The Art of the Start

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From , former Guide

Guy Kawasaki made a name for himself at Apple in the 1980s as the evangelist who helped launch the Macintosh computer. As founder and CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, he has tested and proven his ideas with dozens of startup companies. He is the author of over half a dozen business books, including Rules for Revolutionaries, Selling the Dream and How to Drive Your Competition Crazy.

I had the privilege recently of attending a presentation by Mr. Kawasaki on his latest book, The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. He’s a tremendously entertaining speaker – funny, irreverent, and above all, insightful. He built his presentation around his top ten tips for anyone starting anything – entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, non-profit ventures. I share them with you here, along with a few of his choice quips that you won’t find in the book.

1. Make Meaning

Focus on making meaning, not money. If your vision for your company is to grow it just to flip it to a large company or to take it public and cash out, “you’re doomed”. Kawasaki says that great companies are built around one of three kinds of meaning:

  1. Increase the quality of life.
  2. Right a wrong.
  3. Prevent the end of something good.

2. Make Mantra

Kawasaki recommends coming up with a simple mantra, preferably three words or less, that succinctly describes your core values. Some examples he gave:

  • Wendy’s: “Healthy fast food”
  • FedEx: “Peace of mind”
  • Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”
  • Guy Kawasaki: “Empower entrepreneurs”

3. Jump to the next curve

Great companies aren’t created when a book retailer says, “We’re going to change the way books are sold. Instead of carrying 250,000 titles, we’re going to carry 275,000.” Great companies are created when you say, “Instead of 250,000 titles, we’re going to carry 2.5 million.” Then you have Amazon.

He offers three tips for how to do this:

  1. Reboot your brain.
  2. Kill the cash cows.
  3. Polarize people.

4. Get going.

Don’t get caught in “analysis paralysis”. Some tips to keep you moving forward:

  • Don’t type, prototype.
  • Don’t worry, be crappy.
  • Find soulmates.

5. Niche thyself.

Ideally, you create something that is both of high value to customers and that few others are doing. If you consider uniqueness and value creation as the two parameters, you have four quadrants:

  • High value, low uniqueness
  • Low value, high uniqueness
  • Low value, low uniqueness
  • High value, high uniqueness

6. Let a hundred flowers blossom.

Your best customers may not be who you expect them to be, and no matter how good you are, no matter how much market research you do, you can’t perfectly predict what will happen in the real world. Kawasaki suggests the following:

  • Sow fields, not window boxes.
  • Look for agnostics, not atheists.
  • Don’t be proud.

7. Follow the 10/20/30 rule.

When making presentations to clients or investors, use:

  • 10 slides
  • 20 minutes
  • 30 point font

(If you do a lot of presentations, be sure to check out The Seven Deadly Sins of Powerpoint Presentations)

8. Hire infected people.

Hire people who are as passionate about your product as you are (or at least close to it).

  • Ignore the irrelevant.
  • Hire better than yourself.
  • Do the shopping center test.

9. Lower barriers to adoption.

Make it easy for people to buy and use your product:

  • Flatten the learning curve.
  • Don’t ask people to do something you wouldn’t do.
  • Embrace your evangelists.

10. Don’t let the bozos grind you down.

Thanks to Texchange, the organizers of the event. To learn more about Guy Kawasaki, including a free book excerpt, an entrepreneurial IQ test, and more, visit


About Jos
Winston Churchill once said: Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. - That's me building an online business.

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