Our Favorite Books
Whether you are an avid reader or someone resolved to become an avid reader, you may be in need of inspiration for that next book. Let Access Ventures help by sharing some of our favorite reads.
Our organization places a great emphasis on learning and development, for which books are a critical component. Over the life of Access Ventures we have established a library with a wide-ranging catalog of topics. Below are a just a few to get you started:
Bryce Butler | Managing Partner
Following a stint in the Army as a tank officer, and time as a pastor, Bryce founded Access Ventures. He is interested in challenging long-standing community problems that require out-of-the-box solutions. Bryce is a wanna-be runner that never seems to find enough time and loves getting outside fly-fishing or backpacking whenever possible.
Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond) – a Pulitzer Prize Winner and Top 10 Books of 2016 for the NYTimes. Harvard sociologist and MacArthur Fellow, Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads and powerfully captures in narrative, the experiences of the American poor.
The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives (Lisa Servon) – What do an undocumented immigrant in the South Bronx, a high-net-worth entrepreneur, and a twenty-something graduate student have in common? All three are victims of our dysfunctional mainstream bank and credit system. Nearly half of all Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, and income volatility has doubled over the past thirty years. Banks, with their high monthly fees and overdraft charges, are gouging their lower- and middle-income customers while serving only the wealthiest Americans. In this provocative book, Lisa Servon goes (literally) to work inside payday lenders and check cashers across the country to learn about what drives the alternative market system growing across America and how we got here as a nation.
Innovation Blind Spot (Ross Baird) – In The Innovation Blind Spot, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Ross Baird argues that the innovations that truly matter don’t see the light of day—for reasons entirely of our own making. A handful of people in a handful of cities are deciding, behind closed doors, which entrepreneurs get a shot to succeed. And most investors are what Baird calls “two-pocket thinkers”—artificially separating their charitable work from their day job of making a profit. *Ross is a friend, and their is a chapter on our work at Access Ventures…but personal plug aside, this is still a great read for those interested in investing for impact.
Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change (Morgan Simon) – Impact investing seems to be at a tipping point: Will impact investment empower millions of people worldwide, or will it replicate the same mistakes that have plagued both aid and finance? This book explores the opportunities and challenges this emerging industry faces as it presses into mainstream legitimacy.
TJ Abood | Partner, Investments
TJ manages the overall investment portfolio for Access Ventures, which includes private debt and equity investments, real estate holdings, and public-market securities. His previous experience includes managing financial operations for a large international organization and strategic acquisitions and portfolio support for a boutique private equity firm.
Flash Boys (Michael Lewis) – although the book chronicles the rise of high-frequency stock trading, I find the story an example of the high societal cost of profit maximization. When the goal is growing your bottom line, innovation can be your best friend. However, if the bottom line is your only goal then you may find your organization rationalizing predatory practices.
Shoe Dog (Phil Knight) – Critics of Nike and it’s polarizing founder may get hung up on his retelling of certain events, but in my opinion those are details of a much larger narrative. This book covers the early years of Nike and the crucial role of capital for startups and growing businesses.
Problem Solving 101 (Ken Watanabe) – I love this book! Written to teach problem-solving skills to children, the book became a bestselling book for adults. The book breaks down problem-solving frameworks used by the best consultant groups in the world. Simply reading the book will provide a new lens through which you may view the problem at hand.
David Taliaferro | Principal, Programs
David creates and implements access to capital solutions with innovative risk mitigation strategies for Access Ventures. In January of 2014, he became a Kiva Fellow with the non-profit organization called Kiva that crowdfunds micro-loans for entrepreneurs in the United States and around the world. Through multiple Kiva City initiatives and in house products like our Growth and Catalyst loans, his work is helping to increase access to equitable capital for entrepreneurs across the nation.
Let My People Go Surfing (Yvon Chouinard) – An inspirational account of the events that lead to one of the first B Corporations. I first read this years ago. Yvon fanned into flame the spark that was ignited from studying Ben & Jerry’s business model (another early B corporation). Bold decision making for the good of all leads to exceptional products and a trouncing of the competition. It’s clear that Patagonia’s success is inextricably linked to Yvon’s concern for the environment and the people who work at Patagonia.
