World-Changing Books: The Art of the Start 2.0

The second in this series of reviews of books that are changing the world we live in… 

The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki (2015, Portfolio Penguin) 

The Art of the Start 2.0Who’s it by?

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, the online graphic design tool. He is on the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation and an executive fellow of the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley). He was also the chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, Enchantment, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, and eight other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

Who’s it for?

Primarily entrepreneurs, although quite honestly it’s invaluable for (as it says on the tin) anyone starting anything: intrapreneurs, small business owners, visionaries.

Entrepreneurship is about doing, not learning to do. If your attitude is “Cut the crap—let’s get going,” you’re reading the right book by the right author. – Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start 2.0

What’s the key message?

The old rules of starting a business don’t apply any more: forget business plans, advertising, systems and investors. Today you need meaning and identity, social media savvy, a willingness to build and learn, and a clear way of making money, and this – in detail – is how you do it.

How does it change the world?

What’s distinctive about Guy is the way he holds nothing back. His tone is practical, generous and warmly humorous, including anecdotes from a life on the front-line of startups. He combines his manifesto for entrepreneurship – ‘making meaning’ – with detailed, practical notes on how to implement every step along the way, right down to the font size to use for slides in your pitch presentation. Guy has said that his mission is to empower entrepreneurs: this book perhaps more than any other is how he’s working out that mission.

What’s interesting about it from a writer’s perspective?

  • This, as the title makes clear, is a second edition. It’s 64% longer than the original The Art of the Start, published in 2004, and is a masterclass in building on a successful book to leverage awareness and interest. New editions can be cynical exercises designed merely to prolong the revenue-generating life of a bit of intellectual property, but Guy over-delivers here with this extensive updating and expansion and has delighted fans of the original as well as winning new readers.
  • When he came to write the new edition, Guy involved fans of the existing edition from the start (see interview below). Not only did this help him produce a better book, it generated a massive audience of engaged, involved readers who felt they had a stake in the book – many of them credited in the acknowledgements – and who blogged and raved about it on his behalf right from the start.
  • The structure is simple and practical: the book is organized into sections based on the lifecycle of a startup (Conception, Activation, Proliferation, Obligation – this last a nod to the distinctive Kawasaki creed, giving back, doing the right thing, being generous), and within each section chapters deal with specific issues such as The Art of Pitching, The Art of Socializing (how to ‘do’ social media, not a guide to cocktail party etiquette). The consistency of the chapter titles’ format is reassuring, it feels like a well-thought-through model, but at the same time the quirkiness of some draws you in, invites questions: my favourite is The Art of Rainmaking. The power of the unexpected metaphor.
  • One of the most useful and distinctive elements of the book is the ‘FAQ’ section at the end of each chapter, which makes you feel almost as though you’re attending a masterclass: this emerged from the process of listening to feedback and helps the reader feel Guy is right down there with him/her in the trenches.
  • The only 10 slides you need in a pitchAlongside the book, Guy has produced a set of digital resources such as spreadsheets and business plan templates (despite the fact that he writes in the book these are no longer necessary…) and a slide deck with key points from the book – he increases discoverability, makes the reader feel they’re getting more value, and which also drives them to his website where they will discover other books they find they can’t live without. I particularly like the ‘Entrepreneurs Quotient Test’, nobody can resist a quiz, right?
  • There’s a nice quirky touch right at the end – just as film-makers sometimes reward those who sit through the credits in the cinema with one last comic moment, Guy has added an ‘After Afterword’, a funny wee self-deprecating story that leads into one last invaluable bit of content, The Top Ten Mistakes of Entrepreneurs. Just when you thought it was over, he gives you more. The man’s a genius.

Guy Kawasaki

More from Guy himself…

You took an unusually open and collaborative approach to revising The Art of the Start, posting an open form for feedback, engaging in LinkedIn, making the table of contents public for comments – very much walking the talk as you recommend this approach in your books. Can you tell me why you believe it’s so powerful, and what methods of collecting feedback you found most effective?
I made the outline available, took feedback, completed the outline, and wrote the book. When I was nearly done with the writing, I offered the entire Word file to anyone who wanted to provide feedback. When the book as done, I made the electronic version available through NetGalley. In other words, I covered the earth with the draft. Thousands of people had it in some form.
I did this because I am obsessive/compulsive. My goal is to ship a “perfect book” in terms of structure, content, and copyediting. You need a lot of eyeballs to come close to this impossible goal.

I love the way you created a suite of collateral around the book – a Slideshare presentation, spreadsheets and Word templates to download, videos of talks etc: what’s your advice for authors in thinking beyond the book? 

My concept here is to provide as many free touch points to the book. I wanted to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Advertising can’t move the needle. Only word of mouth can move the needle, so the task is to generate word of mouth.

Finally, you’re a prolific and original writer – how do you approach a new book? Do you consider you have an optimised process to follow, or do you consciously try out something new each time?

First, I get a big advance 🙂
I have a process: weeks creating an outline. Seek feedback. Write for months. Seek feedback from 10-20 people that I know. “Finish” the draft. Get it out through social media. Go through copyediting. Get the “final” copy out through NetGalley. I do this every time now.


Want the book? Buy it here!