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You don’t have to be great to startbut you have to start to be great– Zig Ziglar

I first read the Art of the Start 1.0 by Guy Kawasaki around 2008 and it left a great impression on me. The Art of the Start 2.0 is the revised version which according to Guy is 64 percent longer than the original Art of the Start. The Book is one of my all time favourite book on Entrepreneurship as it distill insights and practical advice on Entrepreneurship, Fund Raising, Boot Strapping, Pitching, Social Media and many other topics.

Here are my Favourite Take Aways from Reading: Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything.

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.—Reid Hoffman

  • The first version of a product is always flawed, but how it evolves is as important as how it begins. The fortunate startups are the ones who are still around because they eventually got the product and business model right, so give yourself a break.
  • Entrepreneurship is at its best when it alters the future, and it alters the future when it jumps curves.

Many years ago Rudyard Kipling gave an address at McGill University in Montreal. He said one striking thing which deserves to be remembered. Warning the students against an over-concern for money, or position, or glory, he said: “Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.—Halford E. Luccock

Entrepreneurs Start by asking great Questions:

GIST (Great Ideas for Starting Things)

THEREFORE, WHAT?
This question arises when you spot or predict a trend and wonder about its consequences. It works like this: “Everyone will have a smartphone with a camera and Internet access.” Therefore, what? “They will be able to take pictures and share them.” Therefore, what? We should create an app that lets people upload their photos, rate the photos of others, and post comments.” And, voila, there’s Instagram.

ISN’T THIS INTERESTING?
Intellectual curiosity and accidental discovery power this method. Spencer Silver was trying to make glue but created a substance that barely holds paper together. This oddity led to Post-it NotesRay Kroc was an appliance salesman who noticed that a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere ordered eight mixers. He visited the restaurant out of curiosity, and it impressed him with its success. He pitched the idea of similar restaurants to Dick and Mac McDonald, and the rest is history

  • IS THERE A BETTER WAY?
  • WHY DOESN’T OUR COMPANY DO THIS?
  • IT’S POSSIBLE, SO WHY DON’T WE MAKE IT?
  • WHERE IS THE MARKET LEADER WEAK?

Weave a MATT (Milestones, Assumptions, Tests, Tasks)

To stay in control, you need to weave a MATT, which stands for milestones, assumptions, tests, and tasks.

MILESTONES
Accomplishing a large number of goals is a necessary objective for every startup. However, some goals stand above the others because they mark significant progress along the road to success. The five most important milestones are:

  • Working prototype
  • Initial capital
  • Field-testable version
  • Paying customer
  • Cash-flow breakeven

ASSUMPTIONS
This is a list of the typical major assumptions that you might make about your business:

Market size, Gross margin, Sales calls per salesperson, Cost of customer acquisition, Conversion rate of prospects to customers, Length of sales cycle, Length of sales cycle, Return on investment for the customer, Technical support calls per unit shipped, Payment cycle for receivables and payables.

TESTS
You can come up with a solid list of assumptions, but everything is theoretical until you start testing them:

  • Does the customer-acquisition cost permit profitable operation?
  • Will people use your product?
  • Can you afford to support them?
  • Can the product withstand real-world use?”

TASKS.
Finally, there are tasks that are necessary to reach milestones and test assumptions. Any activities that don’t contribute to achieving them are not crucial and are low priority. Essential tasks include:

  • Recruiting employees
  • Finding vendors
  • Setting up accounting and payroll systems
  • Filing legal documents

Pursue a Parallel Existence
Fund-raising, and entrepreneurship in general, is a parallel process. For example, you may be promoting a crowdfunding project while you are meeting angel investors and venture capitalists while you’re asking your friends and family for loans. And this is only one aspect of your parallel existence because you’re also building a prototype, pursuing customers, forming partnerships, and recruiting and training employees. Get used to it. This is the lifestyle you’ve picked.

On Finding a Co-Founder:

  • DO NOT RUSH.
  • DO NOT ADD FOUNDERS TO ENHANCE FUNDABILITY.
  • ASSUME THE BEST, BUT PLAN FOR THE WORST.

On Team Building

MATCH THE PERSON AND THE POSITION.

Beware of the false positive: hiring a likeable person who is incompetent. And beware of the false negative: rejecting a less likeable person who is competent. For example, the best engineers aren’t necessarily charismatic, and people who are charismatic aren’t necessarily the best engineers.”

Jumping Curves

Entrepreneurship is at its best when it alters the future, and it alters the future when it jumps curves:

  • Typewriter to daisywheel printer to laser printer to 3D printer
  • Telegraph to telephone to mobile phone to smartphone
  • Cassette player to Walkman to iPod

DICEE (Deep,Intelligent,Complete,Empowering,Elegant)

A tactical framework is helpful to jump curves. IDICEE for this purpose. It answers the fundamental question: What are the qualities of curve-jumping products?

DEEP
Curve-jumping products provide features and functionality that customers might not appreciate or realize at first.

INTELLIGENT
A curve-jumping product shows people that the company who created it understood their pain or problem.

COMPLETE
Curve-jumping products are not isolated gizmos, online downloads, or web services. They include presales and after-sales support, documentation, enhancements, and complementary products.

EMPOWERING
Curve-jumping products make people better by increasing their productivity and creativity.

ELEGANT
Elegance is the combination of power and simplicity. Elegance is what is not there, not what is. It cuts through the noise, captures our attention, and engages our hearts.

Worry About Adoption, Not Scaling

In the early days of starting up, the ability to scale is overrated. “Scale,” in case you haven’t heard the term, refers to the concept that there are processes in place that are fast, cheap, and repeatable because there will soon be millions of customers who generate billions of dollars of revenue.

Phases of Business Cycles:  microscopes and telescopes.

  • In the microscope phase, there’s a cry for levelheaded thinking, returning to fundamentals, and focusing on short-term financial results. Experts magnify details, line items, and expenditures, and then demand forecasts, market research, and competitive analysis.
  • In the telescope phase, entrepreneurs bring the future closer. They dream up the next big thing, change the world, and make late adopters eat their dust. Money is wasted, but some crazy ideas stick, and the world moves forward.

When telescopes work, everyone is an astronomer, and the world is full of stars. When telescopes don’t work, people whip out microscopes, and the world is full of flaws. The reality is that entrepreneurs need both microscopes and telescopes to achieve success.

The Entrepreneurial journey is a roller coaster ride with its twists and turns. It is a very gratifying experience especially when you eventually get your momentum, the ups and downs come with its rewards. The key is for you to start as you do not need to be great to start but you have to start to be great.

All the Best in your quest to get better: Don’t Settle: Live with Passion. #100BooksChallenge #PersonalMBA

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