Book Summary: Hack the Entrepreneur by Jon Nastor

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Donot underestimate what you, your laptop, a good Wi-Fi connection and some hardwork can accomplish.

In order to be an entrepreneur, you need to act like an entrepreneur.

Build a viable business that gives you the money and freedom to do what you love.

The Five Big Ideas

“We always overestimate the size of our hurdles, until we overcome them.”

“Life is short. Do work that matters.”

“Move from being a consumer to being a producer.”

“Always be proud of creating something out of nothing.”

“You don’t have to outsmart your competition or have more resources, you just have to outwork them.”

“Do not underestimate what you, your laptop, a good Wi-Fi connection, and some hard work can accomplish. These are the new rules of business. Get used to it, or keep your day job.”

“Overcoming my sense of inadequacy was one of the most liberating feelings in my life.”

“Yes, of course, you have to find your periods of hustle and hard work, but you also have to nurture your periods of stepping back and taking time off from business. Allowing yourself this time, without becoming anxious you are not working enough, will give you the energy and focus required to build and launch your next project, and grow your business.”

“In order to be an entrepreneur, you need to act like an entrepreneur. That means acting however you want, as long as you build things and put them out into the world.”

“Rather than building a business around what you love, build a viable business that gives you the money and freedom to do what you love.”

“What do you want your lifestyle and businesses to look like? Think about this when starting, and begin with your end goals in mind.”

“Determine exactly what you want from your business. Then begin with the end in mind.”

“We always overestimate the size of our hurdles, until we overcome them.”

“Accept that the starting point is the worst your business will ever be.”

“Life is short. Do work that matters.”

“You will never have all the information, only the information that is available to you where you presently are.”

“Move from being a consumer to being a producer.”

“Enjoy the lows, because they make the highs much higher.”

“Remember, your business is not about you. It is never about you. It is about your customer.”

“Luck is a by-product of hard work.”

“I have a piece of paper, a “fears page” if you will, where I write down whatever is keeping me from doing something at a specific moment. By doing so, I can dimensionalize my fears as Jay said. This has allowed me to see what mistakes I have made and how limiting fears can be.”

“The future needs goals, today needs appreciating, and yesterday needs to be acknowledged.”

“Your ideas are worthless until you take action.”

“In order to win in your market, you need to understand your competition better than they understand themselves.”

“Find people that will push you as far as they can.”

“The value of an idea is only realized during its execution.”

“What you make in your business or your spare time, no matter how insignificant it may seem, has the ability to change someone’s life.”

“Failure is not the end of an idea or business venture, but the starting point of the next one.”

“The only way to fail as an entrepreneur is to quit before you’ve seen enough failures to find your success.”

“In order to be really successful, you have to be able to work hard every single day, celebrating the wins and accepting the failures.”

“When you fall while climbing an obstacle, you simply land back on the plateau you were just on. You don’t have to start from scratch again.”

“Always be proud of creating something out of nothing.”

“Even if you don’t make a bunch of money out of it, you have done something most people in the world will never do and you deserve a pat on the back. You have executed your ideas, which gives them value.”

“When you find yourself in the dip, put your head down, keep working, and don’t look up until it’s clear you’ve made it through.”

“Entrepreneurs are not born – they are created through mindset, determination, and a willingness to work hard.”

“You have to appreciate what you’ve accomplished, no matter how small it might seem, while remaining unimpressed, because that will drive you forward.”

“Be the CEO of your show.”

“At times, we have to do the work that has to be done, even if we’re not great at it and don’t like doing it. It is the nature of running a business. Think big and work small.”

“Our businesses do not need us to be good at everything, but they do require us to acknowledge our shortcomings with courage and humility.”

“You don’t have to outsmart your competition or have more resources, you just have to outwork them.”

Buy The Book: Hack the Entrepreneur

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The 7 Day Startup Summary

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You have to spend time on the things that are most likely to bring you customers

If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to ’ship’ your product.

You have to build a business idea in order to test it.

The Five Big Ideas

“Once you launch, you need to get more people paying you. You have to relentlessly pursue your best method of getting customers and not the stuff you naturally gravitate to.”

“There is a very big difference between someone entering their email and someone paying you each month for a product.”

“There’s a huge forgotten void between ‘idea’ and ‘successful business’ that validation doesn’t account for.”

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to be passionate about growing a business.”

“Solve problems where people are already paying for solutions.”

The 7 Day Startup Summary

“You don’t learn until you launch.”

“Eric Ries defines a startup as ‘a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.’”

“Anyone can create a job for themselves. But not everyone can change the world.”

“Things may come to those who wait … but only the things left by those who hustle.” Anonymous

“Hustle for an early stage startup is generally about spending your time on the things that are most likely to bring you, customers.”

“Once you launch, you need to get more people paying you. You have to relentlessly pursue your best method of getting customers and not the stuff you naturally gravitate to.”

“There is a very big difference between someone entering their email and someone paying you each month for a product.”

“To really test whether you can build a business, you have to start building it.”

“There’s a huge forgotten void between ‘idea’ and ‘successful business’ that validation doesn’t account for.”

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to launch.”

