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The Most Prolific Investors in Startups Are Fans of These Books

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The world’s most elite startup investors come in all shapes and sizes.

Some of them, such as Marc Andreessen or Josh Kopelman, come from an operating background as former entrepreneurs themselves. They know what it takes to build a great company, and they use that knowledge to try and spot the next Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel to place a bet on.

Other venture capitalists come at it from a more institutional angle. Mary Meeker, for example, spent a lot of time on Wall Street before making the move to Silicon Valley. She covered technology research for investment banks such as Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley, and helped lead famous IPOs for companies like Netscape and Google.

However, despite the differences in the backgrounds and approaches of top VCs, there does seem to be at least one commonality: they tend to be exceptionally well-read. Every new book helps arm them with knowledge, some of which could help give them the edge on their next deal or investment.

The favorite books of top startup investors

Joe Hovde, from the Ramen Profitable blog, collected data from the interviews of every venture capitalist and entrepreneur featured on the popular Twenty Minute VC podcast.

Each guest on the podcast is asked to provide a book recommendation, and Hovde has visualized this information.

The most cited authors include Ben Horowitz, Eric Ries, Nassim Taleb, and Peter Thiel

Most cited authors

Ben Horowitz and Peter Thiel are fellow venture capitalists, while Eric Ries developed the “lean startup” methodology based on his experiences advising startups. Nassim Taleb is a mathematician, philosopher, and former trader that is best-known for popularizing the ideas of “black swans” and “antifragility”.

The most cited book overall is easily The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Most cited book

Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Things About Hard Things covers Ben’s early trials and tribulations as a co-founder of Loudcloud, which almost imploded multiple times during the Dotcom Bust. Eventually the company pivoted to enterprise software and was sold to HP for $1.7 billion in 2007, proving to ultimately be a success. The book cuts right to the hard facts about entrepreneurship and building companies, relating back to the challenges faced in Ben’s previous endeavors.

The most popular non-fiction books also include Zero to One and The Lean Startup

Most popular non-fiction titles

Other titles that got some love from VCs: Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness and Good to Great by Jim Collins.

The two most popular fiction titles are The Alchemist and The Master and Margarita

Most popular fiction titles

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is considered a modern classic by many. It tells the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. He leaves Spain to pursue his dream, and discovers himself along the way.

The Master and Margarita, a novel by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, is another modern masterpiece. Written during the darkest days of Stalin’s reign, it is a satirical take on the Soviet Union that uses a visit by the Devil as a literary vehicle to tell the tale.

What are the books that have influenced you the most?

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Business

Where Are the Oldest Companies in Existence?

Which companies have stood the test of time? This detailed map highlights the oldest company in every country that is still in business.

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Where Are the Oldest Companies in Existence?

View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here.

In just a few decades, it’s possible that some of today’s most recognized companies may no longer be household names.

Corporate longevity, or the average lifespan of a company, has been shrinking dramatically.

In the 1960s, a typical S&P 500 company was projected to last for more than 60 years. However, with the rapidly transforming business landscape today, it’s down to just 18 years.

The Companies With the Strongest Staying Power

Even with companies skewing younger, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Luckily, many companies around the world have stood the test of time, and today’s detailed map from Business Financing highlights the oldest company in existence in each country.

For centuries, here are the world’s oldest corporations which have made their mark:

YearCompany NameCountryIndustry
578Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd.JapanConstruction
803St.  Peter Stifts KulinariumAustriaService Industry (Restaurant)
862Staffelter HofGermanyDistillers, Vintners, & Breweries (Winery)
864Monnaie de ParisFranceManufacturing & Production (Mint)
886The Royal MintEnglandManufacturing & Production (Mint)
900Sean’s BarIrelandService Industry (Pub)
1040Pontificia Fonderia MarinelliItalyManufacturing & Production (Bell foundry)
1074Affligem BreweryBelgiumDistillers, Vintners, & Breweries
1135Munke MølleDenmarkManufacturing & Production (Flour Mill)
1153Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken HouseChinaService Industry (Restaurant)

Whether they were born out of necessity to support a rapidly growing population—requiring new infrastructure and more money circulation—or simply to satisfy peoples’ thirst for alcohol or hunger for fried chicken, these companies continue to play a lasting role.

The Oldest Company in Every Country, by Region

Let’s dive into the regional maps, which paint a different picture for each continent.

In the following maps, countries are color-coded based on the major industry that the oldest company falls under:

  • Primary: Natural resources
  • Secondary: Manufacturing and processing
  • Tertiary: Services and distribution
  • Quaternary: Knowledge and information

Notes on Methodology:

This research considers both state-run and independent businesses in their definitions. For countries where data was hard to pin down, they have been grayed out.

As well, since many countries have a relatively new inception, present-day names and borders have been used. The map does not factor in older companies that are no longer in operation, or if it was unclear whether they were still open.

Click here to explore the full research methodology.

Oldest Company in every country in North America

North America

Mexico’s La Casa de Moneda de México (founded 1534) is the oldest company across North America, and the first mint of America. Owned by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, it was where the famous ‘pieces of eight’, or Spanish dollars were created.

In the U.S., the Shirley Plantation in Virginia is an ongoing reminder of the history of slavery. First founded in 1613, business actually began in 1638—and as many as 90 slaves were under indentured labor on the estate growing tobacco.

Further north, Canada’s Hudson’s Bay (founded 1670) was at the helm of the fur trade between European settlers and First Nations tribes—the two parties agreed on beaver pelts as a common, valuable trade standard.

Oldest Company in every country in North America

South America

Three of the five oldest companies in South America are mints—specifically in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.

