The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything Summary

{original squeezed contributor: davidw. Additional contributions by ilenia, yoavshapira}


This book is brief and has a very low level of fluff.

  1. The best reason to start a company (or non profit, for that matter) is to “make meaning” - making the world a better place - by doing something along these lines:

    • Increase the quality of life.
    • Right a wrong.
    • Prevent the end of something good.
  2. Make a mantra. Not a mission statement! A mantra is not a tag line, it’s for you and your employees, not customers. An example is Nike’s “authentic athletic performance”.

  3. Get going! Planning isn’t bad as far as those things go, but you will be more successful if you start doing. It’s difficult to start, but get out there and start writing, developing software, or whatever it is that you want to do.

    • Aim for something big - you won’t change the world by being ‘medium’.
    • It takes a team to make something work - find some other people to work with.
    • “Polarize people” - don’t aim for the middle of the road - create something people either love, or hate.
  4. Define a business model. Think about how you are going to get money for doing what you do. Think in specific terms, and keep it simple (ten words or less). Consider copying someone - innovate with your product, not your business model.

  5. MAT - Milestones, Assumptions, Tasks. All startups must face these seven milestones:

    • Prove your concept
    • Complete your design specifications
    • Create a prototype
    • Finance yourself (raising capital or some other means)
    • Ship a beta
    • Ship the real thing
    • Break even in terms of money Write down a list of assumptions that you are making about the business, and keep track of them. See if they’re true or whether things need correcting.

    Tasks are the actual things that need doing from day to day to make the milestones happen.

  6. Niche - high and to the right.

  7. 10/20/30 rule for presentations: 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font

    • No matter how smart you think you are, or how good your idea, stick to the 10/20/30 guidelines
    • If you think that’s not enough slides, you can prepare backup slides, but don’t go into them unless the audience specifically requests further information in a particular area
    • The 30 point font rule is especially important for people who try to work around the 10-slide rule by cramming a lot of information into each slide
  8. Hire “infected” people who love your product.

    • Hire better than yourself, because if you hire people that aren’t, they will in turn hire people worse than them, and so on. This is called a “bozo explosion”
    • People who are good in big organizations may not necessarily be the best for new organizations.
  9. Lower barriers to adoption.

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

    • “Let a 100 flowers bloom” - if people don’t use it quite like you thought, that’s ok, go with the flow!
    • Let people test drive your product.
    • Find the influencers.
  11. Don’t let the bozos grind you down.

Also, remember to play your part in society. Treat others well, and do right by them.


Video of Guy presenting the concepts in the book:

Recommended Resources

For a more in-depth, comprehensive summary of The Art of the Start, check out

Comments (2)

Said this on 2-4-2012 At 01:35 pm

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. As the summary above notes, this book has absolutely no fluff, just good stuff. Do yourself a favor and go buy a copy.

Said this on 2-4-2012 At 01:36 pm

I agree. This book is one of the great ones. His blog is a must too.

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