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Read like a venture capitalist: Brock Smith’s resource list

I joined Invest Nebraska in June 2015 as an associate knowing very little about venture capital.  I’d attended law school and passed the bar exam, earned an MBA, founded a successful lifestyle company, and won some high growth pitch competitions.

Yet, it’s amazing how little I actually knew about doing the job I had accepted.  Since then, I’ve spent 1-3 hours each day reading about the industry, and I still learn something new every day.

After accepting a new job in Kansas City, I set about finding my replacement at Invest Nebraska.  During that time, I spent a lot of time thinking through my own education process in the venture world so that I could pass it along to my replacement. In addition to trial-by-fire and great mentors in the community, there were books, blogs, and online resources that shaped the way I negotiate deals, identify quality companies and founders, and advise startups.

I pulled together a list of resources that had the most impact on me and floated it around to several community members to see if I’d left anything out. They thought it would be beneficial if I didn’t just pass it along to my replacement, but passed it along to the whole community.

Must Read Books on Venture Capital/Investing

Venture Deals by Brad Fel
Brad Feld is an icon in startup investing.  He’s known as the guy that “built Boulder” into what it is today.  His book on Venture Deals is a really good overview of how deals work and are structured.

Mastering the VC Game by Jeffrey Bussang
It’s a great book that delves more into tactics and stories of rounds being raised.  It helped me understand how the world of venture capital works.

Angel Investing by David Rose
This is an incredible book for learning how angels and angel groups think, as well as basic investment terms and processes.  It’s full of great information on pre-seed/seed investment theses and best practices for monitoring/managing your investments.

Term Sheets and Valuations by Alex Wilmerding
I’ve actually not read this book, but Bart Dillashaw suggested it, and after looking at the reviews, it’s something I added to my list and wish I’d read sooner/had on my shelf for reference.

Must Read Books on High Growth Startups

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
I think this is the best and most used guide for understanding how to build a startup company and use cash efficiently in the early stages.  Ash Maurya (Running Lean) and Alistair Croll (Lean Analytics) also have solid books on the subject.

Traction by Gabriel Weinber
This is easily the best high-level book I’ve ever read related to scaling a company.  It covers 19 different distribution channels and tactics companies can use to learn which channels work best for them.  It also talks about the evolution of channel usage as a company scales.  What’s efficient for a small company often doesn’t move the needle in a later stage.  More capital-intensive tactics are necessary.

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
This is a deeper dive into marketing/sales for modern companies.  It’s full of great advice.  I think this + Traction helped me learn to better evaluate go-to market strategies for startups, to ask the right questions for tracking purposes, and to advise founders as they scale.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
This is one of my favorite books on “product.”  It’s product agnostic, and helps reorient how you think about usability, user experience, purpose, and creating habit.

Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet
Another book that I have not read, but have already ordered.  Both Bart Dillashaw and Brian Ardinger suggested the book.  It’s 24 steps to defining product market fit and scaling.  It includes concrete examples of how to measure things like cost to acquire customer, churn, lifetime value, and a step by step approach as to what to focus on first.

Technical Resources

NVCA Model Docs
The NVCA is the National Venture Capital Association and has produced several form legal docs with commentary included.  I’d suggest reading the docs on Term Sheets, Stock Purchase, Right of First Refusal/Co-sale, and Investor Rights agreements.

Startup Company Lawyer
Yokum is an attorney at Wilson Sinsini in SF–where Bart Dillashaw worked.  It’s one of the first things I read at INC, and it shaped the way I think about terms.

Brad Feld on Term Sheets
Brad does a great job of summarizing terms and explaining them in easy-to-understand ways.  I highly recommend going through each one of his sections on term sheets.

Convertible Note Financing
This is a great overview on the purpose and technicalities of convertible notes.

Blogs/Media I Follow and Recommend


Reddit Futurology
Business Insider


500 Strong
Y Combinator
Startup Lessons Learned
Ben Horowitz
Feld Thoughts
Midwest Startups
Marc Andreessen
Chicago Ventures
Tomasz Tunguz

Daily Emails

The Hustle
CB Insights

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