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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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Politics

How Do Democrats and Republicans Feel About Certain U.S. Industries?

A survey looked at U.S. industry favorability across political lines, showing where Democrats and Republicans are divided over the economy.

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A cropped chart with the percentage of Democrats and Republicans that found specific U.S. industries "favorable."

Industry Favorability, by Political Party

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Much and more has been written, in the last decade particularly, about the U.S. political sphere becoming increasingly polarized. The two main parties—Democrats and Republicans—have clashed over how to run the economy, as well as on key social issues.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Democrat and Republican voters are also divided on various U.S. industries, per a YouGov poll conducted in 2022.

Between November 7-9th of that year, the market research firm polled 1,000 adult Americans, (sampled to represent prevailing demographic, racial, and political-party-affiliation trends in the country) on their opinions on 39 industries. They asked:

“Generally speaking, do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the following industry?” — YouGov Poll.

In this chart we visualize the percentage with a favorable view of an industry minus those with unfavorable view, categorized by current voter status.

A higher percentage means more Democrats or Republicans rated the industry as favorable, and vice-versa. Negative percentages mean more respondents responded unfavorably.

Democrats vs. Republicans on Industry Favorability

From a glance, it’s immediately noticeable that quite a few industries have divided Democrats and Republics quite severely.

For example, of the sampled Democrats, a net 45%, found Higher Education “favorable.” This is compared to 0% on the Republican side, which means an equal number found the industry favorable and unfavorable.

Here’s the full list of net favorable responses from Democrats and Republicans per industry.

IndustryDemocrat Net
Favorability
Republican Net
Favorability
Agriculture44%55%
Trucking27%55%
Restaurant53%54%
Manufacturing27%53%
Construction23%49%
Dairy45%46%
Higher education45%0%
Technology44%36%
Food manufacturing15%37%
Transportation27%37%
Railroad37%35%
Mining-3%36%
Automotive19%36%
Grocery35%22%
Hotels30%35%
Textiles24%34%
Entertainment34%-17%
Shipping24%33%
Retail31%31%
Book publishing30%29%
Alcohol23%16%
Television22%3%
Waste management15%22%
Education services21%-16%
Wireless carriers19%19%
Broadcasting17%-30%
News media17%-57%
Airlines11%3%
Oil and gas-28%7%
Real-estate-2%6%
Utilities2%6%
Health care3%4%
Fashion4%-6%
Cable-12%3%
Finance2%-2%
Professional sports1%-2%
Insurance-12%-14%
Pharmaceutical-18%-14%
Tobacco-44%-27%

The other few immediately noticeable disparities in favorability include:

  • Mining and Oil and Gas, (more Republicans in favor),
  • Entertainment, Education Services, and News Media (more Democrats in favor).

Tellingly, the larger social and political concerns at play are influencing Democrat and Republican opinions about these parts of the economy.

For example Pew Research pointed out Republicans are dissatisfied with universities for a number of reasons: worries about constraints on free speech, campus “culture wars,” and professors bringing their politics into the classroom.

In contrast, Democrats’ criticisms of higher education revolved around tuition costs and the quality of education offered.

On a more recent note, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, a big Harvard donor, pulled funding after criticizing universities for educating “whiny snowflakes.” In October, donors to the University of Pennsylvania withdrew their support, upset with the university’s response to the October 7th attacks and subsequent war in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the reasons for differences over media favorability are more obvious. Commentators say being “anti-media” is now part of the larger Republican leadership identity, and in turn, is trickling down to their voters. Pew Research also found that Republicans are less likely to trust the news if it comes from a “mainstream” source.

But these are industries that are already adjacent to the larger political sphere. What about the others?

U.S. Politics and the Climate Crisis

The disparity over how the Oil & Gas and Mining industries are viewed is a reflection, again, of American politics and the partisan divide around the climate crisis and whether there’s a noticeable impact from human activity.

Both industries contribute heavily to carbon emissions, and Democrat lawmakers have previously urged the Biden transition to start planning for the end of fossil-fuel reliance.

Meanwhile, former President Trump, for example, has previously called global warming “a hoax” but later reversed course, clarifying that he didn’t know if it was “man-made.”

When removing the climate context, and related environmental degradation, both industries usually pay high wages and produce materials critical to many other parts of the economy, including the strategic metals needed for the energy transition.

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