The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

**This is the first in a series of “quick hit” reviews. Since I seem to be able to read books faster than I can post reviews, I figured I would post some short (500 words or less) reviews that give you a basic idea of the book’s content and merits but not much else.**

I know what you are thinking: “Why is Kevin reading a book on starting a business?” Well, for one, I have some entreprenurial ideas up my sleave believe it or not. And two, it sounded like and interesting book.

The book is The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. Despite my interest in starting a business, I am not neccesarily the best judge of a book on the suibject. I have almost no experience in the actual money making sector of the economy (with a history degree? Yes, shocking I know). So I can only judge the book by its clarity, readability, perceived usefullness, etc. Under those criteria I found it too be worthwhile. It is a concise, readable, and thought provoking look at the challenges of entreprenurialship.


Kawasaki keeps it simple with chapter titles like Causation, Articulation, and Activation. Each chapter is short and focused, with equally simple and clear subsections and a FAQ (Frequently Avoided Questions) section at the end. This is not a complex management text but a book intended to get your thought process juiced and on the right track.

The book flows out of the Five Most Important Things an Entreprenuer Most Accomplish:

1. Make Meaning
2. Make Mantra
3. Get Going
4. Define Your Business Model
5. Weave A Mat (Milestones, Assumptions, and Tasks)

The rest of the book uses similar lists, charts, and bullet points to communicate its message. You could read this book on your morning commute (provided you don’t drive of course) or on your lunch hour. Kawasaki hits the high points of each critical activity: intial organization, pitching your business, recruiting, raising capital, branding, etc. Along the way he points out various pitfalls while puncturing common myths and outlining how conventional wisdom can often lead you astray.

Kawasaki, managing director of an early-stage venture capital firm and a columnist for Forbes.com, keeps the tone light and is always quick with an anecdote. But you don’t get the sense he is just a motivational speaker; he has lived this stuff and speaks from experience. Very little in the book seemed revolutionary, but the insights and advice are valuable; especially when organized and communicated in such a accesable format. It is very easy to panic, lose your focus, or get off on the wrong trajectory when undergoing the stresses and strains of starting your own business. Kawasaki’s chief virtue is a relentless focus on what is important and what will work.

I would recommend The Art of the Start to anyone planning on starting their own business or have thought about doing so; or those with an interest in entrepreneurship. It is remarkably free of jargon, easy to read, and yet full of stimulating ideas on how to start a successfull business. When I do start my own business I have a feeling I will be returning to this helpful work.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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