at Patrick Collin’s library? He has gathered his recommendations here.


Thanks for sticking till the end! I am a hands-on advisor at GrowthClub. GrowthClub is a community of founders with $5K+ MRR where founders exchange growth hacks and build genuine connections in 1-on-1 video calls.

I started with GrowthClub as a user. I liked it so much that I ended up helping the founder. Currently, after experiencing a great inflow of founders from our launch on Product Hunt and Indie Hackers featured article, we are signing up 50 hand-picked founders to form the core of our platform to actively iterate the product with them.

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