“The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before.” Neil Gaiman

The 9 Elements of a Bootstrapped Business Idea

  • Enjoyable daily tasks
  • Product/founder fit
  • Scalable business model
  • Operates profitably without the founder
  • An asset you can sell
  • Large market potential
  • Tap into pain or pleasure differentiators
  • Unique lead generation advantage
  • Ability to launch quickly

“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to be passionate about growing a business.”

“It makes no sense to start a business that is going to have you doing work you don’t enjoy.”

“Startup founders should have the ambition to grow their business into a larger company. If you don’t have that ambition, what you are creating is not a startup.”

“Your idea is not a solid startup idea if you don’t have the capacity to make use of a profitable, growing business model.”

“You need to be able to see a point where you can hire in staff or systems to replace you, and still continue to generate a profit. At that point it becomes a real business.”

“Focusing on short-term launches or projects won’t build assets. Assets are built over time by ignoring short-term distractions in favor of a bigger, long-term vision.”

“A list of customers that pay you every month is an asset. If you focus on short-term projects you’ll make more money initially. But if you turn down projects and focus on providing recurring value, you build a valuable asset.”

“If you work on this idea for five years, what will you have in the end?”

“What will make you, and your company, unique?”

“Playing the visionary is a privilege reserved for second- and third-time entrepreneurs. It’s fun, but it’s fraught with danger.”

“Solve problems where people are already paying for solutions.”

“Everyone might be saying that your idea is great, but look at whether or not they are currently paying for a solution to the same problem.”

“A common MVP mistake is over-emphasizing the ‘minimum’ and under-emphasizing the ‘viable.’”

“The key is to forget about automation and figure out what you can do manually.”

Questions that will help you with your MVP:

How can you perform a service or offer a product to real customers?

How will you get them to pay you after seven days?

How close will your MVP be to the final vision of your product?

What can you do manually (hint: probably everything)?

What can you do yourself instead of delegating?

How can you make your offer as real as possible for the end customer?

A Framework for Choosing an Acceptable Business Name

Is it taken?

Is it simple?

Is it easy to say out loud?

Do you like it?

Does it make sense for your idea?

“Every single one of the top 25 brands in the world are 12 characters or less.”

“Broader is better.”

10 Ways to Market Your Business

Create Content on Your Site

Start Sending Emails


Forums and Online Groups

Guest Blogging

Listing Sites



Doing Free Work

Media Coverage

“Save your excitement until you land people you don’t know as customers.”

“What are you working on today that will make you indestructible tomorrow?”

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” Eric Ries

“Any time you feel yourself wondering if what you are doing is good enough, compare it to the best.”

“By comparing yourself to the best, you set higher expectations for yourself, and you will be better for it.”

“Always take a step back and ask yourself if it’s feasible that someone else may have solved this problem before.”

“Momentum is a powerful force, so keep an eye out for what is working and do more of it.”

“Your own personal happiness and motivation are the most important keys to the success of your business.”

“You should be more excited about Monday than you are about Friday. If that’s not the case, there’s a good chance things aren’t going to work out.”

“No amount of money is worth working with a difficult customer.”

7 Days to Startup

Day 1. “Brainstorm a bunch of ideas and evaluate them against the checklist. Choose the idea that stands out as being the best option for you.”

Day 2. “Write down exactly what you will launch on Day 7. What will your customers get, what is included, and what is excluded? If necessary, write down what is automated and what will be done manually in the short term.”

Day 3. “Come up with a bunch of potential business names and evaluate them against the criteria above. Choose whichever one makes the most sense to you and run with it. Grab the best domain you can for that name.”

Day 4. “Build yourself a website!”

Day 5. “Build a list of what marketing methods you are going to choose. Put together a rough plan for the first week or two of your launch.”

Day 6. “Create a spreadsheet that covers the first few months in business, the number of signups, revenue, estimated costs, and monthly growth.”

Day 7. “Launch and start executing your marketing plan.”

Zero To One by Peter Thiel Summary

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Zero To One is an inside look at Peter Thiel’s philosophy and strategy for making your startup a success by looking at the lessons he learned from founding and selling PayPal, investing in Facebook and becoming a billionaire in the process.

There are books that give you great strategies for selling, marketing and planning your business. And then there are books that tell you to forget about all of that, so you can take an approach that’s so radically different, that you won’t even play in the same league as the readers of those other books.

This is one of those books. Peter Thiel is an anomaly, to say the least. A chess master under age 21, a doctorate in law by age 25, and a company sale for $1.5 billion at age 35.

Zero To One will teach you the way he thinks, how he approaches business, and what you can do to build your startup’s own future and shape the future of the world in the process.

Here are 3 lessons from the book:

  • The biggest leaps in progress are vertical, not horizontal.
  • Monopolies are good, for both business and society.
  • Founders need a vision to take their business from zero toone.

Let’s see how the future is made!

Lesson 1: The biggest leaps in progress are vertical, not horizontal.

Can you imagine what the year 2200 will look like? It’s hard, isn’t it? That’s because you know the world is making tremendous progress every year, but it’s almost impossible to know what that will look like.

But not all progress is created equal. Most of the progress we see on a day-to-day basis is horizontal. This kind of progress spreads existing ideas and technologies from one to many or 1 to n. An example would be Apple making the computer personal – with the Apple II it finally became affordable for the masses to own one.

Vertical progress is what it takes to go from zero to one and create the technology or idea in the first place. Apple did this too when they came up with the iPhone in 2007 and changed the way we see and use phones altogether.

