Book Review: The $100 Startup @chrisguillebeau @tferriss


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The first edition of Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four Hour Work Week” (affiliate link), which I loved, faced one common criticism among those who didn’t like it – that it wouldn’t work, and that Tim’s success was a fluke. Tim answered his critics in the second edition of the book, adding case studies showing that the principles work, which can also be found in the Case Studies section of his Four Hour Work Week blog.

Chris Guillebeau (I really want to find out how to properly pronounce that last name – jzill-a-bow? gill-eh-bau?) side-steps the issue nicely with his book “The $100 Startup” (affiliate link) by starting with the case studies and working backwards. Rather than present a list of ideas and explain how they can be used, he presents a case study and then uses the case study to illustrate the point he’s trying to make. Starting with the idea that going into debt to start a business is no longer necessary, he details several people who started successful businesses with little money. (He’s also fair in that saying while the book suggests you can start with less than $100, many still use more, as there’s a spectrum from $0 to about $6k.) Convergence is the second point – the one I have the most difficulty with – because it discusses focusing on what you love and how to make money from it. Chris is fair in that this may not be possible for everyone – using the example of pizza eating (a man after my own heart!) – but illustrates several instances where people were successful in combining passion and profit.

Skill transformation and finding out what people want are the next two main points, and those are followed by the idea that you needn’t wait to get started – being an expert is as much a function of you than it is some external verifying body. Action takes up the rest of the book – learning to use the knowledge economy and putting that into practise by using a one-page business plan for yourself to take action. Offer creation, hustling, and self-franchising make up the additional action points, the latter presenting a unique perspective in which you can actually be in two places at once! The book finishes with some debates on whether or not to outsource and whether or not to grow the business to where you need to hire employees. Chris rightly points out that these will be individual instances, and in the latter, contrasts the “build to sell” method of entrepreneurship with the “build to exist” method most of his case studies chose to use.

I would suspect that Chris and Tim run in the same circles, based on the fact that they seem to know each other, and that they share some similarities when it comes to their work. The point about expertise is something Ferriss mentions in his book, and one of their case studies – the music teacher making $300k+ per year – is the same person. This could be seen as collusion, but realistically, my guess is that it’s just reinforcement that the ideas can work.

The book is well written, and Chris has an engaging style. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in entrepreneurship and I look forward to reading more of Chris’ work!