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Five Non-Fiction Books Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs Should Read Now

With a range of topics for entrepreneurs to sink their teeth into

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BY Lian Kyla Dyogi - 07 Apr 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Experience is the best teacher, says the old cliché. But if experience isn’t enough, there is probably a business book somewhere that will give you inspiration. Even with the plethora of videos and articles that entrepreneurs can learn from, nothing beats taking a deeper look into some of the ideas and issues that concern the field.

Plus don’t you think the smell of a new book is just divine? Here are five non-fiction titles you might enjoy reading for your digital or physical shelf.


1. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

What makes it so great? Kai Sato in this Inc. article writes, “Distilled from a class that Thiel taught at Stanford University, it covers a range of topics like the critical need to establish a niche, how sales are equally as important as product development, and the myriad benefits of media coverage for a start-up.”

Wong Chee Mun, head of offline marketing at Fave, an O2O platform born out of Malaysia, says Zero to One is an “amazing book by one of Silicon Valley’s most well known investors. In his book, he asks readers to look for an important truth few people agree on. That question, which is so simple yet so difficult to answer, really broaden[ed] my perspective of entrepreneurship.”


2. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Published in 2007, Haruki Murakami’s memoir on being a long-distance runner is as much about writing as it is about running. With descriptions of his training sessions for various races, Murakami juxtaposes the two practices. “Murakami draws parallels between training for races and writing novels. Both are long-term projects during which you have to keep the end in sight,” writes Peter Terzian in his LA Times review.

While the jury is still out on whether or not Murakami’s prose here is elegant and riveting, it’s an interesting look at the author. Entrepreneurs might appreciate seeing the meditative discipline necessary for success in business through a different profession. In any case, if you’re a fan of Murakami (IQ84, Norwegian Wood), this is a “kind of memoir” you shouldn’t miss.  


3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

“The book makes a very key core central point: transformative success is very, very hard,” writes Paul Grossinger of Ben Horowitz’s book in this Inc. article.

“[The book] really talks about the struggles and difficulties an entrepreneur will face when building a company. It also shares useful advice on building a company, including hiring people, firing people, managing a team, and more. I think that it is a great handbook for entrepreneurs that will guide them along the start-up journey, and mentally and emotionally prepare them for the numerous challenges they will encounter,” says Valerie Pang, student entrepreneur and co-founder of SDI Academy from Singapore.

If you’ve ever looked in the mirror at the end of another long arduous day and asked yourself whether being an entrepreneur is for you, don’t worry; Horowitz is here to tell you that you’re not alone. “Difficult” is part of the job description.


4. Blue Ocean Strategy by Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim

Written by professors Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim from INSEAD, Blue Ocean Strategy is a good book for entrepreneurs looking for a different approach to strategy. “This profound strategic text argues that companies should avoid highly competitive markets, known as ‘red oceans,’ and instead focus on ‘blue oceans’ that present little to no competition. The reason is simple as increased competition typically results in lower prices which erodes profit margin,” writes Kai Sato in this Inc. article.

“What I like about this book is that it goes beyond the usual strategy frameworks taught in business schools and focuses on the idea of value innovation that leads to blue ocean uncontested markets. Whether you are in an old or new industry, it's a different perspective and paradigm for leaders and owners to either create or reinvent their strategic position,” says Jomar Aunario, head of operations at RTL, a research, communications, and strategy company from the Philippines.


5. Originals by Adam Grant

Where do original or revolutionary ideas come from: Look-before-leaping kinds of people? Geniuses? Albert Einstein? Wharton professor Adam Grant in this 2016 book subtitled “How Non-Conformists Move the World”, presents evidence to the contrary. He argues that originals aren’t as wildly different from the rest of us. While not strictly a how-to guide, this fascinating and well-researched book presents various case studies from the CIA to the women’s suffrage movement. As Leigh Buchanan says in this Inc. article, “For individuals, it's a guide to effective deviation. For leaders, it's a call to unleash their deviants.”

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