If you want to create a startup that’ll not only improve but drastically change the world, you have to go from zero to one, not one to many. You can only do that by critically questioning a lot of the assumptions you hold about the present.

Can people live on the moon? Is a world without cars possible? Will we be able to fully live off renewable energies?

These are the kinds of questions you should concern yourself with if you want to play (and win) big.

Lesson 2: Monopolies aren’t bad. They’re good. For business, and society.

How often have you complained about something not working the way you want it on a Windows computer? Don’t tell me, I’ve been a Microsoft user, I know. With 75% of the market running on Windows, they’re pretty much a monopoly – but is that really a bad thing?

No! Peter Thiel says that a monopoly simply means one company is doing something so much better than everyone else, that simply no one else can survive. This is actually good for everyone.

Think about Google. You love to use Google, because you know it’s the best search engine out there. Google loves setting its own prices and reaping 25% of their revenue as profit, so it can make its service even better.

And society should love it, because if ever someone came along and did beat Google, it would mean their search engine would probably have to be pretty spankin’ fantastic! Monopolies are nothing to scoff at – they’re actually what any business or startup should shoot for.

Lesson 3: If the founders don’t have a vision, a company can never go from zero to one.

But building a monopoly surely doesn’t happen over night. Thiel and a 50 person Paypal team spent years getting it to a place where it was the number one payment processor used by ebay customers, so they could finally leverage their monopoly position into selling the company.

Where did they find the motivation to stick with it? One word: vision.

When you look at founders of successful companies, you’ll find 90% of them are, in a way, weirdos. Steve Jobs is only the most prominent example, but actually plenty of entrepreneurs have a few quirks – and that’s good.

Being a little weird is what lets leaders develop a grand, if slightly delusional, vision for the future, which is exactly what companies need to go from zero to one.

Way back in 1999 Thiel said: “PayPal will give citizens worldwide more direct control over their currencies than they ever had before.” A mouthful? Sure! But he was right. His vision of the future showed an entirely different reality than the one he lived in, and the drive it instilled in himself and his team is exactly what led them to creating the very future they imagined.

So think big. As they say: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you’ll be among the stars.”

My personal take-aways

I always wonder what the best approach to success is. Do you start small, build something, then make it a little bigger next time, and iterate year after year, until you have something big? Or do you go straight for the top?

It seems like if you develop the mindset for the latter, you’ll end up playing in an entirely different league right from the start. A radical and eye-opening book, let the summary hook you and the book then convince you. Should you have even the slightest entrepreneurial inclination, then it’s time you learn how to go from Zero To One.

Traction Summary

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Traction is a roadmap for startups to achieve the exponential growth necessary to survive the first few months and years by looking at 19 ways to get traction and a framework to help you pick the best one for your startup.

So far I’d only known about one of the two authors of this book, Justin Mares, from Nat Eliason’s and his Programming for Marketers course.

Traction is what makes sure that your car’s horsepower actually translates to the asphalt and pushes your car forward. Without it, all you create is smoke, admittedly cool drifts and rubber marks on the road.

For a startup, the situation isn’t much different. You can spend a lot of time on product development, getting investors and hiring great people, but in the end, how much traction your work gets in the marketplace is what determines your survival.

To help you out, Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg have written this book, based on what they’ve learned growing DuckDuckGo (the search engine that doesn’t track you) and Exceptional, a software company, plus a bunch of other startups they founded or worked with.

Here are 3 lessons to help get your startup off the ground:

  • Start thinking about your marketing as soon as you begin working on your idea.
  • Attend trade shows to find potential future partners.
  • Use the bulls eye framework to find which traction channel works best for you.

Want to catapult your business from 0-60 in the blink of an eye? Let’s go get some traction!

Lesson 1: Think about your marketing as soon as you begin working on your startup.

The #1 mistake I keep seeing people make when trying to start a business is to not start marketing instantly. Every time a friend tells me “I’m building this thing…” I ask: “Have you started marketing yet?”

99% of the time, the answer is “Nah, I want to get something out first…”

As a result, most of my friends end up emerging from their startup lab with a fully cooked product, but no one who wants to buy it. Imagine a guy trying to sell newspapers on the street going “Who wants this?” That’s frustrating. So every time I get that answer, I tell them: “You have to start marketing now, or otherwise you’ll fall flat on your face.”

People rarely listen, but if they do, they usually end up thanking me. I’m sure Justin and Gabriel have had plenty of the same conversations.

They suggest you should split your time 50/50 between product development and getting traction. Of course, when you start out you’re happy if you can get a few dozen people to follow your work and you can always reach those, but the traction metric changes over time and eventually, you’ll have to get people by the thousands to buy your stuff to succeed.

Devoting lots of time to your marketing early on will allow you to test strategies until you find the right one. For example, when Dropbox tried search engine ads, they quickly realized that paying $200 to get someone to get a $99/year membership wasn’t going to work and could switch to trying something else.

Oh and don’t be afraid to share updates before you’re ready to launch. Marketo started blogging long before they had something to launch – so when they did, 14,000 people were already waiting to buy.

Lesson 2: Go to trade shows to find people and companies to partner with.

This is one of 19 traction channels Justin and Gabriel describe, but I picked it because it combines offline and online.

