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Want to start a business? Here are six books you should read

Good ideas from some of the best brains in the game for budding entrepreneurs ready to break the mould. Shutterstock

As an academic I have very little time to read non-academic papers and books. That said, non-academic material is often invaluable as a source for my teaching. It also presents sweet relief from the overly mundane, verbose and theoretical scholarly work in entrepreneurship. Below I recommend books that I have read, as well as books I would like to read during the holidays.

1) My first choice is a book published in 2012 by investment banker David Mataen: Africa - The Ultimate Frontier Market.

To my mind, the book succinctly captures the tremendous opportunities and challenges that exist for finance professionals and entrepreneurs in Africa. It captures and articulates the drivers of business opportunities on the continent. It also highlights some of the challenges in exploiting these opportunities. I think this is the best book available on the subject.

2) Next is Vijay Mahajan’s Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think. This was also hugely successful and gave birth to the “Africa Rising” mantra back in 2009.

3) I have to profess to be a big fan of John Mullins from the London Business School. He has published, along with some co-authors, some excellent books for budding entrepreneurs, those who are established, and financial professionals. His most prominent books are The New Business Road Test and Getting To Plan.

The New Business Road Test is the quintessential work on assessing entrepreneurial opportunities. In this work Mullins concisely presents his framework for identifying attractive opportunities. In Getting To Plan B, Mullins and Randy Komisar, a prominent venture capitalist, present a framework for refining and iterating novel business models.

I have been meaning to read Mullins’ latest book, The Customer Funded Business, for some time now. Its focus is how to raise finances for entrepreneurs in today’s fast moving market place without venture and angel investment. It is also about how investors should be taking into account new changes in firm financing and growth.

4) A book called Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead Of Big has been recommended to me by Phil Benson, co-founder of Xing smoothies. It focuses on field reports of 14 entrepreneurs and companies that have deliberately been kept small. These companies are community focused and locally rooted and are not profit driven.

This should be an interesting study for the African continent, where social enterprises have been touted as a possible solution to some of the continent’s development challenges.

5) My fifth recommendation is a book I have read that is probably little-known: The Entrecode. It is written by a locally based Yorkshire entrepreneur, David Hall.

Hall is a well-known British consultant, writer and broadcaster in the field of entrepreneurial skills, and a successful entrepreneur in his own right. In 1992 he won a BAFTA Award for his BBC1 Business series Winning and the UK Premier Business Award for Television for the BBC2 program Get Better or Get Beaten.

David’s to-the-point writing and straight talking have impressed me. The Entrecode is a fantastically simple book that tries to discover the “DNA secrets/practices” of successful entrepreneurs. It draws on insights from Wyatt Woodsmall, a famous expert in neuro-linguistic programming and performance enhancement who has worked with American diver Greg Louganis and famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

6) The final book on my list which I mean to read over the Christmas break is Big Bang Disruption: Strategy In The Age Of Devastating Innovation by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes.

This work ties nicely into current debates on whether the view of disruptive innovation espoused by famous Harvard professor Clayton Christensen in his seminal work The Innovator’s Dilemma are still relevant in today’s technology landscape.

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