The importance of reading

I’ve just come from a presentation Seedcamp from Richard Reed, one of the founders of Innocent Drinks. For those that don’t know Innocent is a 15 year old startup that makes smoothies and veggie pots. They are now 90% owned by Coca Cola and the company has been valued at ‘over $0.5bn’.

Richard gave us his ten top tips for being a successful entrepreneur. They were all good, but I’m going to highlight #8 “Read, listen, ask and steal”. It’s perhaps less important than some of the others (e.g. #1 Keep the main thing the main thing) but it is more often overlooked, particularly the reading part. There’s a lot of stuff written for entrepreneurs these days advising them to seek mentors and listen to advice from experts, but we could all definitely do more of that. Stealing ideas from other companies is also a great idea – although it’s not really stealing as they still have the idea afterwards. You haven’t taken it from them.

But reading is something that many entrepreneurs struggle to find the time for and doesn’t get mentioned much. That’s kind of strange to me because reading is actually easier to do than getting out and meeting people and is at least as powerful (although not a substitute). I’m talking about reading blogs and business books which help to understand and dissect the world. Great examples abound, including Erik Reis’ Lean Startup and our own favourite Rob Fitzpatrick’s The Mom Test. These books help you look at aspects of your business in a new way and find creative solutions to move you forward.

Isaac Newton famously said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. The best way to do that is by reading.