No matter what industry you’re in, there are always trade shows and events not too far away, and there’s always someone there who could change your life and business.

Even if you meet one of the giants in your industry before you have a finalized product to showcase, you could still get to know them, start building a relationship and who knows, maybe they’ll tell you exactly what they want from you for the two of you to partner up.

You can also use these to come up with creative marketing campaigns. For example, Twitter put TVs in the lobbies and hallways of the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference in 2007, showing live feeds of tweets from the event. Of course everyone wanted to see their own tweet on screen, and as a result, their traffic ballooned from 20,000 to 60,000 tweets per day during the event.

Lesson 3: Use the bullseye framework to find which traction channel works best for you.

However, trade shows are just one of 19 ways to get traction, but that doesn’t mean you should pick that one. Nor does it mean you should do all of them at once. Here’s what Justin and Gabriel call the bullseye framework to find which traction channel works best for you:

Brainstorm which channels work in your industry and how you could use them for your particular product.

Categorize them into promising, possible and long shots.

Make a list with the top three.

Do cheap testing with clear goals for those top three.

Focus on the one that works best, or start over if none work.

In truth, getting one traction channel to work is more than you need to successfully grow your startup. Finding that one channel is what you should spend your time on – not trying to be everywhere and getting nowhere in the process.

As Steve Jobs said: “Focus is about saying no.”

My personal take-aways

If I ran a “Startup Marketing 101” class, I’d probably make every student buy this book. It gives a great overview of all your options, without allowing you to get completely lost in them, thanks to the bullseye framework. The two authors combine having a broad set of general knowledge with taking only a very narrow, focused path, and that’s what makes their marketing strategies for startups so efficient.

The Lean Startup Summary

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 The Lean Startup offers both entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs a semi-scientific, real-world approach to building a business by using validation, finding a profitable business model and creating a growth engine.

I’m really sorry Mr. Ries, it took me a while, but here’s what I learned:

  • Find a business model that works through validation.
  • Use split-testing to tell value from waste.
  • Never ever indulge in vanity metrics.

Ready to start a business? I hope you are, because here we go!

Lesson 1: Find a solid business model by validating your idea.

One word is mentioned again and again throughout this summary, and it actually represents the whole book quite well: semi-scientific.

It stuck with me and perfectly fits this lesson as well. Always validate your sh*t.

Alright, I might be paraphrasing here, but the gist of it is that in order to find a sustainable business model (i.e. one that you can roll with for at least 5 years), you have to (like a scientist) create a hypothesis.

For example, Amazon’s hypothesis was that people would buy books online, while Zappos thought people would do the same with shoes.

Now that was the easy part. And this is usually where scientists start building huge theories, researching, calling colleagues, and a whole bunch of other things, which won’t get them closer to finding out if the hypothesis is valid.

That’s why you have to be only semi-scientific, because now you just throw your hypothesis out into the real world.

What does that look like? For Amazon it was a very rudimentary website, and for Zappos, the founder just set up a website with shoe pictures and let people buy. Once they bought, he went to a shoe store, got the actual shoes and shipped them.

Noah Kagan from Appsumo also used a ghetto website where people should just PayPal him $60 to get started.

The important part is to get people to pay as early as possible, because when people say “great idea” or “I’d buy that” that doesn’t put a cent in your pocket.

So get out there and instead of calling friends, researching and getting feedback, find people and ask them to buy.

Lesson 2: Tell value from waste with split-testing.

Another semi-scientific approach to then developing your product is split testing.

Nowadays often called A/B-testing, this means you create 2 versions of your product, show both of them to the same amount of people, and in this way figure out which one people like more.

This allows you to tell the difference between features your customers value, and those they don’t want or need.

Imagine how hard this was a few years ago, where the only way to do this was to create physically different products.

For example if Domino’s wanted to change the design of their pizza boxes, they would’ve had to create 2 different designs, use them to ship pizzas to 1,000 customers each, and ask each customer for feedback on the box.

What a nightmare!

Now, in the world of the interwebs, they could just come up with 2 designs in photoshop and hold a poll on their Facebook page, and would instantly get hundreds of thousands of answers.

Today you can split-test any part of a website for free, for example with Optimizely, so before you add, drop or change features of your products, learn what the customers want and need.

Lesson 3: Never ever indulge in vanity metrics.

The data you get from split testing is valuable. The number of your Facebook likes isn’t. It’s a vanity metric and you must never ever indulge in those.

Getting lots of page views is great, so is being covered in the press and having lots of followers on Twitter.

But none of those pay the bills.

The only metrics you should measure your success with are the ones who tell you if you’re profitable or not.

Do users recommend you? How many? Does the rate of recommendations go up or down?

Are existing customers coming back to buy more? Is the cost of your Facebook ads lower than your customer lifetime value?

These are the kinds of metrics you should look at, because they make or break your business.

Just because Jimmy in high school felt super cool when he was the first to get 1,000 Facebook friends, that doesn’t make him any more of a success in life.

Facing the truth means facing the right metrics, so get on with the flattery and focus on numbers that matter.

My personal take-aways

Semi-scientific. That’s my takeaway here. Love that word 😀

I really enjoyed this. Eric Ries’s approach does rely on careful and strategic planning, but not by sacrificing action and results for it, like a lot of other business books do.

