The Minimalist Entrepreneur by Sahil Lavingia

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My Rating: 6/10
Published or Updated On: 
November 6, 2022

Big Picture Thoughts

This book feels like the missing component to the lean startup movement. Its heavy emphasis on community & helping real people is a welcome take, and seems more hands-on practical in today’s world.

The Main Ideas

Summary Notes

Put profitability first.

Minimalist entrepreneurs create businesses that are profitable at all costs.

Start with community.

Minimalist entrepreneurs build on a foundation of community. They don’t ask “How can I help?” but are instead observant and cultivate authentic relationships. They spend time and effort to learn and to build trust, focusing on the market part of “product-market fit”

Build as little as possible

When they do build, minimalist entrepreneurs build only what they need to, automating or outsourcing the rest. Similarly, minimalist businesses do one thing and do it well. They work side by side with their customers to iterate toward a solution, and make sure it’s worth paying for, before they take it to customers outside of their communities.

Sell to your first hundred customers

Minimalist entrepreneurs don’t spend time convincing people—they spend time educating people. Selling is a discovery process, and minimalist entrepreneurs use sales as an opportunity to talk to potential customers one by one about their products while simultaneously educating themselves about the problem they are trying to solve for them.

Market by being you

Speaking of vulnerability, minimalist entrepreneurs share their stories, from struggle to success. The best marketing shows the world who you—and your product—really are. Minimalist entrepreneurs understand that people care about other people,

Most people don’t start. Most people who start don’t continue. Most people who continue give up. Many winners are just the last ones standing. Don’t give up.

Note: Key

Creator First, Entrepreneur Second

On paper, it seems simple enough: Narrow down who your ideal customer is. Narrow until you can narrow no more. Define exactly what pain point you are solving for them, and how much they will pay you to solve it. Set a hard deadline and focus fully on building a solution, then charge for it. Repeat the process until you’ve found a product that works, then scale a business around it.

You don’t learn, then start. You start, then learn. Minimalist entrepreneurs focus on getting “profitable at all costs” instead of growing at all costs. A business is a way to solve problems for people you care about—and get paid for it. Become a creator first, an entrepreneur second.

That doesn’t mean you should run out and find a community to join just for the purpose of starting a business. It means that most businesses fail because they aren’t built with a particular group of people in mind.

If you’re reading this and wondering which communities you’re already a part of, ask yourself these questions:

If I talk, who listens? Where and with whom do I already spend my time, online and offline? In what situations am I most authentically myself? Who do I hang out with, even though I don’t really like them, but it’s worth it since we share something more important in common?

If you contribute, you will have ten times the presence of someone who doesn’t. And it will continue to grow from there.

Becoming a person who helps people precedes building a business that helps people. It’s not a coincidence.

Note: Theme

Minimalist entrepreneurs don’t have millions of dollars, nor do they want to manufacture problems for people. Instead, we believe that people already have enough problems, and that our role is to help them get rid of one. That is why it is so key to start with community. If you try to make something for everyone, you will likely end up making something that no one really wants or needs. Once you know the group of people you want to help, you will start to see their problems much more readily. There are more problems than businesses. You just have to find them.

Let me tell you a secret. Every founder, even the most successful ones, knows nothing at the beginning, and learns from there. This is about interests, not skills. Instead of focusing on the things you do not know, focus on the things you do.

set aside your concerns about funding and software, and focus on your first customers, using your time and your expertise to solve real problems for real people.

As you fulfill the first customer cycle, document each part of the process so that with every consecutive customer you have a playbook. This document will be the true MVP of your business. I’m not talking about the minimum viable product that we’re all trying to build and to launch. I’m talking about the manual valuable process that precedes it and will be the foundation for the business you’re trying to build.

Build Last

Even after you help your first few customers, you might not be totally sure how to solve the problem you have chosen to solve for your community, but one of the easiest ways to get started and to experiment is to freelance.

Selling your time does not scale nearly as well as other types of businesses but can generate positive cash flow much sooner, giving you the breathing room to think about what comes next.

If you make a false start, just go back, reset, and begin again. Nothing you’ve done or learned is ever wasted. A sustainable, growing business will take years to fully develop,

Every business starts by testing a hypothesis with real customers. And if you only have one customer, you can treat your startup like a white-glove service.

The goal of these meetings is to validate this hypothesis. It takes time to test and honest reflection to recognize when you are wrong. But it is better to be wrong now, when the stakes are low, than to be wrong after you have spent five years

When you are validating a hypothesis, do not ask leading questions—

For example, you shouldn’t ask: Would you pay for my product? Instead, ask: Why haven’t you been able to fix this already?

Another benefit of this approach: You can charge for it. If you are genuinely helping someone, you do not need to wait until you have a product to sell

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