Today, we are living in the dawn of startups, and entrepreneurship. Not only is the awareness regarding businesses increasing but more and more individuals are turning towards a side hustle that they feel passionate about. Fueling this entrepreneurial energy is the book “The Minimalist Entrepreneur: How Great Founders Do More with Less” by the Gumroad founder Sahil Lavingia. So let's dive right in to see what the book offers -
The Minimalist Entrepreneur - Book Review
Let’s begin with the most fundamental question of this book. Who is a Minimalist Entrepreneur?
The answer is “a minimalist entrepreneur is making a difference while making a living, focuses on profitability instead of growth and becomes the centerpiece of their companies story.”
The book focuses on blending the concepts of business and sustainability as the author explains the importance of minimal decisions. The author further explains how building a business is possible without venture capital and gives a simple step-by-step account of how it is done. The author expresses this relationship between business and sustainability as -
“Profitability means sustainability. Instead of treading water until a lifeboat comes along to save you—which is how many founders think about raising their next round of VC funding—it means building your own boat.”
About the Author
The book, “The Minimalist Entrepreneur: How Great Founders Do More with Less”, is written by an entrepreneur himself, Sahil Lavingia. Gumroad, which is a self-publishing digital marketplace platform to sell digital services such as books, memberships, courses and other digital services, was founded by him in 2011.
Apart from this book, he has also authored essays like “No Meetings, No Deadlines, No Full-Time Employees”, “Across the border”, “From Bubble to Bubble” and more.
In the book, Sahil Lavingia explains how he started Gumroad and had become a company of 23 full-time employees in 2015. Then he talks about how due to the lack of venture funding, the company was back to being a one-man company with only Sahil in it, in 2016.
Sahil Lavingia apart from being an author, an entrepreneur and a funder is also an artist who loves to paint and sketch. His work is also shared on his Twitter handle and his website.
Who is the book for?
The book is for the young and new entrepreneurs who are trying to find a direction to move into. The book gives a philosophy to young entrepreneurs and breaks down the myth that starting a business requires a large sum of capital. The author further explains the process of creating a business and expresses the importance of minimal decisions.
The book, “The Minimal Entrepreneur” is not for venture capitalists as it offers solutions about how not to use venture capital and still build a business.
The Glass Half Full -
The Minimalist Entrepreneur breaks down the nitty-gritty of starting a business. It is not only encouraging entrepreneurs to start without having to worry about having a huge capital but it is also giving hope that sustenance without venture capital is possible. Take Gumroad’s example. In March 2021, Sahil raised $5 million for his business via crowdfunding.
This book underlines a significant and oft-ignored tenet that taking venture capital is a choice, not a compulsion. An epic example, in this case, is that of ZOHO Corporation which was recently listed on NASDAQ and before that became a self-funded unicorn.
The practical side of the book is another merit that it holds. The author offers practical examples instead of theoretical knowledge. Especially the chapters 3, 4 and 5 include some crucial details about starting out and finding ideas.
The Glass Half Empty -
If you are someone who follows Sahil Lavingia on Twitter, you are probably aware of the wordplay he does around his tweets. He often expresses smart tips through very minimal words in his tweets. For example, one of his tweets read -
“Invest your money where the smartest people invest their time.”
But the book lacks his smart writing in some places. For example, the content in the Sales and Marketing chapter is quite generic. And the book overall feels like it's stretched and is a tad too long. Furthermore, the book, The Minimalist Entrepreneur, lacks the depth that Sahil usually offers in his tweets and other writing.
Secondly, the book caters to young founders and entrepreneurs but holds complex concepts of business that a person who is just starting may not understand right away. Therefore, you may find yourself, searching online for the meanings of words like “testing hypotheses”, funnels, MVPs, etc.
The exposure to new terms can also be seen as a good thing though it hinders the flow of a reader sometimes. And other books like “Start From Zero”, by Dane Maxwell, explain these basic concepts to the readers where the hindrance of the lack of knowledge is avoided. One may also try reading, Thinking Fast and Slow, for personal development. Another useful read for entrepreneurs can be “Getting Things Done” by David Allen.
The Note-Worthy Quotes -
Even though we have been discussing the quotes mentioned in the book throughout this book review, they deserve a section all for themselves. Lavingia has done an incredible job in getting these key learnings in one place for entrepreneurs. Here’s a list of the note-worthy quotes which deserve a mention -
“The world will tell you to go big or go home, but I say go small at the beginning. And the smallest you could possibly start is to build nothing at all. Instead of skipping straight to software, stick with pen and paper”
“People do not go from being strangers to being customers in one step. They go from being strangers to being vaguely aware of your existence to slowly over time becoming fans, and finally to being customers and then repeat customers who help you spread the word. Start with making fans.”
“…it’s a lot more difficult, emotional, and expensive to fix your culture than your code”
“Before you invite anyone over, you need to get your house in order. I’ve never seen a house party ends cleaner than when it started, and a company is a house party that never ends
“In the end, there isn’t much difference between a business-like Gumroad and a creator. It’s just semantics—one or more people using the tool of a business to make something new”
If you starting your business or have a start-up idea recently and are looking forward to getting tips and tricks of the trade from an experienced entrepreneur like Sahil Lavingia, then this is the book for you. Though I would recommend you to have a basic understanding of the business concepts first before you start the book.
Overall, the book is a good read. The text may feel long at times but holds a lot of potential to motivate young entrepreneurs in a self-sustainable direction. One should definitely give it a read to get rid of the stereotypes that revolve around business and get a whole new perspective about it.
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