As someone who’s been through failed validations, I can 100% vouch for the concept – it saves tons of time and energy. And if you’re a blogger, the warning about vanity metrics is all the more appropriate.

We all spend way too much looking at Google Analytics graphs, social shares, and other “feel good” metrics, instead of looking the truth in the eye and admitting: those email subscribers don’t grow as fast as I’d hoped.

Buy this book

The End of Jobs Summary

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The End of Jobs explains why, thanks to the advancements of modern technology, being an entrepreneur is now the safest way to meaningful work and financial freedom

The book starts by taking a look at how we’ve reached the entrepreneurial boom we find ourselves in today.

Based on Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, Taylor Pearson explains that the limiting factor in what we can achieve has switched multiple times throughout history, from land to capital to knowledge and now to creativity.

Since 2000 the world’s population has grown 2.4 times faster than the supply of available jobs, rendering the strategy to get a degree and thus a safe job, which worked so well for baby boomers, useless.

College degrees have become much less valuable, due to the sheer amount of people who have them. From 2000 to 2010 alone the number of college graduates in the US increased by 50% from 20% to 30% of the total population.

On top of that, modern technology, like Skype for worldwide video calls, makes it possible to hire the most talented people from anywhere in the world and outsource knowledge tasks.

Throw into the mix that you can now license software for most tasks to be done very cheaply, such as accounting, graphic design, video editing, and others and you have a world where anyone can start an international company right from the comfort of their home, no matter where they live.

Now starting a company still sounds dangerous to most people, but in an economy where lay-offs happen by the thousands on a regular basis, your job is no longer a safe bet either.

You have to stop relying on someone else to pay you every month, like an animal waiting to be fed, only to be led to the slaughterhouse one day, because you never know when your boss stops “feeding” you.

Instead, try to understand the concept of expected value, which is what lets poker players keep their cool.

They do a great job at calculating their probability of winning or losing any given hand, based on the cards on the table and in the deck, which is why they’re not worried about losing. A great poker player knows that if she makes a $10,000 bet with a 20% chance of winning $100,000 enough times, she will inevitably win, since her expected value is $20,000 each time she makes the bet.

That’s why you’re much better off learning new skills and dabbling in many little projects (such as the website you’re reading this summary on), which have huge potential upside and will inevitably work out well in the long run.

The worldwide availability of the internet has lowered production and distribution costs so much that you can create a product for any niche market you desire at almost no cost and distribute it for free or very cheaply.

If there’s a place for dog trainers, accounting for dentists and knitting, there sure is a need for whatever service or product you can offer to the world as well.

Even better, creating your own business will allow you to do work that is meaningful to you, which, if we’re honest, is the only way you can create a sustainable business anyway. Imagine not being forced to do tedious tasks on a daily basis, just so you can improve the quality of your life, but to actually find meaning in the work you do, helping others with what matters most to you.

Taylor Pearson also delivers a framework that’ll help you start your own business, one step at a time. According to Rob Walling’s Stair Step Method, you should create your career one step at a time, by first launching a simple one-off product, which you sell through only one marketing channel.

Then you can multiply this process until you don’t have to work to make a living any longer, and start creating bigger and bigger companies.

Final thoughts

This confirm what James Altucher talks about in Choose Yourself and The Rich Employee, and provide comfort for those who worry that they might not catch the entrepreneurship train before it’s gone.

I was reminded that I have time and I don’t need to have a successful business tomorrow, but that I should continue to explore my passions and follow these little side projects that I like so much.

The $100 Startup Summary

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The $100 Startup shows you how to break free from the shackles of 9 to 5 by combining your passion and skills into your own microbusiness, which you can start for $100 or less, yet still turn into a full time income, thanks to the power of the internet.

The $100 Startup is Chris Guillebeau’s second book and it’s very likely to be the only book you need to start your own business. It is the result of identifying 1,500 people who’ve made $50,000 or more with very modest investments (often less than $100), and Chris’s subsequent focus on the 50 most interesting cases.

Based on his case study, Chris pulled out a step-by-step framework you can use to find where your passion meets your skills and turn those into an income from your couch. Using nothing but a laptop and some wifi in most cases, you can build a thriving software, freelance or education business and scale it as far as you want.

Here are 3 crucial lessons from the book to get you started:

  • Passion is only 1/3 of the equation, you also need skillsand customers.
  • If you want your passion to be more than a hobby, focus onincome and costs.
  • Keep your plans simple, because action beats them everytime.

Got your $100 ready? Good, let’s start a business!

Lesson 1: Passion is only 1/3 of the equation, you also need skills and customers.

Thanks to Steve Jobs we now face a generation where a myriad of people try to turn their passion into their paycheck. While I generally support that with all my heart, I cringe at the level of unpreparedness of most people who do so.

Chris argues for a much more practical approach, where you keep your day job at first, and start a business on the side. He says passion is only part of the equation, one third, to be exact.

The other two parts are skills and customers.

You have to find the sweet spot where your passion meets the skills you’re good at and the needs of other people, which you can fulfill with those skills. After all, people have to pay you for this to work. For example, while eating pizza might be a passion of yours (it sure is one of mine), it’s hardly a skill that warrants payment and doing it doesn’t solve other peoples’ problems.

