Book Review #3: The $100 Startup

Why I chose this book: Singapore is known as one of the most expensive cities in the world.  $100 may not even cover the cost of four taxi rides. I was curious how entrepreneurs were making it work. 

My three biggest takeaways 

  • The One Page Business Plan: On Page 102, Guillebeau presents a simplified version anyone starting their business can use. All businesses are an intersection of four elements: passion, skills, problems and opportunities. Guillebeau’s business plan helps people figure out what they can sell, how much they can charge for their products and what metrics to measure based on those four elements.  I really liked how the business plan also came with a deadline. So far, I’ve come to appreciate why startups set deadlines for themselves and the benefits of launching a product – even one that is imperfect –  for market validation. 
  • The Art of the Launch: Guillebeau describes how product launches aren’t just about creating a webstore and announcing it to the world. As a journalist, I’m familiar with the more traditional aspects of such events, having covered many by ministries and businesses. Inviting key stakeholders, crafting a press release and posting on social media is the easy part. 

Guillebeau shares about how small businesses can make their launches fun, by building anticipation and urgency into the offer. Drawing from his own experience as an entrepreneur, Guillebeau describes how he launched an online business course that was time-limited while on a train from Chicago to Washington. Unlike your typical while-stocks last sale, this was different. The sale would last as long as he was on the train, which also gave his community an interesting journey to follow. 

I also found it very instructive, how Guillebeau mentioned ways small businesses can thank their customers. As a journalist, I have received many press gifts at event launches, but never quite understood why organisers provide them. Guillebeau illustrates how personalized thank-you notes and unexpected freebies can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

  • Product to Service: Just like how individuals have multiple streams of income, so can businesses. Guillebeau gives examples of how businesses can diversify and build upon existing products or services to win over new customers. For instance, a restaurant can offer cooking classes, while consultants can sell guidebooks offering a lite version of their services. 

Real-life applications 

  • At my job: Occasionally, I have the privilege of interviewing small business owners. Usually this happens when I am writing about a trend, such as this story where my colleagues and I interviewed 110 hawkers about how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted them and why they struggle to join food delivery applications. Every business is unique and being more aware of how business owners think will help me ask more targeted questions. 
  • Startups I know: Perhaps the best launch in recent memory is crypto influencer Irene Zhao’s SO-COL, which went viral on Twitter and Reddit before it was picked up by mainstream news outlets. I do not cover the finance beat, but as an observer, there were many things to love. 

It had 

A clear value proposition: Buying one of her NFTs entitled the buyer to a tribe pass, or membership in her decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO), an internet community that shares an Ethereum wallet.

A fun element: The Telegram sticker packs were adapted from Zhao’s personal photos, with tongue-in-cheek slogans that spoke to the Crypto Twitter community. 

Timeliness: On its website, the DAO notes how once all 1,107 passes are claimed, no more will be minted. This naturally increases the urgency of customers to grab them while they last. 

Post-launch: While some may brush this off as a publicity stunt, Zhao took to Twitter to explain how the launch was really a proof of concept for SO-COL, a social network for influencers she was building. If she, as an influencer, was able to net $7.5 million in NFT earnings, so could other influencers on traditional platforms like Instagram. 

The $100 Startup was a fun read, since it is considerably less technical than the other books on my list. I would recommend it to anyone, whether they want to explore a side hustle, start a small business, or revitalise their start-up. 

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to leave me a message here or share this post. I will be reviewing Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas In Just Five Days soon. 

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