The Must-Read Books for Marketplace Founders

,
Head of Marketing

Starting or managing a multi-vendor marketplace can be a daunting task. In fact, while a traditional SaaS or ecommerce startup should see traction within 6 to 9 months, a marketplace can take three years to validate. In order to keep striving toward your goal of building a successful marketplace, it's important to continuously learn from other marketplace founders and ecommerce experts.

If you need some marketplace guidance, check out any of the books for marketplace founders below to get ideas on how to grow your marketplace, learn from companies who successfully built their own platforms, or find inspiration for future scaling.


Books for marketplace founders about growing marketplaces and networks

Books about Growing Marketplaces & Networks
Books about Growing Marketplaces & Networks

Platform Revolution by Geoffrey G. Parker

This book outlines how platforms and marketplaces are changing our economy. While reading, you’ll get insights into platform models and how to select the right one for your business. You’ll also learn how to monetize platforms to ensure long-term business viability.

The Lean Marketplace by Juho Makkonen

If you have an idea for a marketplace but are unsure how to build it, this book is for you! You’ll be walked through how to take a concept from idea to execution and do it with sustainable success in mind.

Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms by David S. Evans

An understanding of the economics behind multivendor platforms is critical to long-term success. Matchmakers will walk you through examples from some of the biggest industry leaders in the space, and instill learnings about how to succeed on your marketplace entrepreneurship journey.

Platform Scale by Sangeet Paul Choudary

Building a multi-vendor marketplace is attractive because they don’t have high startup costs. But once built, you need to figure out how to scale and grow the company. That’s where Platform Scale comes in. This book will help guide you to think through the challenges you’ll face as your business grows and how to plan for them in advance.

The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen

To grow a marketplace, you’ll need to harness the power of network effects–the phenomenon where a product is more valuable the more people use it. This book will walk you through case studies of companies that have successfully navigated network effects and how you can apply lessons learned from them to your own business.


Get inspired by stories behind marketplace companies

Books about Successful Marketplaces
Books about Successful Marketplaces

Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

As one of the world’s most successful multi-vendor marketplaces, Alibaba offers many insights for marketplace founders to consider as they build their own. This book covers how Jack Ma pivoted from being an English teacher to a marketplace founder over the course of 15 years, leading to one of the world’s largest IPOs to date.

The Everything Store by Brad Stone

While Amazon is ubiquitous in the marketplace industry now, it wasn’t always that way. The Everything Store follows the growth of Amazon from the mid-nineties dot com boom to its near-failure in the crash of the early 2000s and then finally to its emergence as the market behemoth we know today.

Amazon Unbound by Brad Stone

As a follow-up to The Everything Store, Brad Stone writes Amazon Unbound to detail the changes that the company has undergone in the last decade to become much more than a simple online marketplace.

The Upstarts by Brad Stone

In The Upstarts: Uber, Airbnb, and the Battle for the New Silicon Valley, Brad Stone shares the founding story behind Uber and Airbnb and how founders Travis Kalanick and Brian Chesky changed the rules to build these powerful marketplaces.

The Airbnb Story by Leigh Gallagher

While it started off as an idea many thought would fail, Airbnb disrupted the travel and hospitality industry seemingly overnight. This book tells the story of Airbnb’s growth from an idea to a beloved tech company.

Facebook: the Inside Story by Steven Levy

You may think you know the story behind Facebook, but this book tells it from a different perspective. Pulling from hundreds of interviews from inside and outside of Facebook, the narrative told in Facebook: the Inside Story will help you see the company in a new way.


Rapid growth and scaling books for marketplace founders

Books about Scaling Startups
Books about Scaling Startups

Explosive Growth by Cliff Lerner

Cliff Lerner built Snap Interactive, a technology platform that connects with social media platforms like Facebook. In this book, he chronicles his learnings from building Snap (now known as Peer Interactive) and the lessons you can learn as you build your own business and marketplace.

Super Pumped by Mike Isaac

You may not think of Uber as a multi-vendor marketplace, but it is. This book will help you understand why, as well as chronicle chronicles the start of Uber and its often-public stumbles. (Plus, it’s the inspiration for the TV series of the same name.)

Blitzscaling by Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman knows startups: he helped found Paypal and later started LinkedIn. In Blitzscaling, he shares tips on how to grow quickly to serve a global market. The book covers three types of scaling: revenue, customer, and organizational scaling.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg

Successful marketplaces require user growth, both in terms of consumers purchasing products and vendors who sell them. Traction walks you through how to plan for this growth, ideas to attain it, and pitfalls to avoid to ensure long-term business success.

Inspired by Marty Cagan 

As you build and scale your multi-vendor marketplace, it’s important to keep your internal structure and team in mind. This book will walk you through how to hire the right people to create a product your customers love, all while profiling product leaders at successful companies to model your organization from.


Whether you need the inspiration to build a marketplace or ideas to consider as you face scaling, you’ll find what you need in this list of books for marketplace founders. If you need more inspiration, check out Nautical Commerce’s library of reports.

Learn More →

Related articles