However, making pizzas does. Plenty of people can’t make good pizza themselves, and are more than happy to pay for one (or two). You could throw pizza parties in your home, invite friends over, and have everyone chip in $10 for your time and ingredients – that’d make a good start!

So be flexible enough to stay open for a skill transformation, where you learn skills adjacent to your passion and then capitalize on those as best as you can, while picking up the rest as you go along.

Lesson 2: Focus on low costs and being profitable to turn your hobby into a business.

Newsflash: Unless someone pays you, your passion business is just a hobby. Therefore, you must look at funding, income and costs of your business.

Luckily, funding is easier than ever before. Most businesses can be run or at least validated with a website only, thus costing less than $100 to get set up. If you do need funding for a physical product, for example, you can build an audience first and then launch a Kickstarter campaign, to help you get together the money you need.

In a microbusiness your income mostly depends on your hustle. The more potential customers you reach out to, the more affiliate partners you get on board, and the more traffic you build, the more you’ll sell. Be proactive about developing your business and focus on low-cost, but time-intense methods like personal outreach, going to conferences, or Google ads.

Lastly, your costs are a great chance to prioritize. With little money left to play with (since rent and food will be major deductibles from your salary), you’re forced to invest only in the most important parts of your business – the ones that directly drive sales. So don’t lightheartedly drop $1,000 on a website re-design when you could hire a sales person for a month for that, who might actually help you sell more.

Running your passion business should be fun, but it’s still a business, and if you don’t treat it that way, the only place you’ll run it to is into the ground.

Lesson 3: Action beats planning, so keep your plans simple.

Action beats planning, every time. Write that on your wall. If you’ve ever bought a domain name you never ended up using (guilty) or spent an entire weekend making a complex business plan (guilty again, don’t judge me), you know what I’m talking about.

Force yourself to put your business plan on a single page of paper, and leave anything but the outline for your future-self to worry about. Focus on what you’ll sell, who your customer is, why they’d buy it and how you get paid. “I sell custom diet plans to busy single Moms so they can stay in shape while raising a toddler for $50/month via PayPal” is about as specific as you need to get and answers many questions.

Set an aggressive launch date, since work always fills the time you make for it (Parkinson’s law) and make sure your mission statement fits into a single tweet (140 characters).

Oh and lastly, when you start a business, suddenly everyone seems to become an expert and will try to give you unsolicited advice, especially if they’re not even running their own business. Don’t listen to any of it. You do you.

My personal take-aways

The Happiness Of Pursuit was about finding a passion project. Combine it with The $100 Startup, and you have a passion project that makes money, which is exactly what Four Minute Books is, by the way.

The book reminds me a lot of The 4-Hour Workweek, but honestly, it feels even more practical for the average Joe, because it makes starting easier and doesn’t deal as much with scaling, which is something to worry about a lot later.

Startup Growth Engines Summary

Categories EntrepreneurPosted on

Startup Growth Engines shows you the strategies and tactics startups like Uber, Facebook and Yelp have used to achieve phenomenal growth in short time periods, and how you can use them to solve a big problem on a grand scale.

Startups are probably the most controversial topic of the 21st century. There’s an incredible amount of noise about unicorns, hypergrowth, venture capital, great ideas, the cult of entrepreneurship, and on and on. But really, startups aren’t new.

It’s just a different word for a new business. People have founded businesses for thousands of years. The only thing that has changed is speed. The speed of acquiring customers, attracting money, building an image, and of course the speed of going broke.

You don’t see the 90% of startups that fail to live beyond their first five years and are wound down all quietly and in secret. But you do see that it took Facebook only eight years to reach 1 of 7 people on the planet. This kind of growth speed is what all investors and founders desire, what everyone outside of startup land envies and it’s also the hardest part to achieve.

At the core of it is growth hacking, a term the author of this book, Sean Ellis, invented. It’s just one piece of the puzzle, but one of the most important ones, so let’s take a closer look at how it works in 3 lessons:

  • Start big, but small.
  • Try freemium, if you meet these conditions.
  • Build a free tool to attract the right audience.

Ready to become a growth hacker? Let’s learn how to market in the 21st century!

Lesson 1: Start big, but small.

Huh? What the hell is that supposed to mean?

It means you should go for a big share of a small market. Most startups aim for the opposite. They’d rather grab a 1% piece of a $100 million dollar market, than 100% of a $1 million market. The problem with the former is that you’ll be the last rat to join the race and competition ain’t pretty. The latter might not even be competed for at all.

The best way to do this is to start locally. Limiting yourself to a physical location, where your ideal customers hang out, is the easiest way to make sure you don’t reach for too much right off the bat.

For example, Facebook was initially limited to Harvard students and Uber exclusively served people in San Francisco. You can also focus on a certain segment online, like PayPal did with Ebay powersellers, the ones who most benefitted from their product.

Going for a big share of a small market allows you to do several things:

Not drown in competition.

Collect precious data about your ideal customers.

Expand gradually by swapping from one market into the next that’s bordering on yours.

Lesson 2: Experiment with a freemium model, but only under certain conditions.

A great way to make sure you actually do reach a substantial share of your small target market is to go the freemium route.

Freemium simply means there’s a version of your product that people can use for free, with an upgrade to more and better functionality being optional.

For example, most gaming apps now work this way. You can download and play the game for free, but to access certain features (or to advance faster), you have to pay. Plenty of software services also do this, like Dropbox, Evernote or Trello.

