The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
One Line Summary
Live your dream life…with only $100 dollars
First off, I want to say that you may have noticed that I’ve been doing a lot of reviews on business books lately. Expect that trend to continue for a bit. I’m still researching a bit of everything, but with the release of Vision Quest I’ve really tried to put the spotlight on entrepreneurship.
So let’s go to today’s book. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau.
This book reminds me a lot of The 4 Hour Work Week and The Laptop Millionaire. These are all books that are focused on Tim Ferris calls “the new rich”, i.e start a business on extremely low capital, scale with minimal time investment on your part and live the life of your dreams.
In The $100 Startup, Guillebeau looks at case studies of startups who were successful with this. Many of them got started with less than just $100, hence the title.
So if you’re looking to be entrepreneur on a budget, this is your book.
Why it’s Awesome
A $100 startup isn’t necessarily unrealistic these days. The internet has opened up a whole world of possibilities.
It wasn’t the ideal way to do it, but I essentially created Vision Quest on a budget of $0. It costs me $0 to distribute since it’s downloadable. If you can then also market cheaply (i.e social media content marketing) then you can see how people are able to make money crazy fast.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to invest in other ways. I had to put a ton of sweat equity into Vision Quest that I normally wouldn’t since I didn’t use cash. But as long as you’re willing to work and do a lot of things yourself, a $100 startup is not a pipedream.
My favorite case was of a language learning software, Fluent In 3 Months. Developed by Benny Lewis, Lewis created a system where you could, as you might guess, become fluent in any language in three months.
The system is based on Lewis’s real life experience of long periods of travel and first-hand experience in language hacking. He didn’t try to build a business: he tried to learn how to get really good at learning languages.
This was a reoccurring theme throughout the book. Entrepreneurs who figured things out for themselves, then realized they could share or teach it with others.
Vision Quest was the same for me. I had no plan to make a product. I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. That’s the point.
I hesitate to say this because I don’t want people to not start a business just because they planned it. That’s absurd. Rather, just realize that sometimes when you just follow the process and what you’re passionate about, things often work out.
That doesn’t mean don’t work. That doesn’t mean don’t learning marketing.
It just means things unfold as they should, not necessarily as you want them to.
Another really important point Guillebeau talks about is scalability. We’ve been hitting on this topic for the last several reviews, especially in the E-Myth Revisited. I’ll address it again here.
In the end, you’re either going to sell your business or keep working in it in some capacity for the rest of your life. Michael Gerber argues that you’ve got to systematize out your business, while people like Seth Godin argue that your business needs to be your creative genius. Who is right?
I don’t think anyone. As many business arguments as you could make for both sides, what really matters is what do you want.
Do you want to cash out and bro down? Or do you want to grind for 20-30 years?
Many people in The $100 Startup found a balance. With the internet, they were able to make a good living doing something they loved with minimal hassle. Hard to argue with that.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m more of the Seth Godin type. I can’t be the entrepreneur who builds Staples because I don’t give a shit about office supplies. That’s about as exciting to me as accounting.
There’s also a lot of solid, practical business advice in this book. Guillebeau talks a lot about what it means to ACTUALLY bring value to people. Hint, give people what they respond to, not what they “say” they want.
This is an idea that has been around forever. Machiavelli wrote about it in The Prince. People will say they want to eat healthy. They will say they want positive, inspiring messages.
What do they respond to? If the last 50 years of capitalism has taught us anything, it’s McDonalds and Nicki Minaj’s ass. Fear mongering gets more initial attention than positivity *cough Donald Trump*.
I’m dumb for trying to do this book review blog. Do you get that? The percentage of people who realistically are interested in these ideas is LOW.
But I’m such a stubborn artist that I refuse put out something I don’t believe in. I know I say “Reviews by an entrepreneur” in the tagline of this blog, but the truth is my artistic side beats my entrepreneur side every time when the chips are down.
In the end, I’m not writing this blog for a million people. I’m writing what I would have wanted as I was growing up. I know there’s a small percentage of people who do love it. And that’s what matters.
If that alienates people, I don’t care.
And in the long run, I actually do believe positivity beats negativity. It’s the old Power vs Force argument. Force works great…temporarily. But there’s almost always a price to pay.
We’ll see who is where in 30 years.
Who Will Love It
-Young entrepreneurs on their grind and on a budget
Why Does It Suck
This isn’t a rant about this book as much as it as about the mindset of people who will likely be initially attracted to this book. Guillebeau himself gets it.
No-cost entrepreneurship is what everybody seems to be looking for these days.
People want the “passive income lifestyle”, i.e don’t do shit and still rake in the cash while you chill on a beach in Hawaii. And there’s plenty of business these days that are BUILT on cashing in on that human desire.
I’m not above it. When I added in the extra pressure of trying to finish Vision Quest on time with what was already a full schedule, I was stressed OUT OF MY MIND at times. There were nights where I couldn’t sleep. OF COURSE I had thoughts about how nice it would be if shit was just handed to me and I didn’t have to do anything.
But at the end of the day, those are low-consciousness thoughts. They’re not you at your best.
What’s the problem with the passive income mindset? The problem is that it’s still fundamentally about running away from pain and getting relief. It’s not about THRIVING.
People who have the passive income mindset don’t actually want to live a full and engaged life (although that’s how people will rationalize it). They want to UNPLUG, not have to challenge themselves and not have to expend energy.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to enjoy life. Life’s not about struggling through the war all the time, it’s about the joy of the process. But enjoyment doesn’t come from UNPLUGGING.
I’m going to be talking a lot about this idea in the future because it’s so, so key. Are you just trying to make it through the day? Or are you trying to WIN?
People who are just trying to make it through the day will often rationalize their lack of motivation on the fact that they’re “happy with what they got”. And all those ambitious people, they just need to learn to accept where they’re at!
While that’s true, really look at people who will shame ambitious people with that line. They’re not fucking happy, they’re just trying to make themselves feel better about why they’re not out hustling.
You ever hear these studies about how many hours Americans work compared to other cultures? I saw this one video on Facebook the other day that talked about how Europeans take like 15 hours for lunch and so Americans need to take more time for meals.
Probably true. But I don’t buy this narrative that all Americans are a bunch of overly ambitious workaholics. Where are these people? I don’t see them.
Seriously. Unless your social circle happens to be extremely ambitious, what percentage of people do you know that are ACTUALLY out there pushing it to the limit and grinding it out? 1/50? 1/100??
What I see is largely passivity. Passivity and people who are scared and worn down. They’re just trying to make it through the day.
I don’t care if your job sucks and the system is rigged against you. It’s still your life and this is your situation.
What are you going to do?
Who Will Hate It
-People who want to be an entrepreneur without expending energy
The Wrap Up
Great book. The rules of entrepreneurship are changing rapidly and you’ve GOT to keep up if you’re serious about this. Seriously, it feels like the game has changed every couple months.
So if you want an idea of how people are crushing it using the new rules, check out The $100 Startup. If nothing else you’ll be inspired and probably get some business ideas of your own.