The oldest of these mints, Casa Nacional de Moneda in Peru, was built on order from Spain and established in 1565. After the great influx of newly-mined silver from America to Europe, the Spanish crown outlined to King Felipe II that building a mint would give the colony economic benefits and more control.

Oldest Company in every country in Europe

Europe

In total, 15 of Europe’s oldest companies are related to the food and beverage industries, from distilleries, vintners (winemaking), and breweries alongside restaurants and pubs. Austria’s St. Peter Stifts Kulinarium (founded in 803) is Europe’s oldest restaurant, located inside the St. Peter’s Abbey monastery.

Although Germany is famously known for its beer culture, its oldest company is in fact the Staffelter Hof Winery (founded in 862). Today, Germany is still a top wine country, with the industry generating up to $17 billion in revenue per year.

Oldest Company in every country in Asia

Asia

Asia has six oldest companies in the banking and finance category, as well as another six in the aviation and transport sector. The continent is also home to two of the world’s oldest companies, located in Japan and China.

The Japanese temple and shrine construction company, Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd. (founded in 578) has weathered a few storms over the millennia, from nuclear bombs to financial crises. In 2006, it was bought by the construction conglomerate, Takamatsu Construction Group Co., and continues to operate today.

In neighboring China, Ma Yu Ching’s Bucket Chicken House has endured dynasties of change as well. The company’s simple premise has come a long way, and it was named a cultural heritage in the country’s Henan Province.

Oldest Company in every country in Africa

Africa

Africa’s oldest companies are another vestige of the colonial legacy, with 11 transport companies—airlines, ports and shipping, and railways—and 9 postal services.

In fact, Cape Verde’s Correios de Cabo Verde (postal service, founded in 1849) and the DRC’s Société nationale des Chemins de fer du Congo (national railway company, founded in 1889) still go by their Portuguese and French names respectively.

Banking is another one of the oldest industries, with 17 companies across Africa. Zimbabwe’s Standard Chartered branch has been around since 1892, a subsidiary of its London-based parent company.

Oldest Company in every country in Oceania

Oceania

Australia officially became a country on January 1st, 1901—but its oldest company, the Australia Post (founded in 1809) precedes this by almost a century.

Interestingly, just one more old company could be located for this region, which is the Bank of New Zealand—one of the country’s Big Four banks.

All in all, these oldest companies paint a historical picture of the major industries which have shaped entire regions.

Did you recognize any on the list?

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Maps

Mapped: Visualizing the True Size of Africa

Common map projections warp our view of the globe. This graphic reveals the true size of Africa, which could fit the U.S., China, India, and more.

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Mapped: The True Size of Africa

Take a look at any map, and it’s clear that the African continent is a big place.

However, despite the common perception that Africa is a large landmass, it’s still one that is vastly underestimated by most casual map viewers.

The reason for this is that the familiar Mercator map projection tends to distort our geographical view of the world in a crucial way — one that often leads to misconceptions about the relative sizes of both countries and continents.

A Geographical Jigsaw

Today’s infographic comes from Kai Krause and it shows the true size of Africa, as revealed by the borders of the countries that can fit within the continent’s shape.

The African continent has a land area of 30.37 million sq km (11.7 million sq mi) — enough to fit in the U.S., China, India, Japan, Mexico, and many European nations, combined.

CountryLand Area (sq. km)Land Area (sq. mi)% of Africa
Total30.33 million sq. km11.71 million sq. mi99.9%
🇺🇸 United States9.83 million3.80 million32.4%
🇨🇳 China9.60 million3.71 million31.6%
🇮🇳 India3.29 million1.27 million10.8%
🇲🇽 Mexico1.96 million0.76 million6.5%
🇵🇪 Peru1.29 million0.50 million4.2%
🇫🇷 France0.64 million0.25 million2.1%
🇪🇸 Spain0.51 million0.20 million1.7%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea0.46 million0.18 million1.5%
🇸🇪 Sweden0.45 million0.17 million1.5%
🇯🇵 Japan0.38 million0.15 million1.3%
🇩🇪 Germany0.36 million0.14 million1.2%
🇳🇴 Norway0.32 million0.13 million1.1%
🇮🇹 Italy0.30 million0.12 million1.0%
🇳🇿 New Zealand0.27 million0.10 million0.9%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom0.24 million0.09 million0.8%
🇳🇵 Nepal0.15 million0.06 million0.5%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh0.15 million0.06 million0.5%
🇬🇷 Greece0.13 million0.05 million0.4%

You could add together all of the landmasses above and they would not equate to the geographical footprint of Africa, which itself is home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.

Editor’s note: The above table is slightly different from the countries shown in the visualization, which focuses more on fitting recognizable country shapes into the geographical shape of Africa.

Why the Misconception?

Interestingly, the problem with maps is not that Africa is sized incorrectly.

Using the animation below, you’ll see that Africa is actually the most accurately sized continent using the common Mercator map projection:

True size of countries animation Mercator

The Mercator projection attempts to place the spherical shape of the world onto a cylinder, causing areas closest to the poles to be “stretched”.

Africa, which straddles the Equator, barely changes in size — meanwhile, the countries furthest from the Equator become inflated from their true sizes on this type of map.

Mercator cylindrical projection

For those of us living in Western countries, this is an interesting dilemma to consider.

This means that the sizes of European and North American countries are distorted, giving us an inaccurate mental “measuring stick” for judging the relative sizes of other countries.

This has implications not only for Africa, but for the whole Southern Hemisphere: South America, India, the Middle East, and even Australia are “bigger” than they may initially appear on a map.

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