There is no trade school or PhD program for venture-scale founders. You’re on your own.

Experience is the ultimate curriculum for founders. But if you’re relying on learning from experience alone, you’re doing it wrong. Founders need to be life-long learners, continually and proactively expanding their knowledge and honing their skills — to become better founders. 

Learning from other experienced venture-scale founders is the gold standard, for sure. In case you weren’t aware, that’s the primary reason for joining Startup Haven. But that gold can be hard to come by so learning from other founders isn’t enough either.

Accelerators can up-level your skills as well, but you need much more than a three-to-six-month crash course. If you’re in (or considering) an accelerator, double down on the mentorship. Great mentors can be a valuable resource long after the accelerator program is over. Especially, seek out mentors who are experienced founders or investors.

Insightful blog posts and tweet streams from experienced and knowledgeable founders and investors can be a great resource too. But it comes with a lot of noise and rabbit holing is a real thing — a thing you don’t have time for.

Finally, books. There are many great ones. But I recommend your skip the general business books, even the classics.  like Good to Great, Here are three recommendations for books I think are fantastic and can make any founder a better founder. All of these are books we offer to buy for all of our portfolio founders.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

Thinking in Bets, Annie Duke

Hacking Growth, Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown

Venture Deals, Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

As a bonus, learn to play poker well — not for the money but for the opportunity it provides to practice a special kind of decision making that can make you a better founder. Annie Duke’s academic research and her book, Thinking in Bets, is derived from her experience as a professional poker player. One of the key insights from her research is that many of the most important decision-making situations business leaders fare are probabilistic and occur in environments of limited information.

That is what startup founders do all day long and it’s also what you do in poker with every single hand. Poker is “wax on, wax off” for startup founders. If you practice the game of poker it will make better at that special kind of decision making and that will make you a better founder. I’ve written about this (probably at too-much length) at Why Every Startup Founder Should Play Poker.

Now that we are relaunching or in-person events, I hope to see you all at a Startup Poker 2.0 table soon!

Keep grinding,

Bob