Books Venture Capitalists Read
Does crowd psychology impact markets? Do our diets change when politics and finance dictate agriculture? Do such questions influence investment decisions? Some of India’s venture capitalists speak to BloombergQuint on books that have inspired them.
Managing Director, Kalaari Capital
Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook Of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell, By Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, And Jonathan Rosenberg
On the entrepreneurial journey to success there are many leadership hurdles that one has to face. This book highlights how we should approach different hurdles and keep moving forward on our leadership journey. Also, it doesn’t matter if you are early in your career or later in the journey, everyone needs constant support throughout their career, according to Kola.
A key takeaway for me was: One of the best ways to hire is to look for ‘smarts and heart’. Look to hire people who show the ability to learn fast, have the willingness to work hard along with empathy and a team-first attitude.
One quote I really like is: “A coach is someone who hears the things you don’t want to hear and sees the things you don’t want to see so you can be the person you always wanted to be.”
Designing Destiny, By Daaji Kamlesh Patel
To live a happy and fulfilled life, one has to maintain a balance between the inner self and outer self, the material world and the spiritual world. Understanding oneself is a pre-requisite for changing oneself for better. One can design their destiny through a practice of deep introspection or meditation.
In order to fulfill our deepest potential having the tools to be focused and self-reflective are important. This book offers multiple tools and techniques to evolve into a better version of ourselves.
One quote I like from the book is, “To design the destiny of humanity, we start with designing ourselves first and then expand our radius to include others.”
Being Mortal Medicine And What Matters In The End, By Atul Gawande
“Each of us will have to face mortality in the context of our parents,” said Kola. The book provides warm, compassionate, and empathetic perspectives to think about the inevitable. Only when we can deal with mortality can we prioritise what matters to us. You will also get a new perspective on work-life balance and how and why you should prioritise the important things in your life that are not always measurable.
While the world has made rapid advances in medicine, the latest solutions place extending life over quality of life and safety over people’s autonomy as priorities. Institutions tend to focus on measurable results but people are more than just bodies. Big need for change in priorities and focus on intangible results too.
One quote I like is, “Courage is strength in the face of knowledge of what is to be feared or hoped. Wisdom is prudent strength.”
Director, Blume Ventures
High Output Management, By Andy Grove
This is in the only business/‘how to’ book that I recommend to founders, Pai said. Written in the ‘80s, it is astonishing how much of it is still relevant and can be applied in any organisation even today. Not surprising, for it is entirely written from first principles.
In this work, Andy Grove, who led Intel to dominance in the 80s and 90s, writes about such topics as to how to pair indicators or metrics (a check metric to balance your key north star metric), why meetings are important and how you can increase output through meetings (introduces the concept of managerial leverage) and how to conduct performance appraisals. Every startup founder or aspiring startup founder should read this; or even every ambitious executive.
The Fates Of Nations, By Paul Colinvaux
This is an obscure, and now out-of-print work, by a deceased academic Paul Colinvaux. Written in 1980, it is history (warfare, conquest, clash of civilisations) explained through the prism of ecology. It looks at many of the questions that Jared Diamond examined in his opus “Guns, Germs and Steel”, another one of my favourite works, but examines it through an entirely different prism (of ecological theory).
A Suitable Boy, By Vikram Seth
I really like the worldscape and languor of ‘A Suitable Boy’. It is a ‘massive book’ (1,500+ pages) and I read over two months! It is incredible how he captured 1950s India in all its nuance and complexity. Extraordinary work. Just can’t get over the fact that it took him a decade to write the book. As Vikram Seth says, this book “gouged out my thirties”.
The Namesake, By Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favourite authors; and this book is my most liked of her works. I like how it captures the rootlessness of the Indian exile (exile perhaps isn’t the right word, but it will do) in a foreign country really well. It also captures perfectly the dynamics between generations in a family, especially the relationship between Gogol/Nikhil and his father. Some of the writing is magical – especially the pages capturing Gogol’s emotions following his father’s death.
Partner, Lightbox Venture Capital
AI Superpowers, By Kai-Fu Lee
I highly recommend you stop reading whatever you are reading and start this... now, Murthy said. Recent advances in deep learning are as fundamental as the discovery of electricity. This is a powerful thought and one that opens up a world of new opportunities. This book provides a practical understanding of how artificial intelligence is likely to evolve and what sectors and jobs will get impacted. It’s a must read for anyone who intends to have a job in the next 20 years.
Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds, By Charles Mackay
Crowd psychology has been impacting markets for centuries. Stories such as the Mississippi Scheme in France in 1720 and Tulip mania in Holland in the 1630s remind us that the boom and bust cycles of the dot com era and the global financial crisis are the realities of how markets work. Understanding how crowds have thought over centuries helps distill the signal in the noise of hype.
Shoe Dog, By Phil Knight
This is a great story about the journey of a man who was extremely passionate about delivering a great product. What’s even more relevant for my business is that he managed to build Nike at a time there were no venture capital dollars available. This reaffirms my belief that it’s not the money that makes a difference, it’s the entrepreneur.
Omnivore’s Dilemma, By Michael Pollen
When politics and finance dictate agriculture, our diets change. This book shines a light on what is happening in the U.S. food supply-chain and makes us painfully aware of the fact that we know so little about what we consume, Murthy said. As an investor in consumer businesses this has helped me think more deeply about how we can leverage technology to bring high-quality products to consumers without increasing cost… because even in something as essential as food, consumers are willing to compromise to whatever degree to get the best price.
Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High, By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny
It’s a book about negotiations and resolving conflicts. For all businesses and teams — large and small discussions, difficult conversations are crucial to growth. This book sheds good light on how to think about such conversations and how to enable them.