Business Model Generation (Alexander Osterwalder) – I’ve used this book in every conversation with every small business I’ve had the opportunity to advise. This is a favorite due to the simplicity of communicating the core elements of how a business functions and understanding how many stakeholders exist. It’s hard to pursue mutual success if stakeholders are not identified and highly valued!
Tim Harris | Associate, Creative
Tim is passionate about creating visual stories and marketing campaigns that tell the real stories of impact within our organization and portfolio companies. He has a B.A. in Photojournalism from Western Kentucky University with a minor in Entrepreneurship.
Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance) – A memoir that tells the story of the struggles of the working class in America. This book offers a fresh perspective on some of the hardest issues facing our country’s economy and culture.
What Are People For? (Wendell Berry) – A collection of essays that address topics ranging from economics to agriculture to feminism. One of my favorite collections of essays from Kentucky’s literary son.
Contagious (Jonah Berger) – An insightful marketing book that explores why some ideas catch on and some don’t. A good book for any organization looking to get their ideas heard.
Moses Icyishaka | Associate, Investments
Moses is passionate about business models that trap financial success and social impact in positively correlated harmony. Prior to joining Access Ventures, Moses was a member of the investment team at Chrysalis Ventures, an early to growth stage venture capital firm, and led the business strategy efforts of Edj Analytics, a company within the Chrysalis portfolio.
Dream Big (Cristiane Correa) – “Dream Big” details the rise of a trio of Brazilian investor/operators who built a giant that would acquire such leading brands as Anheuser-Busch, Burger King, and Heinz. While author Cristiane Correa has a thing or two to tell about the business practices and management philosophies that were the instruments of their success, the book is most compelling for a meta-narrative on partnership (identifying, cultivating, and unleashing the diversity of strength that exists wherever more than one person pursue a shared objective) and the persistent and single-minded pursuit of unreasonably lofty goals.
Venture Deals (Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson) – that old adage, “knowledge is power” rings particularly true when you find yourself at the negotiation table.
Ben Terry | Partner, Creative
Ben Terry leads the creative direction and art initiatives at Access Ventures. As a human-centered design enthusiast, Ben provides creative support to our portfolio companies and works with the creative team to create empathetic stories that highlight the impact of our investments. Ben also serves as the lead organizer of CreativeMornings in Louisville.
Blockchain Revolution – Don and Alex Tapscott, the authors of “Blockchain Revolution” explain with clarity the workings of Blockchain technology, how it will expand in the future and transform how things are done online. This book also explains the different ways in which blockchain technology is changing the future of transactions, money and business. According to Tapscotts, this technology is going to enhance delivery of expanding financial services, protecting personal identity information, personal contracts and business. As one interested in the future of blockchain, I believe this book is a great introduction to helping you understand the possibilities and the impact of this disruptive technology.
The Gift – Lewis Hyde’s 1983 book “The Gift,” subtitled “Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World,” argues that inspiration comes to its creator the same way a gift does. Because of this, both the artist and the resulting work itself become uneasy in a market economy. This gift is most comfortable, instead, when it is kept moving — offered or traded — instead of being hoarded or commodified. It is about the alternative economy of artistic practice. Hyde’s book help explains why art sometimes doesn’t fit into our market economy and builds out on the alternative, which is to imagine the commerce of art to be well described by gift exchange.
Mallory Sanborn | Associate, Programs
Mallory leads the Homeless Initiative at Access Ventures. She has a B.A. in Economics and Entrepreneurship from UNC-Chapel Hill. Having previously worked in venture capital and with start-ups, Mallory is passionate about how careful capital deployment can instigate long term change.
Mission In A Bottle (Seth Goldman / Barry Nalebuff) – A graphic novel mapping out Honest Tea’s story from idea to acquisition by the world’s largest beverage company. A very transparent and ‘honest’ iteration of the hoops and hurdles you need navigate as an entrepreneur. This book was one of my first encounters with entrepreneurship and helped shape my career aspirations in a major way by showing me the power of creation. Most importantly, Mission In A Bottle helped me understand that you will be able to better scale your impact doing what you are most passionate about.
The Third Wave (Steve Case) – The Third Wave explores the ways in which innovation has changed over time and how it will continue to shape the world we live in. Steve Case believes that this third wave of innovation will be transformative in sectors that affect everyday people in everyday life such as health, education, and food systems showing the incredible power ideas today have to disrupt the way we live. This book challenged me to rethink systems that I have become very comfortable with to look for inefficiencies and opportunities.