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Business Books You Should Be Reading According to Startupfest’s 70K Investment Prize Judges

The 70K Investment Prize Judges Pitch Their Favourite Business Books

Each month we ask you, the Startupfest community, to share your stories about living the startup life.

This time, with the announcement that at $70k, this year’s Investment Prize is bigger than ever, we thought the best way to learn about the judges is to turn the tables and have them pitch their favorite business books. After all, we are what we read.

So without further ado, here are the judges’ picks. We’ll leave it to you to decide the winner.


Anna Goodson’s pick: Uprising by Scott Goodson
In the Goodson family, sales and entrepreneurialism run three generations deep. Which is why it should come as no surprise that Anna Goodson, CEO and founder of the Anna Goodson Illustration Agency, chose to tell us about her brother’s book, Uprising.

Rest assured, this isn’t a case of nepotism. The bestselling author got Anna Goodson thinking about the value of purpose-driven marketing. Uprising shows how successful companies – think Tom Shoes – find a following first and only then create a product to serve it. “It’s about finding a gripping story and it’s about defining innovation,” she told us.

Purpose is exactly what she looks for in entrepreneurs: “It’s not starting with the question, ‘how can I make money?’ It’s starting with the question, ‘how can I turn my passion into a business?’” she explained.


Danny Knafo’s pick: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

To the startup community, Danny Knafo is best known as an angel investor. But his day job is in finance, working as a VP at Callidus Capital Organization, which helps explain why he chose Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad Poor Dad.

This book isn’t just for Wall Street types, Knafo assures us, “it’s a must read for everybody who cares about money and how it should be treated and spent.” And he means everybody. “I gave it to my 14-year-old son to read a couple of weeks ago… I haven’t started the quizzing process, yet.”

As far as pitching advice goes, Knafo doesn’t mince words. “Unfortunately our attention span is the same as every other human being,” he says. “If we’re not really wowed in a hurry, they’ll lose us.”

Jamie O’Hara’s pick: The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman When it comes to startup prospects, Jamie O’Hara, a Managing Member of Gris Global Groupe, thinks the flatter, the better. That’s because the New Yorker read Thomas Friedman’s bestseller, The World is Flat.

Published in 2005, when, as O’Hara puts it, “Google was known primarily for search, Netflix was a mail-order DVD service and Facebook had just turned down a $75 million buyout from Viacom,” the book illustrates how the digital revolution has helped turn the globe into a connected or “flat” business ecosystem.

Friedman’s theory has percolated into the way O’Hara evaluates companies: “One of the key ingredients is that management understands… that no matter what your title is, you have the ability to speak up and come up with ideas that don’t just drive investors but also serve the end users.”

Rory Olson’s pick: Freakonomics by Stephen Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner When we asked Olson to tell us about his favourite business book, his response was unexpected, “I don’t read many business books,” he confided. “I find them to be very much a platform of self-aggrandizement.”

The serial entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Wall Street Survivor finds inspiration from less direct sources. That, in part, is why he chose Freakonomics. “It takes economics out of the box that it’s traditionally in,” he told us.

For Olson, that outside-the-box thinking extends to entrepreneurialism. “What makes entrepreneurs tick is this almost artistic sense of divine discontent. That there is something that isn’t right out there and that you have a sense of what to do to fix it.”

Howard Stotland’s pick: Great By Choice by Jim Collins Entrepreneur and investor Howard Stotland will be a rookie judge at Startupfest this year, but that doesn’t mean he lacks experience. In 1973, he founded STS Systems. By the time he sold it in 2000, the company had offices in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. and revenues of $135 million.

So what author does a business veteran turn to for inspiration? For Stotland, it’s Jim Collins and his latest bestseller, Great By Choice (co-authored with Morten T. Hansen). “It’s about companies that… followed principles that lead them to be great right from the beginning,” Stalton told us, “companies like Microsoft, Apple and Southwest Air.”

When we asked him for pitching advice, he told us there is elegance – and effectiveness – in simplicity: “They have to be very clear about what they’re presenting and why it’s a winner. My mind is open to finding the next Google or the next Apple.”

Phil Telio’s pick: TBD… When we asked Startupfest founder Phil Telio to tell us about his favourite business book, he quipped, “I prefer to write the book myself.”

We think that captures what being an entrepreneur is all about. As Startupfest speaker Fred Destin told us in a recent interview, “we are our own myths.” So for everyone attending Startupfest, let the writing begin!

For more information about the Judges, check out their bios here and read up on the 70K Investment Prize here.

What’s your favourite business book? Let us know in the comments below.

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