Review: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

The Art of the Start

Guy Kawasaki and I have had our paths cross many times as entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and at Apple before that, so it’s been great fun watching him translate the lessons he learned as the high-profile evangelist at Apple Computer (think a pre-blogging version of Microsoft’s Robert Scoble and you’d have an idea of what Guy was doing to help the Macintosh change the world) into his successful Garage Technology Ventures (formerly known as “Garage.com”), an early stage startup incubator.
Much of the very best of his thinking and expertise in identifying the essence of what makes a startup business succeed has been captured in The Art of the Start, a succinct, engaging, and amusing handbook that I recommend to all entrepreneurs, whether you’re still in the proverbial garage, or whether you’re trying to produce a revolution within a larger organization.


I think the most important thing about The Art of the Start is that it’s not just for people starting up a business, but rather for everyone who is starting in a new direction. The chapters illuminate my point: they’re all The Art of something, and that “something” is, in order:

  • Starting
  • Positioning
  • Pitching
  • Writing a Business Plan
  • Bootstrapping
  • Recruiting
  • Raising Capital
  • Partnering
  • Branding
  • Rainmaking
  • Being a Mensch

If there’s not something in that list for your business — or two or three — then I fear you either aren’t actually in business, or aren’t going to be for very long.
One of the longest chapters in the book is The Art of Raising Capital, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise given Guy’s role at Garage Technology Ventures. In that chapter, as with all chapters, it starts out with what I’ll call an executive summary and what he calls the GIST of the chapter. For this one, the gist is:
“This chapter explains the process of raising capital from outside investors. These investors may be venture capitalists, management, foundations, government entities, or any of the three Fs: friends, fools and family.
“My experience is with the Silicon Valley venture capital industry, a group from which you may never try to get an investment. However, if you can raise capital from a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, you can raise capital from anyone. As the Frank Sinatra song goes, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
“Skillful pitching, which we covered earlier, is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of raising capital. More important are the realities of your organization: Are you building something meaningful, long-lasting and valuable to society?”
A fun tip too: when you get a chance to look at this book (even in a bookstore) make sure you carefully pull off the dust jacket and look inside: there are seventy alternative book covers from a competition Guy held at iStockPhoto.com. My favorites include those from Ashley Kennedy, Justin Yoshimura and Erin Lewis.
Having traveled much of the same journey as Guy (even to us both having three kids), a lot of what he talks about in this book is what I talk about here on my Weblog too (and in the business section of Ask Dave Taylor), but it’s constantly surprising to me how few entrepreneurs really understand the world of startups and all the dimensions of what makes a good idea into a really great, growing business. If you need some smart, savvy, and witty advice, then you can’t go wrong with this eminently readable and enjoyable book.
Fair disclosure: I like Guy Kawasaki’s vision of entrepreneurship so much that I asked him to write the foreword for my latest book, Growing Your Business With Google, and he generously assented. So yes, there’s an ostensible conflict of interest with me reviewing his book, but on the other hand, as an evangelist myself, who would you rather have recommending a book than someone who has already long-since recognized both the genius of the book and the tremendous insight of the writer?

2 comments on “Review: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

  1. I’ve read the book and I’d highly reccommend it too. I wish I had bought it when I starting my ADD Coaching business, it would have saved me a lot of time and effort. It’s extremely useful and practical.
    I also like how he talks about business as something more than a way to accumulate wealth.
    The book not only has valuable content but is extremely well written, Guy has the talent to condense the maximimum amount of information with the minimum amount of words.
    It would be worthwhile to buy the book just to learn from his writing and editing techniques.

  2. Thanks, one of my board members recommended I view this.
    Have a start up for new array antenna (first launch of array technology for small consumer wireless products–mobile phones, DECT’s, PDA’s etc.). Disruptive and patent controlled in major global markets.
    It reshapes radiated signal/energy away from the head and creates better coverage, less power loss to the head/hand, greater distance, less dropped calls, longer battery usage, etc. The array naturally creates a figure ?8? radiating pattern instead of the circular one.
    Biggest barrier is it’s size but we know 5% of the user markets care more about performance than size but 5% is too small for the big boys to act. However, 5% is at least 100m annual revenue or more.
    Big boys are also a bit nervous about it since it points out how much more performance one can get from their mobile phone in distance, clarity, less energy to the head, etc.
    Lined up with UK Gov last year who bought into us from our Silicon Valley location (we only needed a small million to position ourselves here in Scotland now). We?re now the darling going after local money.
    The EU sales opportunities tend to adopt new technology quicker than US’s.
    However, now need to move to mezzanine round of 2 million and we’re stuck between being too small for big guys and too big for small guys.
    We’ve worked some great strategic partners globally with big global players but time is of the essence and relations take time.
    Since this is so innovative, it looks too simple until the big/smart guys try to duplicate, then deep in the bowels of the tech departments, the PhD’s take an an NIH position and prolong us. Our PhD is smarter than their PhD which ends in clash of the titans.
    We’ve got an entry plan to sell to compelling markets (hearing aid users have RF interference using mobile phones) as an accessory so we can become independent for a while until the product becomes an embedded antenna.
    The customers, distributors and some carriers around the world are crying out ?get us product? but we are early phase Mezzanine.
    Any suggestions or help?

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