5 Best SaaS Books Every Startup Leader Should Read

We all know it’s hard for tech entrepreneurs to find time to read actual books. But there’s much wisdom on those dusty shelves, with valuable lessons for leaders of SaaS companies.

So, what books about tech startups should every SaaS leader read? Here, our CEO BJ Lackland explains why you should pick up the following five books in your hours away from your laptop screen.

Best SaaS Books for Startup Leaders

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Awkward title, but this gem from Ben Horowitz is the best book on leading a startup company from early stages to scale. It’s most productive when it smacks you in the face, wakes you up, and forces you to focus on the problems you must take responsibility for and work through. Don’t expect a picnic. But then, you hopefully didn’t step into the CEO role expecting to
be a fat cat relaxing around a pool while others build your business.

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

Originally written when SaaS wasn’t a word and software was sold on discs, this book’s strategic prescriptions are debatably more relevant in the era of SaaS. It’s also been updated, which helps, but the principles remain the same — focus on a beachhead market and serve it deeply (grab your niche and own it!). Then use that beachhead to cross the chasm from early adopters to early mainstream (where many startups fail!), and only then spread to serving adjacent markets. The world of SaaS, in which you can develop software with minimal expense and deliver it digitally across the world, makes this tried-and-true strategy even more effective than ever.

From Impossible To Inevitable: How Hyper-Growth Companies Create Predictable Revenue by Jason Lemkin and Aaron Ross

No one is more articulate about how to scale up customer acquisition — sales and marketing — than Lemkin of SaaStr fame and Aaron Rogers, who helped scale Salesforce.com’s sales systems through key stages of growth. Although every business is different, this book is as close as it gets to a “prescription” applicable to many SaaS businesses.

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Although not specifically for SaaS businesses, The Lean Startup is a classic that can help any business in figuring out what its customers want and value, especially in the early stages of figuring out product-market fit. This book will push you to ship product without waiting for
perfection (which you should do!), to iterate quickly when you realize what customers really love and want (or don’t want), and to monitor your product so you can see this customer feedback as quickly as statistically possible. Many of the author’s prescriptions apply best to B2C companies, but a dose of the book is good for B2B SaaS as well.

The Shift from One to Many: A Practical Guide to Leadership by Chrismon Nofsinger

Although it isn’t specifically about leading a SaaS business, this is the best page-for-page book on leadership. It’s short and packs a punch, making you think about how you’re leading, no matter how good a leader you think you are. To successfully build your SaaS business, you will need to evolve through “the Shift” as your company goes from 2 people, to 20, to 200, to 2,000. This process isn’t natural. It’s hard. Nofsinger provides a conceptual framework and examples to reflect on every day to grow your leadership abilities — which you’ll need to succeed!

Katherine Gustafson is a full-time freelance writer specializing in content for mission-driven changemakers such as tech disruptors in fintech, healthcare IT, and B2B SaaS. She also does corporate work on business topics including accounting, management, and innovation for companies such as KPMG, TD Bank, Workday, Avalara, and Adobe. She is the author of a book about innovation in sustainable food, and her writing has appeared in a wide variety of sites and publications including QuickBooks Resource Center, Business Insider, and Forbes. Follower her on Twitter @k_m_g.