We frequently get asked throughout our due diligence process as well as our interview process for fall, spring, and summer interns what are the great books to read to understand the technology ecosystem, the B2B world, and the foundations of business software. Understanding where the business software industry came from and its growth are critical to framing today’s environment. It also helps to think about the future and give an aspiring investment professional some historical context. Below are our 10 best software books for aspiring VCs. We tend to recommend all of these to our incoming analyst or associate programs and hope you find them valuable. They are in no particular order listed here and we focus generally on books that specifically talk about B2B trends, themes, or historical contexts that matter to making investments and less about general management principles (although those are often times found within).
1. The Intel Trinity by Michael Malone. Intel helped pioneer the silicon-based memory chips from which California’s storied Silicon Valley drew its name, then assembled the team that pretty much invented the microprocessors that enabled the creation of personal computers and the computer-driven era we live in today. So far ahead of the curve was Intel that it often had to educate its customers in how to deploy its technologies. We wrote about the book here a while ago.
2. Under The Radar by Robert Young. Written by the Founder & CEO of Red Hat, Robert Young chronicles the dramatic rise of the open-source movement and the emergence of Linux. If you don’t know anything about Red Hat or the open source movement this book is a good place to start. We wrote about the book here a while ago and it continues to be one of our 10 best software books for aspiring VCs.
3. Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella. Nadella became the third CEO of Microsoft in 2014 and has done an incredible job moving Microsoft from a personal computing originator to a suite of best-in-class platforms and services for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Nadella pioneered the “Cloud Computing” division (now Microsoft Azure). He ran Research & Development. He ran the Systems & Tools business within Microsoft. All in, he is a business-to-business practitioner and knows the ecosystem well. This is a good read on Microsoft in a B2B setting. We wrote about the book here a while ago.
4. Subscribed by Tien Tzuo. Author Tien Tzuo is widely recognized as one of the thought leaders in the SaaS, founding Zuora in 2007. He built the business into a public company with 1,000+ customers, 1,000+ employees, and $100MM+ in revenue. Before Zuora, Tien was one of the “original forces” at Salesforce, joining as employee number 11. In his 9 years at Salesforce he built the original billing system and held a variety of executive roles in technology, marketing, and strategy organizations, including building out the product management & marketing organization, serving as Chief Marketing Officer and most recently as Chief Strategy Officer (2005-2008). We wrote about the book here a while ago.
5. How To Castrate A Bull by Dave Hitz. Written by NetApp co-founder Dave Hitz, the book summarizes the nearly 20 year lifespan of the company and how they went from just 3 guys with an idea to over 10,000 employees, 10,000 customers and more than $5B in annual revenues. There is a lot on NetApp’s creation, search for funding, struggle for survival, and ultimate success delivering storage and data management solutions to customers worldwide. We wrote about the book here a while ago.
6. Behind The Cloud by Marc Benioff. The book, published in 2009, is a compilation of Benioff’s personal account on how he started Salesforce, the $100B+ cloud software company launched in 1999. It also comes with 111 of Benioff’s own management tips. Benioff tells the story of how Salesforce.com grew from a small startup to the company that is now synonymous with the CRM industry. Salesforce is rightly heralded as the most successful SaaS company, with over 30,000 staff and $10B in annual revenue. We wrote about the book here a while ago.
7. The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: God Doesn’t Think He’s Larry Ellison by Mike Wilson. This is a detailed depiction of the story of Larry Ellison and Oracle, and provides some interesting insights into the history of the software industry in particular the creation of the database era and growth of the client-server business. There are many other profiles of Ellison through the years but we find this the most informative and entertaining.
8. The HP Way by David Packard. From a one car garage company to a multibillion dollar industry, the rise of Hewlett-Packard is an extraordinary tale of vision, innovation and hard work. Conceived in 1939, Hewlett-Packard earned success not only as a result of its engineering know how and cutting edge product ideas, but also because of the unique management style it developed into a way of doing things called “the HP way”.
9. Winners Dream by Bill McDermott. The author is currently the CEO of SAP which is one of the largest business software companies in the world. They do about $27B in revenue, have 330,000 customers, and operate in over 180 countries. Beyond this, Bill McDermott is one of the best sales oriented CEOs in the software business having grown SAP from $39B to $144B through big, audacious sales achievements. Prior to SAP, McDermott held executive roles in general management and sales at Xerox, Gartner, and Siebel Systems. We wrote about the book here a while ago.
10. High Noon by Karen Southwick. In 1982, a little upstart named Sun was making waves in the high-tech industry with its groundbreaking workstation technology, even as early competitors dismissed the company as not worth losing sleep over. Since then, Sun Microsystems has become a formidable presence in the industry, making its own rules and taking no prisoners.
If you liked “10 Best B2B Software Books For Aspiring VCs” and want to read more content from the Bowery Capital Team, check out other relevant posts from the Bowery Capital Blog.