Sep 03

Book Review: The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau

I have been following Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity blog since a couple of months now as part of my interest and curiosity to study entrepreneurship and various business models. Most of the books I have come across discuss (and sometimes at painful lengths ) about the long business plans, formal training, huge capital, etc, a person needs in order to kick off his or her  business of dreams. In the $100 Startup,  Chris focuses on a business community that moves past all these barriers to achieve, what he describes as, freedom and value.  Freedom in the context of doing it all alone and running a successful business with minimum possible resources and value in the context of providing benefits to the customers. And most importantly, making money in the entire process.

Chris is a “solopreneur” himself and on the verge of completing a tour of every country on this planet (he is still in his early thirties). Host to the World domination summit attended by thousands across the globe and founder of Travel hacking cartel, he discusses some really unique ways  to achieve success in business. One doesn’t need to have huge stash of cash or need to employee an army of people to bootstrap a business. All is needed is skill set or passion and usefulness of this skill in other people lives (and ofcourse an internet connection these days). Convergence between what a person likes to do and what other people are also interested in is all that is required sometimes.

Personally, I would put aside a book if it becomes too subjective or generalizes things without digging in and bringing in numbers to the center stage. $100 Startup, however, is full of real time examples of people who have succeeded by following this “unconventional” lifestyle. The author provides lots of data (including the start up cost of each business case) and some really amazing templates of one page structured business plan, offer, a decision making matrix to decide on which project/idea to give priority to and  a 140 character mission statement. All these make perfect business sense.

The book contains lots of insights into the world of business in general and micro business in particular. Here are a few that jumped out at me:

  • Talk about benefits and not features: Features are descriptive whereas benefits provide an emotional connection. Business is all about people and people relate more to the benefits that they get from something and less to the features. This, in fact, is what some of the greatest technology companies like Apple and Google have been doing.
  • The rise of the roaming entrepreneur: This section of the book discusses some very interesting facts. Digital nomads are everywhere these days and many of them are building significant businesses (six figures or higher). There are many businesses that are location independent but the business of information publishing is especially profitable. Chris, however, also busts a few myths relating to location independence. “The classic image of a business owner in this case usually involves a guy or a girl sitting on the beach, drink nearby, with a laptop propped up against the backdrop of a sunset. My limited attempts at replicating such a scene usually involve worrying about the laptop and straining to see the screen against the glare of the sunset.”
  • The new demographics: This made perfect sense. A large number of businesses, irrespective of scale or type these days are built on new kind of demographics like interests, passions, skills, beliefs, lifestyles, etc rather than on traditional demographics like age, race/ethnicity,sex/gender.
  • If its not making money, don’t do it: There is nothing wrong in having a hobby but if one wants to make a business out of that hobby, then the primary goal should be money and the focus should be cash flow.
  • The art of hustling: One doesn’t have to hire an outside agency for advertisement every time. A hustler represents an ideal combination of talk and action in perfect fusion.

Final take:

The book can inspire anyone with a hobby or a skill set to start his own business. The focal point presented is micro businesses or those small businesses that do not require a lot of resources to start and can generate a decent and a recurring income while giving a sense of freedom to the business owners. It challenges the the traditional thought process that starting a business can be a complex task resulting in a definite failure. Many interesting and successful stories and cases are discussed throughout. However, from the perspective of reading about/experimenting business or entrepreneurship in an earnest fashion, one would certainly need to look beyond (Steve Blank, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Jason fried, etc).

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