Reading books will help you tremendously along your journey to build your hardware company. Bill Gates or Elon Musk are known for being avid readers. Both said that some books had a great influence in their business decisions. They are obviously not the only ones.
I spend the last months reading and researching the topic and I compiled this master list of books for makers starting a hardware company. Pick the ones that fit your current need, they might be of great help.
Hardware Startup Strategy
The Hardware Startup, by Renee DiResta
Covering all aspects to take in consideration when building a hardware company, venture capitalist Renee DiResta and entrepreneur Nick Pinkston talk about the hardware Renaissance and how to do hardware the lean way.
Building Open Source Hardware, by Alicia Gibb
This collaborative book is the first one to dive into the process of building open source hardware. It covers the main aspects: from documentation to choosing a licence or manufacturing an open source hardware piece.
The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank
Obligatory reading in some start-ups, this book will give you a full methodology on how to define a strategy for your business. It’s an essential from which you will be able to get knowledge and advice along your entrepreneurial journey.
Etsy-preneurship, by Jason Malinak
A full guide for crafty makers to learn how to run a successful business on Etsy.
Business Model Generation by Alex Osterwalder
Absolute best-seller for entrepreneurs. Business Model Generation is a practical tool to let you define your business model and your strategy.
The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries
Complete and pragmatic methodology to launch and run a business based on continuous innovation. The Lean Startup is an absolute must-read.
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, by Chris Anderson
Written by the former Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine and current CEO of 3D Robotics, The Long Tail is a world-famous book for any online entrepreneur who wants to harness the power of niche markets to its business. Internet gives an almost infinite number of market opportunities, small but big enough to start successful business.
Free, by Chris Anderson
This book explores how free can become an highly successful business strategy. Chris Anderson explains the different business models using the free model and shows how to compete when competitors are giving away your product. A great read for hardware entrepreneurs exploring open source hardware models.
Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
This book will let you understand how venture capitalists think and how deals work. It’s a great book to understand the outlines of venture capital term sheet and gives valuable insights on how to get a fair deal.
Crowdfunding: The Next Big Thing, by Gary Spirer
A book that covers all aspects of crowdfunding, with or without equity, with practical advice on how to pitch your project on crowdfunding platforms. Gary Spirer also covers the latest regulations and how to identify projects that will work.
Product Design and Development by Karl Ulrich and Steven Eppinger
A book that every designer and product engineering wannabee should have on his bookshelf. Authors take you through design and product development process in a company, sharing clear methods to bring together marketing, design and manufacturing functions of the enterprise.
The Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petrovsky
Forks, pins, paper clips, zippers… The Evolution of Useful Things tells the story of how some of our most common and iconic everyday things became the way they are today. It’s a book about technology and innovation, and a passionate look at what really drives inventions.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman
How to design product for people. That’s what field-changing The Design of Everyday Things is all about.
Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, by Donald A. Norman
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by Michael Braungart and William McDonough
Cradle to Cradle is a must-read manifesto and a guide for designing products that don’t go to waste. “Reduce, reuse, recycle”.
How Designers Think by Bryan Lawson
A classic for any designer, How Designers Think takes the reader throughout the design process. It’s the result of 40 years of research, interview and observations with designers in action.
Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down, by J. e. Gordon
This book is one of all times Elon Musk’s favorite and a best-seller in architecture. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in product design and engineering. Very few math but plenty of real-life examples and well-explained concepts that shape the world we live in.
Design for Manufacturing and Assembly
Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals, by Rob Thompson
A must-have of any hardware entrepreneur, this big book is a fully illustrated resource to help designers understand the various manufacturing processes, how to design for manufacturing and anticipate the many challenges that will undoubtedly come along the way.
Product Design for Manufacture and Assembly by G. Boothroyd
Absolute must-have for the hardware entrepreneur, this 700+ pages book packed with schematics covers all aspects of design for manufacturing. Use it as manual along your design journey to take the right decisions early-on and learn about manufacturing processes and challenges.
Mechanical Assemblies by Daniel Whitney
Mechanical Assemblies specifically focuses on the assembling part of product manufacturing.
How To Implement Lean Manufacturing by Lonnie Wilson
This book is a detailed hands-on resource for implementing lean manufacturing, from deploying plant-wide strategies to reducing lead times or synchronizing production and supply to the customer. Advanced read for the hardware entrepreneur already well-engaged in his hardware company process.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
GTD is world-famous method for helping you work in more productive way.
