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Venture Capital Book Picks: 5 Recommendations to Kick 2021 into High Gear

Written by Emily Fang Published on 

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What are VC leaders reading? We’ve curated a list for you right here.

In this year in review, I’ve had the pleasure to speak to various folks in venture capital here in Southeast Asia.

Recommended by Alice Besomi, Vice President of Jungle Ventures. Read her interview here

From Zero to 1000 – The organisation playbook for startups, by Anne Caron: “Companies are made of people and people are companies’ ultimate competitive advantage.” This is also the typical line of VCs as we look for the best founders and most resilient teams. This book is a great read for VCs and founders to help navigate organization design and development and rethink the way they run their organisation and culture. 

The Hard thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz: This is invaluable advice from a successful entrepreneur and VC on how to grow a business during good but more importantly bad times.

Recommended by Vinnie Lauria, Managing Partner at Golden Gate Ventures. 

Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss: Right off the bat, this book’s title tells you a lot. Author Chris Voss worked for the FBI in hostage situations—the kind where an armed suspect is inside a building, holding innocent people as bargaining chips, and his job was to talk the bad guy out of there without losing any lives. Voss typically had to do this by phone, unable to see who he was negotiating with. I found that what worked for him while flying blind, under incredibly high-stakes pressure, worked incredibly well in video calls. 

Many of his negotiating methods may look counterintuitive. For example, don’t come on like a hard bargainer; listen and empathize. Use tactics of mirroring the other person (repeating their last few words) and labeling (describe their emotions back to them). Instead of trying to “get to yes,” get your adversary saying “no.” (Done properly, this actually works.) And never, never split the difference. Reading, of course, isn’t the same as doing. But it can inform and inspire what we do and how we do it. This one definitely helped me rethink and refine the way I negotiate.

Recommended by Angela Toy, Director of Portfolio Strategy & Operations at Golden Gate Ventures. 

Topgrading, by Bradford Smart: This book has been a traditional favorite of recruiters and HR, and in today’s pandemic, hiring becomes trickier when candidates can’t be brought on-site for in-person interviews. Topgrading has guidelines for asking great interview questions that draw out revealing truths, not pro-forma evasions. These behavioral-based questions translate very well for us as we hire and select our portfolio companies in today’s environment, where years of practice of reading body language and physical cues are lost over a Zoom call. 

One question I’ve used that can really jolt a deeper conversation: “What is the biggest misperception others have of you?” Topgrading also gives you an array of techniques for identifying and growing “A” players. It’s not just about hiring, but understanding where individuals in your organization need to be in one year and how to measure that growth.

Recommended by Karen Wong, Chief Diversity Officer & PR Director at Gobi Partners China.   

The Obstacle Is The Way, by Ryan Holiday: In life, there are many things that happen which we cannot control, the only thing we can do is control how we react to it. Being open to change and adaptable to challenging situations is an essential skill in the world of venture capital and entrepreneurship. Resilience to me is cultivated through managing your perceptions, constant self-reflection, and an ingrained ability to believe in your potential. From my experience looking back at the previous obstacles I encountered, it actually ended up being the best way for me to grow as a person. So take it easy and like they say, trust the process. 


Emily Fang is the Community Lead of Oasis by KrASIA. Emily is a US expat currently living in Singapore to learn about the tech communities growing in Asia. She has worked 4+ years in dev relations, community management, and event marketing within the tech and travel industry in San Francisco. Her time at OmniSci, Google and Booking.com gave her cross-functional expertise. In her free time, she runs the volunteer community initiatives for Singapore Women’s Network.

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WRITTEN BY

Emily Fang

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