Books from Experts

Wisdom, fast – by Shelftaught

5 favourite books from the founder of a successful employment startup

Spread the wisdom

Matt de la Hey

Matthew de la Hey was just 16 when he launched his first profitable business selling tuck at high school. Both entrepreneurial and academic, Matt won a scholarship to read African Studies at Oxford University before going on to complete an MBA at the Saïd Business School a year later.

In 2015, aged 25, he launched Inploi: a recruitment and networking platform for the hospitality sector, already used by over 26,000 candidates and more than 1,000 employers.


We caught up with the young entrepreneur to find out which five books helped him on his journey to success…

ShelfTaught: As a founder and CEO, which books would you say are required reading for entrepreneurs?

Matt: The Lean Startup by Eric Reis and The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. The Lean Startup is very good for people starting out. It’s informed a whole approach to starting businesses, which is that you must learn and fail quickly in order to improve. In other words, you’ve got to iterate fast to get to where you want to be as fast as possible. Once you build your minimum viable product you then get people to use it so you can learn from their usage. It’s essential reading for anyone starting a business.

ShelfTaught:  Great, so what about The Hard Thing About Hard Things?

Matt: His book is a very honest appraisal of how difficult it is to build a business, interspersed with the lyrics of rap songs! I read it a year ago on the advice of one of our advisors and we now have it in the Inploi office library so the whole team can read it. It’s particularly helpful as a management book, so when you’re thinking about hiring or dealing with team dynamics, but it’s useful and relevant at any stage of building a business. It provides relevant assurance that you’re on a well-trodden path – and not alone in the struggle of trying to build something meaningful.

ShelfTaught: Which book would you like to read again before you die and why?

Matt: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a great epic that explores the lives of different characters existing in very different worlds in the slums of India. The span of geography and experience he writes about is fascinating: it weaves lessons and teachings of Eastern philosophy and looks at the world very differently to the way we’re brought up to see things in the West. I went to India and travelled
alone for three months largely because I read this. I’d recommend it to seekers and adventurers; people who are a little restless with the way the world is, and/or their position in it.

ShelfTaught: Is there a business book you’ve read recently that you wished you’d read earlier in your career?

Matt: Yes, Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis. This book is excellent at framing the way you should approach business – and products in particular – with a growth mindset. It provides a rigorous and analytical approach by teaching you how to ground your product, communication and growth initiatives in data. So if you’re trying to grow your business as fast as possible while keeping the ship afloat, it’s instructive at showing you ways you might increase growth and engagement with your product. It’s more a mind-shift book than a how-to book. At Inploi, had we started to think in this growth orientated way earlier on we wouldn’t have made some of the early mistakes we made.

ShelfTaught: Which book would you like your colleagues to read and why?

Matt: Creativity Inc. by Edwin Catmull, who ran Pixar and worked for Steve Jobs after he bought the company in 1985. It’s about keeping creativity in business. The day a start-up dies is when people’s ability to be creativite and ideate is stifled – that’s when it becomes a corporate. Creativity Inc. is about how to scale creativity in a business.

ShelfTaught: and can you recommend one bonus book?

Matt: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It’s fiction and pretty heavy going – I wouldn’t recommend it to the casual reader! – but it’s profoundly beautiful and gave me a new perspective on life. It’s about a group of friends who meet at university and live in New York. It explores their relationships with each other and follows them through their lives as they fall in and out of love and find their first jobs, etc. It’s a very honest story and shows that what really matters isn’t the success they have, but the people in their lives and the relationships they have. In this day and age of social media, where people dress everything up, it’s very refreshing to read an honest (often brutally so) portrayal of people’s lives. It’s had a profound impact some of my thinking.

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