Rework, by Jason Fried
This book will give you the keys on how to work effectively, get exposure, boot-strap efficiently, and overall get much more productive.
How To Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
With such a title, no suprise this book became an incredible best-seller, with more than 15 million copies sold since its release in 1936. This timeless book is still fully relevant today, with advice on how to make people like you, convince and change people without resentment.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink
In this New York Times best-seller, Daniel H. Pink explores what motivates us. And it’s not money. 40 years of scientific research on human motivation show that what truly motivates us is: autonomy, mastery and purpose. This book is the reference for understanding motivation.
The Success of Open Source, by Steven Weber
The ultimate book on open source and its business models, from a non-technical point of view. Plenty of open source business case studies and perspectives on the movement. Not very easy to read but a must-have.
The Cathedral & the Bazaar, by Eric Raymond
It’s this kind of book that anyone working with Open Source needs to have in his bookshelf. Eric Raymond talks about how and why the open source movement works.
Hackers, by Steven Levy
Written in 1984 (!) by Wired senior writer Steven Levy, Hackers tells the story of how computers escaped proprietary silos and became wildly used by everyone for business and leisure. It’s a classic that will take you in the early days of hackers in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A great tool to understand present challenges.
Makers, by Cory Doctorow
The cult fiction book of Cory Doctorow, sharing his vision of a maker world.
Marketing and Selling
Purple Cow, by Seth Godin
Permission Marketing, by Seth Godin
This book explores a marketing approach based on respect for your customers, transparency and asking for permission. It details online and offline strategies to reach to your audience and transform visitors into fans and friends.
Cold Calling Techniques, by Stephan Shiffman
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, by Gary Vaynerchuck
This book will explain to you how to tell your story on social media and stand out. Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuck shares plenty of case studies and provocative ideas to get your message across online networks without killing your brand.
Hackers and Painters, by Paul Graham
Paul Graham, programmer and VC (he co-founded Y Combinator seed capital firm), wrote Hackers and Painters in 2004 as an essay sharing his views on the future of technology. It quickly became a must-read for all wannabee entrepreneurs and still is.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz
Entrepreneur and investor Ben Horowitz shares his advice on how to build and run a startup.
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel
In this book, Peter Thiel tells the story of how he created Paypal and raised it to a multi-billion business. More importantly, he explores how leaders think by themselves, and how entrepreneurs can innovate today. A very inspiring book for anyone who thinks that we already invented everything.
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston
This very popular book tells the story of founders of some of the biggest tech companies. Interviews with Steve Wozniak (Apple), Mitch Kapor (Lotus) or Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail). Mostly about software and less about hardware but still inspiring.
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson
Best-selling author of Steve Jobs and Einstein biographies, Walter Isaacson tells the story of USA founding father Benjamin Franklin in this highly rated book (a favorite of both Y Combinator Paul Graham and Tesla founder Elon Musk).
My Forty Years with Ford, by Charles E Sorensen
Sorensen is one of the rare people who spend their all life working with Henry Ford. In this book, published for the first time in 1956, he tells the story of the company and the man from the inside, giving first-eye details on the amazing story of Ford.
Tap Dancing to Work – Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012, by Carol J. Loomis
This biography of Warren Buffet is a great way to enter the mind of the most-successful business investor.
Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, by Vaclav Smil
For all of us working with materials and hardware projects, soon arises the question of material consumption and its limits. This book by environmental sciences professor Vaclav Smil explores this topic with talent and gives answers to the rise of dematerialization. Heavily packed with data and thorough information, this book is for the ones who truly want to understand the use of materials across civilizations.
The Box by Marc Levinson
Multi-awards winning book The Box is also one of Bill Gates’ favorites. Economist and historian Marc Levinson retraces the history of the shipping container and “how it made the world smaller and the world economy bigger”. Super instructive and a great read for any hardware mind.
The Soul of A New Machine, by Tracy Kidder
Pulitzer price winner, Paul Graham’s favorite, The Soul of a New Machine tells the story of the computer and how it revolutionized our world. Author also analyzes social behavior and work ethics surrounding these technologies, which still apply today.
The Singularity Is Near, by Ray Kurzweil
The Third Industrial Revolution, by Jeremy Rifkin
Explore Jeremy Rifkin’s ideas for a future where Internet and renewable energy are in the center of a new world paradigm, replacing oil and fossil fuels. Hardware enthusiasts and makers will find a great use and inspiration in his vision.
Which one is your favorite?