The $100 Startup is a book ahead of its time. Written in 2012 the author was proposing ideas and minimalist business frameworks that are becoming increasingly popular in 2022 with the creator economy and small bets movements.
I read it at the right time as I was transitioning from the salaried world to the stochastic world of consulting and iterative projects. It is a short and inspiring read with very useful frameworks I’m already testing.
Chris Guillbeau achieved a decade ago what a lot of indie developers and solopreneurs are trying to do now, so learning from him and following his path are not bad ideas at all.
Become Your Own Publisher
Follow these steps to enter the information publishing business. Each step can be made more complicated, but they all relate to this basic outline.
Find a topic that people will pay to learn about. It helps if you are an expert in the topic, but if not, that’s what research is for.
Capture the information in one of three ways:
- a. Write it down.
- b. Record audio or video.
- c. Produce some combination of a and b.
Combine your materials into a product: an e-book or digital package that can be downloaded by buyers.
Create an offer. What exactly are you selling, and why should people take action on it? Learn more about offers in Chapter 7.
Decide on a fair, value-based price for your offer.
Find a way to get paid. PayPal.com is the most ubiquitous method, with the ability to accept payment from users in more than 180 countries. Other options are available if you want more flexibility.*
Publish the offer and get the word out.
Cash in and head to the beach! (This step may require further effort.)
Seven steps to for instant market testing
You need to care about the problem you are going to solve, and there has to be a sizable number of other people who also care. Always remember the lesson of convergence: the way your idea intersects with what other people value.
Make sure the market is big enough. Test the size by checking the number and relevancy of Google keywords-the same keywords you would use if you were trying to find your product. Think about keywords that people would use to find a solution to a problem. If you were looking for your own product online but didn’t know it existed, what keywords would you search for? Pay attention to the top and right sides of the results pages, where the ads are displayed.
Focus on eliminating the “blatant admitted pain.” The product needs to solve a problem that causes pain that the market knows it has. It’s easier to sell to someone who knows they have a problem and are convinced they need a solution than it is to persuade someone that they have a problem that needs solving.
Almost everything that is being sold is for either a deep pain or a deep desire. For example, people buy luxury items for respect and status, but on a deeper level they want to be loved. Having something that removes pain may be more effective then realizing a desire. You need to show people how you can help remove or reduce pain.
Always think in terms of solutions. Make sure your solution is different and better. (Note that it doesn’t need to be cheaper-competing on price is usually a losing proposition.) Is the market frustrated with the current solution? Being different isn’t enough; differentiation that makes you better is what’s required. There’s no point in introducing something if the market is already satisfied with the solution-your solution must be different or better.It’s significance, not size, that matters.
Ask others about the idea but make sure the people you ask are your potential target market. Others may provide insignificant data and are therefore biased and uninformed. Therefore, create a persona: the one person who would benefit the most from your idea. Examine your whole network-community, friends, family, social networks-and ask yourself if any of these people match your persona. Take your idea to this person and discuss it with him or her in detail. This will get you much more relevant data than talking to just anyone.
Create an outline for what you are doing and show it to a subgroup of your community. Ask them to test it for free in return for feedback and confidentiality. As a bonus, the subgroup feels involved and will act as evangelists. Giving builds trust and value and also gives you an opportunity to offer the whole solution. Use a blog to build authority and expertise on a subject. Leave comments on blogs where your target audience hangs out.
The one-page business plan
Answer each question with one or two short sentences.
- What will you sell?
- Who will buy it?
- How will your business idea help people?
- What will you charge?
- How will you get paid?
- How else will you make money from this project?
- How will customers learn about your business?
- How can you encourage referrals?
- The project will be successful when it achieves these metrics:
- Number of customers
- Annual net income (or other metric)
OBSTACLES / CHALLENGES / OPEN QUESTIONS
- Specific concern or question 1
- Proposed solution to concern 1
- Specific concern or question 2
- Proposed solution to concern 2
- Specific concern or question 3
- Proposed solution to concern 3
- Deadline: I will launch this project into the world no later than
The 140-Character Mission Statement
Let’s break down the planning process into a very simple exercise: defining the mission statement for your business (or your business idea) in 140 characters or less. That is the maximum amount of text for an update on Twitter and a good natural limit for narrowing down a concept. It may help to think of the first two characteristics of any business: a product or service and the group of people who pay for it. Put the two together and you’ve got a mission statement:
We provide [product or service) for [customers). As described in Chapter 2, it’s usually better to highlight a core benefit of your business instead of a descriptive feature.
Accordingly, you can revise the statement a bit to read like this: We help [customers] do/achieve/other verb [ primary benefit).
Focusing like this helps you avoid “corporate speak” and drill down to the real purpose of the business as it relates to your customers. Here are a few examples:
If you have a dog-walking service, the feature is “I walk dogs.” The benefit is “I help busy owners feel at ease about their dogs when they re not able to be with them.”
If you sell knitted hat patterns, the benefit is something like “I help people be creative by making a hat for themselves or someone close to them.”
If you make custom wedding stationery, you might say, I help couples feel special about their big day by providing them with amazing invitations.”
How about you? What is the 140-character (or less) mission statement of your business idea?