The $100 Startup – Review

The $100 Startup is a book about starting a business on low capital, through observing ‘crucial insights’ into 50 different businesses. It’s written by Chris Guillebeu, who fell into entrepreneurship simply because he ‘didn’t want to work for someone else’ and is now successful enough to try and visit every country in the world. If you want to buy the book, check it out here:

I haven’t read many books on startups, and have been warned by many entrepreneurs to generally stay away from them. However, I was sent this book for free, and since it’s a bestseller, I figured it was worth my time to read. The fact that it was sent to me by an entrepreneurship programme I was applying for also helped encourage me to read it.

The book offers advice on getting an idea, to what to do with your up-and-running business and everything in between. It makes use of 50 different case studies, all of which fulfill the following conditions:

  • Startup capital of $1000 or less (misleading title and blurb, though he did take a particular interest in $100 or less)
  • At least $50,000 income a year
  • Must have fewer than 5 employees.

When I read the blurb, I thought the book had much potential, I was going to see exactly how 50 different ordinary people had managed to come to make a living by doing something they love. However, this is where the book disappoints. It hardly goes into any of the case studies; he brings up each business conveniently to back up his points. He doesn’t really talk about what exactly these people did right to make their business a success.

The advice is useful (apart from the sections about getting an idea) though largely fairly basic and common sense. Although this isn’t a problem in itself, I feel like the advice would be much more concrete had he explored them more thoroughly through the case studies. I think it’s a real shame since he’s put so much time and effort into finding and profiling so many startups, but haven’t presented them in a useful and meaningful manner.

Having said all that, I’m not saying that I didn’t learn anything, and the book wasn’t a waste of time. In particular, I found the section on ‘Tweaking your way to the bank’ interesting, where it talks about how making small changes can do big things to your profit margins. Furthermore, although the stories don’t go as deeply as I would have like, I did find reading about them quite inspiring. It’s the kind of book that you put down and think ‘I’m going to start a $100 startup’, only the ideas section wasn’t that useful, so you don’t really know what business you’re going to start…

Amazon gives the book 4.5 stars out of 5. I’m less generous, and will give it 2.5 stars. Despite the harsh review, I’d say that if you’re completely new to entrepreneurship, then perhaps it’s still a good starting point.