5 Books That Shaped My Entrepreneurial Journey This Year

Stefan Stefansson
5 min readAug 12, 2019


For as long as I can remember, I’ve possessed a learning mindset. One main way I have been able to maintain this curiosity has been through reading; whether it be by reading a physical book or by listening to an audiobook, there are many benefits!

If you read 5 pages a day, that yields a book finished every 50 days, 7 books a year. That’s a lot of new information and good compounding interest for very little effort!

Below are the top 5 books I read this year that have helped me in my personal development and entrepreneurial journey. I believe every entrepreneur should read them as well, as they could benefit largely from the insights in each.

1. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

What it’s about: Everyone knows of Nike, but before Shoe Dog, only a few really knew the brand’s full story. Phil Knight, one of Nike’s co-founders, shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.

How it helped me: It gave me insight into Phil’s passion for what he was doing and his mentality towards hardship. Nike was not created through an overnight success story — on many occasions the company came close to bankruptcy, even with all its current growth and revenue. It allows for a great lesson on building a company based on physical products and the financing needed to sustain it.

2. The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

What it’s about: The title says it all — The Psychology of Selling is about how to successfully sell an idea, a product, or a service to another individual. It gives readers ideas, methods, strategies and techniques that can be used to make more sales, faster.

How it helped me: As an entrepreneur in the early stages of a new venture, I couldn’t have read this book at a better time. Recently, I’ve found that leading a software team is more about selling than anything else. I am trying to persuade people all the time — join me as a co-founder, buy my product, invest in my startup. Though this book was written in a different era, I was still able to connect with and find the relevancy in Tracy’s techniques.

3. The Upstarts by Brad Stone

The Upstarts by Brad Stone

What it’s about: The Upstarts provides a well-researched account of Airbnb’s and Uber’s inception, growth, and dominance. With an equal focus on both the setbacks and victories from conception to world domination, it allows for a life-like, complex story to unfold.

How it helped me: Reading about these companies’ stories made me realize how unlikely an entrepreneur’s first idea ends up becoming what they are known for. For example, Uber did not offer ride-sharing until 2013 — four years after it was founded. Instead, many make breakthroughs later through pattern recognition, spotting opportunities and being positioned on top of a wave that can grow large.

4. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

What it’s about: Bad Blood is the full inside story of the rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, a multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley startup. Exposing many elaborate scams, Carreyrou continued to share this story from beginning to end, even in the face of pressure and threats from the CEO and her lawyers.

How it helped me: Theranos’ founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, was a remarkable salesperson. She was able to successfully sell her vision to the public, investors, business people and high-level politicians, but this still didn’t correlate to un-ending success for her company. Through this, I was able to understand that high valuation and venture capital money pouring into a startup does not automatically create success; these investments are just speculations on future cash flows.

5. Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework by the founders of Basecamp

What it’s about: Rework claims to show a more efficient way to succeed in the business world. Quite opposite to many common business principles, it explains why plans are actually harmful, why startups don’t need outside investors, and why startups are better of ignoring the competition.

How it helped me: I was able to take away many good lessons that are contrary to popular ideas about how businesses work. Some include:

  1. Plans are guesses
  2. Meetings can be toxic
  3. Be opinionated
  4. Huge documents only create the illusion of agreement
  5. Borrowing should be plan Z
  6. Don’t build a business with an exit strategy, build something that you want to do forever

Not everyone may agree with this sensible philosophy, but it works as a great tool to balance other inspirational entrepreneurial books.

If you found these books to be interesting and are looking for more suggestions, email me at stefan@sensivo.eu. I would be glad to send more recommendations your way!



Stefan Stefansson

Product builder and the co-founder and CEO of Sensivo.