Book Review: The $100 Startup

Let me start by saying that this is, hands-down, one of the best books I’ve ever read about Entrepreneurship.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau is a book about real entrepreneurship. Chris Guillebeau is a serial NYT Bestselling author and entrepreneur – and his other books (especially Side Hustle) are on my to-read list.

I remember when I first heard about this book a few years ago, I really wanted to get my hands on it – but it was so hard to find a copy here in the Philippines (and I generally don’t read e-books) but I got lucky and managed to snag the last copy at a Fully Booked in Makati.

I’ve had this book for a few years now, but for some reason I never managed to read it end to end. I finally stopped being lazy and finished it this week.

You can see that my copy’s a bit roughed up… been carrying it with me in my bag for two weeks constantly. Pic by @biancadailo.

Before I dive into the book, please indulge in a quick rant of mine: the terms “Startup” and “entrepreneurship” have been largely corrupted by the rise of technology and apps. Those two words have become synonymous with technology-based, trendy, seed-round & Series-A-B-C-funded ventures. Whether it’s another take on the sharing-economy or the “next Uber/Twitter/Facebook” – the connotations of the terms aren’t what they used to be.

But that’s the thing – entrepreneurship was never about sexy tech and cool apps, it was always about taking on risks and building something from very little – and that’s exactly why I love this book so fucking much.

The Premise

The $100 Startup is a crossover between a handy guide to entrepreneurship and a series of case studies related to each part of building a startup from the ground up.

To be featured in the book, a startup needs to have less than 5 people heavily involved, generate over $50,000 net profit per year and require no special skills to operated – so you won’t see any law firms, medical practices and certified public accountants here, even though they tend to be quite entrepreneurial in nature, too.

The entrepreneurs in the book are as close to “regular people” as you’re going to get – they’re all from relatable backgrounds and circumstances and decided to take the leap to do their own thing. None of them had any skills that are unattainable by anyone else – none of them came from rich families or had any sort of privileges that normal people don’t have (as far as I could tell), and that’s what makes this book so authentic for me.

I actually had to take several breaks while reading because I wanted to write down the questions and business ideas that the book sparked in my mind. It’s rare that a book gets my mind buzzing with questions and excitement, yet this one did so after the first chapter.

The things I loved

The book covers entrepreneurship from the beginning of attempting to figure out what kind of business you could start, all the way to scaling and selling that business. The author interviewed and spoke to hundreds of people in the journey to create this book and hand-picked the most interesting stories to include.

It’s a very honest book – not only does it cover the successes and ideas behind “old-school” startups, but also the failures and massive challenges that some entrepreneurs had to overcome to start building traction.

A lot of entrepreneurs that have a desire to start something don’t know where to start, and $100 Startup teaches a variety of models that apply to different circumstances. Some are about following your passion, some are about following your strengths – but by the end of reading the first few chapters, you should have some ideas floating in your head already. It also discusses the nuances of what things don’t make for a good business and illustrates those well.

I also really enjoyed the parts of the book that dive into aspects of entrepreneurship that are often not considered when starting out. How do you test a product in a market? How do you find your first customer? How do you market & sell without being a pushy wannabe? How do you scale and hire your first employee? Should you even hire that employee? The book features a variety of checklists that you can copy or download from the book’s website to apply to your own startup. Free resources are awesome.

The parts that educate aspiring entrepreneurs on understanding value, building a business around helping people and illustrating the difference between features and value is critical, yet easy to understand. Psychographics are more important than demographics in the context of the modern marketplace, and emotional value to a customer is king in terms of marketing and sales.

My takeaways…

Normally, I’d now dive into things I didn’t enjoy in the book, but there’s nothing that comes to mind that I’d inherently disagree with or advise against – which is perhaps its strongest point.

Of course I’m sure some people would read it and feel like all those companies he mentioned are “boring” but that’s exactly what makes this book so cool – it’s not glorified, “sexy” technopreneurship. It’s small, micro-businesses that became kick-ass due to how they were built and scaled.

I had a lot of ideas while reading this and I wrote them all down. It’s also caused me evaluate how I’m approaching my podcast and blogging projects, so I’ll need to spend some time to refine my target audience and platforms. The next step after that will be to pick a micro-business idea and to just get started by validating some ideas.

This book really resonates with one of my favorite influencers – Gary Vaynerchuck – because it shows you a clear path to making $50k a year plus and being happy, rather than slaving away for someone else.

5/5 for me. Read this book!

If you’ve read it or have any questions, drop me comment below! I’d love some extra book suggestions too.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Elmer says:

    I found your website from Google and I need to state it was a fantastic find.


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