Beware of two things though:

Is your product easy enough to use?

Can you offer a proper reason to upgrade later?

A complicated product, which takes some time to learn to use properly, often doesn’t work in a freemium model. People haven’t invested any money, so why bother committing several weeks to learning a new piece of software? For example, ConvertKit is an email marketing software for professional bloggers, but you have to learn a lot to use it properly. By having to pay first, you’re more likely to make use of their customer support, demos and workshops to actually learn how to get the most out of it.

Dropbox, on the other hand, is dead simple to use. The only problem you could run into is running out of space – and voilà, there’s your clear reason to upgrade and buy Dropbox Pro.

Lesson 3: Build a free tool that solves a problem to get people to know you.

Online marketers do a lot of things wrong these days, but this one they get right. A free tool that solves a pressing problem for your target customers is a great way to get yourself noticed and potentially draw more people into your freemium model (which then helps you get that big market share of your local market).

For example CoSchedule, a content planning software, made this headline analyzer, which instantly tells you how good your headline is. Neil Patel has built an SEO analyzer, which tells you what you can optimize to rank better in Google. Social media scheduling company Buffer created Pablo, an app that lets you make beautiful images for your social media updates in seconds.

These kinds of little side projects and helpful tools can become their own platforms, drawing in thousands of potential customers, which give you their contact information, and sometimes even a chance to personally help them, so you can learn even more about who you’re serving.

My personal take-aways

The big, fat caveat to these lessons is this: these strategies only work when your actual product is something people want and need. That part you can’t look up in a book. You have to keep your eyes open, look around, and try to come up with your own creative solution to real problems. You have to be an artist, before you can become a scientist.

When you have the right thing, or think you do, then these strategies will give you the feedback you need to learn if that’s true. But please, don’t abuse them to try and sell what was never meant to be sold: more of the same crap we already have enough of.

Note: I recommend this guide as a great primer on growth hacking in general.

Buy this book

Start-Up Nation Summary

Categories EntrepreneurPosted on

Start-Up Nation explains how a tiny, controversial, politically isolated country like Israel manages to be one of the world’s creative hubs with more startups, venture capital and new technology than entire continents.

Can you get an entire country to become entrepreneurs? Well, almost. Israel flies completely under the radar in most people’s entrepreneurial view. But it’s actually one of the most productive countries in the world.

Start-Up Nation describes how Israel’s history and economic situation have led to this small country becoming one of the world’s leaders in entrepreneurship.

Imagine what it’s like to have your number one export be innovation. If Israel can, so can others. Let’s take a look at what it takes.

Here are 3 lessons about Israel’s thriving startup culture:

Israel has the highest concentration of startups in the world.

Doubt, assertiveness and informality are the character traits of innovators.

Even if your location is a disadvantage, you can turn it into an economic advantage.

Want to know how to make a country productive? Let’s learn how from the Israeli startup culture!

Lesson 1: Nobody has more startups per capita than Israel.

Israel is in constant conflict with Palestine. In fact, this endless, religious war is what the country is most known for. And if it’s not in the news for that, it’s for something about its nuclear weapons.

But underneath the surface, Israel is probably the most innovative nation in the world.

No other country spends a bigger percentage of the money in its economy on research and development. At just 65 years old and with a population of only 8.5 million, Israel has more startups per capita than any other country: roughly one for every 2,000 Israelis (that’s over 4,000 startups in total).

Major companies love to buy Israeli startups, Cisco alone has bought nine of them so far. The country is also a major destination for venture capital, receiving twice as many investment dollars per person as even the United States – and 30 times as much as Europe or China. Lastly, over 60 Israeli companies are listed in the NASDAQ, which is more than all European companies combined.

How the hell is such a tiny country so creative and productive? For one, it lies in the nation’s culture.

Lesson 2: To be innovative, you have to doubt things, assert yourself and informally discuss your ideas.

When PayPal bought an Israeli company in 2008 to better deal with fraud among its payments, the Israelis openly criticized PayPal’s current practices during their first meeting with the CEO. This assertiveness, this strong confidence in standing up for your ideas, is called chutzpah in Hebrew, and it’s a typical value instilled in Israeli children.

A second factor that makes Israelis innovative is that asking questions comes second-nature to them. Most of them are religious, and throughout history, rabbis have constantly reinterpreted the meaning of the Bible – openly and in discussions. This culture of arguing and debating over what’s right has spilled over, which makes many Israelis great entrepreneurs.

Lastly, they despise hierarchical structures and formalities. For example, the Israeli army employs very few officers in senior ranks on purpose, to make sure the soldiers on lower levels take initiative and responsibility for their work.

If you want to be innovative yourself, try working on some of these traits!

Lesson 3: Your location might suck politically, but you can use that to your advantage.

Israel is a country rigged with political problems throughout all of history. Until recently, Israelis couldn’t even travel to neighboring countries. But this limitation was exactly the right one, forcing Israeli companies to think international and pursue ventures in technology, software and communication – the things that transcend all borders.

Because Arab countries boycotted Israeli exports, they also couldn’t export any expensive goods, so they focused on smaller parts and digital goods like software. You could say Israel was forced to become a knowledge economy long before it became a global trend.

