6 Mindset-Shifting Reads for Entrepreneurs and Startups Curated by TokyoMate's CEO

6 Mindset-Shifting Reads for Entrepreneurs and Startups Curated by TokyoMate's CEO

Looking for practical, serviceable advice for startups and anyone about to launch something new? 

We asked Fuminori Gunji, TokyoMate's CEO, for his favorite books for entrepreneurs, and he gave us a curated selection of premium reads to fill up your TBR list.

Here is Fuminori Gunji, with his book recommendations for anyone focused on growing a business. 

1. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince

A must-read. Never forget to observe things from the fresh eyes of an innocent, inexperienced child. Question customs, traditions, and norms just like the Little Prince does. Once you get used to seeing things through the eyes of the Little Prince, you'll notice how most of the worldly things are nonsensical and this will help you to see the things that matter, things that are essential in life and business.

In other words, it’s about seeing and thinking from first principles. Which is often the first step to spotting market opportunities, i.e., discovering unsolved problems most people are unaware of or have accepted as part of life. You can read this in 2~3 hours, and ever since I read this during my backpacking trip through Norway in highschool, I’ve reread this one every few years and everytime it resonates with me in slightly different ways. 

2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing about Hard Things

A fun, inspiring, and instructional book describing the typical (to be expected) struggles and difficulties when building a startup—with critical details of how they built and scaled Opsware, which Hewlett-Packard acquired for $1.6 billion in 2007

Being aware of highly probable difficulties in advance is extremely helpful in managing situations when they actually crop up for your startup as well. When you've been emotionally prepared, you know (a) it's not uncommon for this to happen—it's hard but okay—and (b) you'll find tips on how to deal with these situations.

Side note: Ben Horowitz is well-known as the co-founder of the legendary Venture Capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz (also called a16z, legal name AH Capital Management, LLC), which he founded in 2009 together with Marc Andreessen (well-known for being a co-founder of Netscape, the world's dominant web browser at the dawn of the Internet).

3. Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse

Finite and Infinite Games

This sounds like a book on game theory, but it's so much more than that. It's a highly philosophical but casually and entertainingly written book on life and business. Those who see life and business as a finite game primarily care about the score, and their ultimate goal is to end the game as a winner, play with a better score, and keep on going until there are no competitors left in the field. 

However, those who see life and business as an infinite game, play for the sake of continuing the game, and hence are willing to change the rules or scores or anything for the love of the game—and that actually results in a better outcome and/or more output, more utility, more prosperity for ALL players, which has been proven in many game theory experiments and real-life cases. For the sake of creating a better world, be an infinite game player.

Side note: Read Wikipedia articles about some classic game theory concepts, such as repeated game theory and prisoner's dilemma theory. It’s not required but understanding those basic concepts will help in better absorbing this book.

4. The San Francisco Fallacy: The Ten Fallacies That Make Founders Fail, Jonathan Siegel

The San Francisco Fallacy

Tons of practical/street-smart tips, tricks, and pitfalls to avoid when building a business from scratch. The overall premise being, don’t easily accept common wisdoms or customs. For example, you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to build a successful startup. Or, be wary of what experts tell you - it’s good to hear them out as part of your research, but keep in mind that experts are people who are knowledgeable and thrive well in the status quo or the existing system, so when it comes to assessing a business potential of something new that changes or flips the rules of the game, don’t expect them to give you great advice or feedback, the majority of experts are not the right people to ask (exceptions prove the rule).

This book is written by none other than Jonathan Siegel, who is chairman and founder of Xenon Ventures, which specializes in the acquisition, acceleration, and exit of high-margin SaaS companies. Siegel is also a TokyoMate advisor

As the book's promo text states upfront, The San Francisco Fallacy is not about San Francisco. It's also not another book with the typical "secrets to success" premise. Instead, this book looks at the fallacies startups are tricked into believing are true and what we can learn from how and where startups go wrong. 

5. How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom, Matt Ridley

How Innovation Works

Innovation is not sudden nor something produced by a few so-called "great men." Rather, it is incremental, a product of a free exchange of the thoughts and ideas from many people across organizations, countries, and even generations. Understand this, and you will be able to actually think and act in a way that produces small and great innovations.

Ridley says, "The main ingredient in the secret sauce that leads to innovation is freedom. Freedom to exchange, experiment, imagine, invest, and fail." 

And another favorite quote from the book: "We overestimate the impact of technology in the short-term and underestimate the effect in the long run." —Roy Amara (American researcher, scientist, and futurist). Everybody talks about “innovation” these days, but often without understanding how innovations in the past actually unfolded until they actually had an impact or more importantly without understanding how some attempts to innovate have failed. “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”—Edmund Burke (Irish statesmen, economist, and philosopher) 

6. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari


Why is a book about humankind so important? Because it puts everything into perspective. 

How come we are living in this type of world right now, what is the historical path dependency that led to our present structures in society? Is there a conflict between happiness/success of an individual vs. happiness/success of an organization or species? What is the single most impactful strength and ability that sets humans apart from any other living creature—and how does that impact the way we should think about organization management or the future of "human (worthy) work" in general?

Bonus: Startup = Growth, Paul Graham  

Not a book, but I highly recommend this oldie-but-goldie (from 2012) blog post by Paul Graham, a programmer/philosopher/entrepreneur and one of the co-founders of Y Combinator, a highly successful VC firm/accelerator. This article is one that anyone working at any startup should read, try to understand, and carve into their brains. 

It's a long article but worth reading. I've read it a couple of times by now, but with more experience and knowledge accumulated in between each reading, there's always something new to discover with each re-reading.

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