Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: "The $100 Startup" by Chris Guillebeau

I purchased a copy of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by young serial entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau. If you are dreaming of  striking out with a venture of your own, or actively planning to do so, read this book. If you are not, read it anyway for some practical life and business lessons that you can apply at your current job or venture.

Guillebeau calls his book a "blueprint, not a vague series of ideas." The book is based on a comprehensive, multi-year survey of hundreds of individuals interviewed about their experiences starting up a personal business, or what Guillebeau typically refers to as a "microbusiness." Guillebeau distilled thousands of pages of comments, hundreds of phone calls and Skype sessions, and many email conversations into basic lessons that are customizable and adaptable to any kind of smaller-scale entrepreneurial venture. Only successful businesses that had achieved an annual profit of $50K or more were included in the final analysis.

Guillebeau focuses on ventures that can be launched for relatively low costs, hence the "$100" in the title. So, this is not a book about raising millions in capital from VCs. Of course $100 is not a hard and fast limit, but is meant by him to convey the idea of funding something out of your own pocket without slinging big sums of money around... Especially money you don't have! However, there is a chapter section about using Kickstarter to raise funds.

The first issue he addresses, wisely in my opinion, is the matter of "following your passion." He points out that to make a living doing that, your passion and knowledge must converge with something that enough others want badly enough that they pay you for what you are offering. It's been said many times that if you follow your passion, "the money will come," but Guillebeau points out that that's a misconception, that ultimately you must add value in service to others. 

Another key principle he enunciates is the preference for action over planning, though the action should be low in cost... again, think of the "$100" in the title. The basic idea is that inertia and procrastination are the biggest hurdles most of have to get over or we'll never get anything off the ground. Also, immediate action gives you feedback quickly, and helps you learn and correct course more quickly. I think you could phrase that as something along the lines of "An ounce of action is worth a pound of planning."

The book contains numerous checklists and guidelines that allow you to evaluate the merits of various business or product ideas that you may have, to do product launches, etc.

I can't do the book entire justice in a posting this short. I think I have given you enough information here to convince that if you are looking to go out on your own and do something creative and fulfilling, and get paid to do it, you should definitely invest the time and money to get a copy of this book and read it. You can get more of a flavor for it and find useful information also at the website that Guillebeau has setup for the book,

(This is the author's second book... I'd like to read his first book also, The Art of Non-Conformity.)


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