That’s also why they turned inward in terms of military technology. Their alliances with other countries were severed because of all the political issues, so they spent a lot of money developing their own military technology – which in turn seeped through to the public (as it always does).

So even if your location might suck or you face political limits, if you play it right, this can be turned into an advantage!

My personal take-aways

A refreshing book shines a much-needed light on a seriously underrated country and economy. This is very insightful! If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, give this a go 🙂

Side Hustle Summary

Categories EntrepreneurPosted on

Side Hustle shows you how to set up new income streams without quitting your day job, taking you all the way from your initial idea to your first earned dollars in just 27 days.

“I used to try and be a full-time writer without a day job. It was too stressful. Now I’m slower in making progress, but I’m a lot happier.” I get that. My first year of freelancing wasn’t much fun, precisely for the same reason. If I were to do it all over, I would follow the advice Chris Guillebeau lays out in his latest book, Side Hustle.

Without pressure, in as little as 30-60 minutes a day, he lays out a clear plan you can follow to make your first few bucks on the side in 27 days. Let’s try to get you up and running in 3 lessons:

  • A side hustle idea must fulfill three criteria.
  • You need to turn that idea into an offer in three steps.
  • There are four resources you have to set up before launchingyour side hustle.

Sick of your boss? Not making enough? Afraid to lose your pay check and health insurance? There’s a solution to all of this. It’s called a side hustle.

Lesson 1: Your side hustle needs an idea that’s feasible, profitable and persuasive.

About ten minutes ago I tossed out the entire structure of my latest Medium post series. Completely redid it. Earlier this morning I threw out a marketing idea. I constantly replace my ideas with better ideas, no matter what stage they’re in. Sure, there are milestones I complete before making more changes, but the plan always keeps evolving.

When it comes to generating ideas for your side hustle, you might have an initial block, but once you get over it, you’ll quickly collect more ideas than you can handle. To avoid losing time, pick the one you like best and run it through this quick validation framework Chris suggests:

Is it feasible? Can you execute in in an hour or less a day and expect to see results within a week? Or are you trying to climb Mt Everest on your first attempt?

Will it be profitable? Do some rough math. How much can you expect to make from one sale? What expenses do you have to cover? What’s the optimistic version of this? And the pessimistic one?

Is your idea persuasive? Can you explain what you’re selling to your grandma in two sentences? What’s your “wow factor?” Who do you know that’d think your product is irresistible? What’s your unique advantage?

If an idea fails to pass the scrutiny of these questions, don’t bother with it. Imagine how hard it’ll be to convince anyone else if you’re doubting your own concept this early in the process. Keep moving until you find an idea that holds.

Then, turn it into an offer.

Lesson 2: Go from idea to offer with price, pitch and promise.

In copywriting, there’s this important distinction of features vs. benefits. A lot of salespeople suck because they drown you in features, like a quad-core CPU, gesture control, or hand-woven alpaca wool, without explaining how those features make your life better. By condensing your idea into an offer with a big promise, a concrete pitch and a specific price, you avoid that mistake.

Here are what those three parts should look like, according to Chris:

Your promise should be a bold, provocative statement that highlights the persuasive aspect of your idea. When people hear it, they should see how they can immediately benefit from your idea. For Four Minute Books it’s “learn more in less time.”

Your pitch tells people how you deliver on that promise in as few words as possible. Here’s mine: “I read the world’s best non-fiction books and summaries, and write down 3 things you can learn in 4 minutes or less.” Easy to understand, right?

Your price lets people know how much they have to pay and comes with a clear call to action. The price of my summaries is free, but I tell everyone to sign up for my newsletter whenever I get a chance. Calls to action that don’t immediately require a credit card help, like “contact me now” or “schedule a consultation.

With your offer geared up and ready to go the only question that remains is: where should you put it? The answer is on your shopping list.

Lesson 3: The quintessential side hustle shopping list contains four items.

If you end up with an idea for a side hustle that requires you to take out a $10,000 loan, you’ve done it wrong. I shouldn’t be expensive. That said, there are four low- to no-cost items you should add to your metaphorical launch shopping cart:

A website. Today, if you’re not online, you don’t exist, and a one-page website is a great way to communicate everything you need to whoever’s interested with a simple link. All you need is a domain and hosting. Thanks to a free content management system like WordPress, you’ll be set with about $10/month.

A social media profile. Note “a” profile. Not two dozen. Pick a platform that you like, where you’ll enjoy creating content and that suits your audience and focus on that.

A scheduling tool. With a free calendar appointment service like Calendly, people can schedule appointments with you without a single email. Eliminates all the back and forth.

A payment system. To let people purchase right on your simple site, you need some kind of shopping cart or PayPal checkout. I recommend Gumroad.

With this simple setup, you’ve got your full sales workflow covered. For example, a potential buyer might go from your Twitter profile to your website, read the copy, then buy a consultation through Gumroad and afterwards will receive your Calendly link to schedule it.

Once you have this in place, it’s time to hustle for your side hustle!

My personal take-aways

With step-by-step instruction manuals like Chris writes, it’s impossible to cram everything into four minutes. That’s a good thing, because if you were fascinated by the idea of a new income stream before, you should be on fire now. 🙂 Don’t debate. Don’t wait. The right time will never come. Follow the 5 Second Rule and take action now. If you’re serious, buy a copy and get to work!

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