I recently finished reading The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau and thought it an excellent book about starting a business.
This is the second book I’ve read by Gillebeau with my finishing (and reviewing here) The Art of Non-Conformity a couple weeks ago. He comes across as a fascinating guy who seems to have a very solid personal approach (writes quite a bit of giving back) along with significant experience in world travel and small business (and product offer) creating.
The $100 Startup came out of an online workshop series that Guillebeau did called Empire Building Kit and the book a combination case study chronicle of people who built small businesses (with from one to five employees) that provide a living and Guillebeau’s thoughts on how to go about it.
A lot of additional content is available at Guillebeau’s $100 Startup website (or his overall site) but the concepts that struck me are below…
Initial business idea
Guillebeau writes about the book as being about freedom and value, with value coming from the idea of convergence... which he defines as the overlap between your passion and what others care about and will pay for. The import of consumer perception is hit repeatedly throughout the book as the intent is to offer a product or service that helps, but also something that people both view as needed and will pay for.
To the idea of need identification, Guillebeau writes about critical thinking on the part of the business owner as if someone thinks a need or gap exists, others probably do as well.
There's a lot of advice provided in the book, but some of the simplest and probably most important is to get your product or service out there and give people a way to pay for it. On the topic of offer creation, Guillebeau writes of the need to go specific and narrow (which is a theme I've written about others noting) and that you can't spend too much time trying to perfect the offer, have to just launch it. That launch (or offer availability) can be as simple as setting up a website (with WordPress being one way) and putting a PayPal account widget on it.
Also covered in the book is how the description of the offer should focus on core benefits (emotional) rather than technical features and that cost should come from consumer value provided, not time spent creating or providing the service. The offer and pricing models can include one off products, fixed period offers and recurring subscription business models... with it noted that there's a lot to the idea of creating something with an ongoing revenue stream from existing customers. All this said, Guillebeau repeatedly notes the basic idea of just getting starting... get that first sale and then go from there.
Examples & my take aways
It's both written by Guillebeau and obvious to a reader that a ton of research went into all the business examples provided (some briefly, some as longer case-study type profiles) and the ones that struck me as most interesting were in the area of information publishing (a good fit for someone like Guillebeau who travels as the business can by run from anywhere). Two were Brett Kelly and his Evernote Essentials book and Benny Lewis and his language hacking guides. Both businesses are portrayed as doing well, what I find myself most fascinated by is the idea of each guy simply selling through his respective website rather than something like Amazon. It could well be that they've done the research and just going through a created site by far the best way to go, it's just an interesting question to me.
All in all, it was an excellent book and has me both interested in learning more about Guillebeau's writing (both offers and otherwise) on his websites and continuing to think critically about writing I've done and the path I've taken to create it. To this point, I've viewed for a while now the book I've written as a being less of a final product and more something on a continuum... with there still being room for take aways from the writing (as well as writing process) and then something new out of it all.