|Publisher: Piatkus (Paperback)|
Originally Published: 2021
Author: Sahil Lavingia
I started following Sahil Lavingia on Twitter sometime in early 2021. He is the founder of Gumroad – a buzzing e-commerce platform for creators – and has helmed it since 2011.
I must say I was impressed with the depth of his intellect; his tweets really left an indelible impression on me so much so that I posted a whole lot of them on my Pinterest. But, I digress.
His debut book The Minimalist Entrepreneur encapsulates the essence of his struggles and triumphs over the last decade and crystallizes his insights into a novel approach to building and operating a startup.
Who is a minimalist entrepreneur?
It’s a known fact that most VC-led startups sacrifice profitability for scale. More than 70% don’t survive despite the backing of both the money and the wisdom of the VCs. A minimalist business, on the other hand, presents a fresh departure from the crash-and-burn of the VC-fueled startup world. It’s a slow burn.
A minimalist entrepreneur adheres to the philosophy of minimalism and builds a profitable business without spending truckloads of money. When you don’t have the VC money to fall back on, your only option is to run a tight ship. This principle lies at the heart of minimalist entrepreneurship.
Here’s Sahil on building a minimalist business:
What does the book intend to achieve?
There is no dearth of books related to Entrepreneurship. A simple search on Amazon.com throws up a list of 80,000 titles with the keyword entrepreneurship mentioned in it. Sahil’s book is a nifty addition to this ever-growing list and happens to be a departure from the fizzy world of blitzscaling and growth hacking.
The Minimalist Entrepreneur, essentially, imparts the dos and don’ts of building a no-frills, profitable business. Sahil’s emphasis on being profitable from day one may sound counterintuitive to many since it runs counter to the growth-at-all-costs narrative that we are so used to.
Who is this book meant for?
This book can galvanize many fence-sitters and wantrepreneurs who tend to think of a startup in terms of scale. Scaling a startup is a legitimate challenge. And, this challenge alone deters many an entrepreneur before they even start. Here’s some motivation from Sahil:
Sahil stresses that a small yet profitable startup focused on solving the problems of a particular community is as good as any. He states that once you learn how to sustain your venture’s profitability, you can steer it whichever way you want.
Being a minimalist entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you are anti-scale. It only means that you want to lay robust foundations for your business. And, once you think your startup has reached a particular stage in its lifecycle, you can look for funding avenues.
Take Gumroad’s example. In March 2021, Sahil raised $5 million for his business via crowdfunding. An incredible feat in its own right. It’s a template that many minimalist businesses could follow in the near future.
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.
Sahil Lavingia, like I mentioned in the start, is an inspirational figure and his tweets reflect the profundity of his mind. This book of his is a valuable resource for anyone looking for ideas on how to bootsrap a business and build it into a profitable entity.
The Minimalist Entrepreneur also steers clear of highfalutin style taken by several authors in the entrepreneurship genre. It keeps things simple. The lessons are laid out in plain, conversational English. So, yes, this book is undeniably well-written.
That said, there are some loose ends to the book, too. Unfortunately, The Minimalist Entrepreneur succumbs to some of the usual pitfalls. It is tad too long, in my opinion, with 216 pages, i.e. if you don’t include the bibliography. I felt it could have been wrapped up in 150 odd pages. I found the content in Sales and Marketing chapters a little generic.
Overall, the content lacks the fizzy depths of Sahil’s tweets. Don’t get me wrong, it has a number of striking lines and assertions. The trouble is that while many of these bits and pieces are often fascinating, they never quite pull together into a truly satisfying narrative.
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