100 Dollar Startup: Summary & Review

The 100 dollar Startup

The $100 Startup is about building a fulfilling life of freedom and meaningful work by doing what you love.
It’s mostly about solopreneurship, but there are plenty of examples of solopreneurs who grew to hire small teams.

Was it good?
Yes, I absolutely loved it.

Bullet Summary

  • The pursuit of freedom starts by finding a way to provide value to others
  • It’s possible, and possibly easier than you think, to build a business
  • People want the fish, not to learn how to cook. And don’t sell features but benefits: people buy emotionally

Full Summary

Chris Guillebeau prefaces The $100 Startup saying that in this blueprint for freedom, you won’t find “secrets”, shortcuts, gimmicks or visualization exercises. 

If you think you can visualize money and manifest them, put the book down, he says, because this is about practical things you can do to work your way to freedom.

He spoke to my heart, and I was sold.

Exchange Freedom for Value

To get freedom, you must give something of value. Chris Guillebeau defines “value” as:

You create value when you do something useful and share it to the world 

The Formula of Effective Solopreneurship

The mantra of “follow your passion” is also half true.
Yes, your passion matters, but if nobody wants to buy what you’re passionate of producing, then you can’t make a living out of it.

The formula of effective solopreneurship is this:

  • Passion & skill + usefulness = success

Nomadic is Great, But Focus on Work

Guillebeau says:

Some of the failures relate to unrealistic expectations. Some people want the sun and fun, or the 300 dollars a day, without the work.

Part of the allure of working from anywhere, many aspiring entrepreneurs focus much more on the “anywhere” part than on the “work” part.
Since the “work” part is what sustains everything, it’s best to focus on it since the beginning. 

I couldn’t agree more with Chris Guillebeau here. 
If you go to the most popular world centers of “digital nomads”, most people aren’t making a dime on their digital businesses.

And I also loved what he says next:

After all, the best thing about location independence is possibitliy. The fact that you can head off to Argentin or Thailand on a whim doesn’t necessarily mean that you actually will.

Possibility is indeed the most beautiful thing of location independence.

One Page Business Plan

Planning is important, but action tramps plan and most people spend way too much time on drafting a business plan.

The author instead invites in drafting your business idea or mission statement within 140 characters.
To simplify, think of your service and the group of people who will pay for it: put it together, and you have a mission statement.

Fire Your Worst Customers

Guillebeau says that a guarantee sometimes is not enough because it doesn’t pay back the time wasted.
So he proposes to give a 110% price back guarantee, which is an idea similar to what Tim Ferris proposes in The 4 Hour Work Week.

The author also quotes Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness. Tony says that most people are honest, but there are a few who might try to take advantage of your guarantee.
You should stop immediately doing business with them.

Alternatively, you might try offering no guarantee at all and making it a big deal about it.
You will have fewer customers but more committed ones (and no complaint). 

The 100 dollar Startup

Real Life Applications

  • If you go for consultancy, pick a specific niche!

Avoid “life coach” or “business coach”. Find a niche you can be an expert on and make sure your customers know what they can expect when they hire you.

  • Think in terms of shared beliefs and values

I love how the author doesn’t recommend the usual marketing approach of segmenting your market by the old age/gender/location splits, but instead to think of your core market in terms of shared beliefs and values.

  • Focus on Bottom Line

There are hundreds of vanity metrics and thousands of things you can do about your work and website that do NOT impact your bottom line.
Remember to act more in accordance with your ultimate goal: building a viable business.

Spend only on what has a direct relation to sales and income.

A board of director would never accept as “results” the number of likes on a post.
And neither should you :).

  • Share yourself, not others

Talking about others will make you disappear.
Find a way to share your unique voice and opinion instead.

  • Only scale if you really want to 

Don’t feel forced to “scale”. Once you reach a good income, staying small might be the best way to maximize your life quality.

  • Work on making the business independent

The author touches on the concept of working “on” the business instead of “in” the business. 
This is an idea from The E-Myth Revisited, based on taking time off from the business to think and devise systems and processes to make the business independent from yourself.


  • Some generic advice

“The 100 Dollar Startup” looks at many kind of different business, so some of the advice is necessarily vague and generic and might not be helpful to actually start a business in a specific vertical.

For example, the author says:

  1. Choose a product or service
  2. Build a website (consider WordPress)
  3. Offer your product / service
  4. Choose a payment method (consider PayPal)
  5. Advertise / share your work

That’s true but it’s so general to the point of not being useful.
Or he mentions how to launch a product, but if you’re at that stage, you’re probably better off with some specific -like Launch by Jeff Walker-.


  • Great mix of advice and case stories

I loved the idea of mixing solid advice with working success stories.

  • Emotional mission statement examples

I really loved the example on mission statements translated into “emotional” versions.
Some of the were very good and it helped me a lot to overcome my innate distaste for “dry business statements”.
And it helped me in my own business.


I reached out to the author through HARO when he was looking for side hustle examples and this website was still a side hustle (but I never heard from him :).

I see some parallels with Tim Ferris’ work here, but The 100 Dollars Startup is no knock-off. 
It’s a good book with powerful case studies and solid advice.

I really enjoyed and can highly recommend to every buddying solopreneur out there.

Check the best books collection or get the book on Amazon

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