These Startup Founders Swear By The ROI Of Reading

Source | FastCompany : By LIZ FUNK

Jessica Mah, the CEO of inDinero, a San Francisco-based accounting software startup, sees reading as so important to the growth of her company that she reads two books a week. Mah, one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People, explains:

I love reading about how the most successful and creative business leaders built their businesses and how I can take that idea and run with it or modify their strategies for inDinero. My routine is to take advantage of and fill my weekends and after-hours and travel time with reading. I also suggest books to my executive team, some I have not read, so they can learn different things and bring the best ideas up for discussion. It’s a team effort.

In the tradition of executives being avid exercisers and meditators—because it’s both good for them personally and as business leaders—founders who have a reading habit find that it helps their cognition and, by extension, grows their companies.


Manish Chandra is the founder and CEO of Poshmark, an interactive resale fashion marketplace for members to buy and sell their own clothes and accessories. He spends time reading before heading to the office: “Reading early allows me to process information much faster throughout the day,” he contends, “and helps with both decision making and overall time spent on any task.”

Alexandra Cavoulacos, cofounder and COO of The Muse, echoes that sentiment. “Reading books has definitely boosted my productivity,” she says. Cavoulacos asserts that books offer both wisdom and a new perspective. “I’ve also found that reading is one of the rare times that my mind is focused 100% on one thing,” she asserts, “a hard thing to find in a world of distraction and secondary screens.” She believes reading has “strengthened her focusing muscle,” which, in turn, improves her ability to lead and innovate.


When executive leaders take the time to read, they create an opportunity to expand their knowledge or sharpen their skills that allows them to contribute more significantly to the growth of their companies.

Under Cavoulacos’s informed leadership, the company’s revenue grew four times between 2014 and 2015. They had 25 people on staff in January 2015 and now have a team of approximately 120.

Manish Chandra has presided over Poshmark’s expansion as well. Now, one in 50 American women are selling in its marketplace. “Reading is an engine for personal growth, and I truly believe that the business growth is in so many ways tied to the leader’s personal growth,” he says. “So the net-net is that my reading equals business growth. That’s just simple math!”

A graduate of Y-Combinator’s class of 2010, Mah initially had inDinero on a hypergrowth track. That soon turned into a collision course with the reality of generating revenue on a freemium model. Several years later, the company is on a more healthy, sustainable trajectory. In 2014, InDinero had a growth rate of 2,685.6% and a revenue of $2.9 million. The company doubled in size in 2015, and expects to do so again by the end of 2016.

“Honestly, I’m not sure how you could maximize your potential if you are not reading regularly and considering alternative ways of thinking and approaches to solving your company’s problems,” Mah maintains. “There’s so many answers out there, you just need to read them and relate them to your goals as a business leader.”

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