Skip to main content
  1. Posts/

The Minimalist Entrepreneur

6 mins
book summary startup
Shawn L
Builds stuff minimally
Table of Contents

Minimalist entrepreneur makes a difference while making a living.

Don’t ask “How can I help?” Instead be observant and cultivate authentic relationships.

Don’t spend time convincing people. 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. Selling this way is a long game built on relationships and vulnerability, not a one-day grand opening extravaganza followed by selling to strangers.

Don’t hide vulnerability. Share your story from struggle to success.

Minimalist entrepreneur mindset leads to a near-100-percent success rate over the course of many experiments.

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.

Businesses with slow customer feedback are not suitable here, e.g:

  • high R&D
  • targeting bureaucratic companies like academia and hospital
  • targeting Fortune 100 companies

You don’t learn, then start. You start, then learn.

Start with Community

Focus on community that you know well.

The best communities are made up of individuals who might be dissimilar but have shared interests, values, and abilities.

You don’t have to bring your whole self to every community you join, but you do have to bring a slice of yourself.

To find a community

Ask yourself:

  • 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?

The right community is the one where you can and want to:

  • create long-term value
  • build relationships for decades to come
  • carve a unique, authentic voice

Join communities, not networks.

1 percent create, 9 percent contribute, and 90 percent consume. If you contribute, you will have ten times the presence of someone who doesn’t.

Work in public.

Teach everything you know.

Create every day.

The best way to win is to be the only. And the best way to be the only is to pick a group that is Goldilocks size.

Get involved in the community. Contribute, teach, and, most important, listen.

Picking the right problem to solve

Focus on what job the customer needs to accomplish. McDonald’s milkshake was created to accompany lonely drivers.


  • place
  • form
  • time
  • possession

What can you make easier to understand, faster to get, cheaper to buy, or more accessible to others?

Building the right solution

  • Will I love it?
  • Will it be monetizable?
  • Can it grow organically?
  • Can I build it?

Build as Little as Possible

Start with pen and paper. Start manual.

Focus on your first customers, using your time and your expertise to solve real problems for real people.

Start manual or freelance. Then proccessize.

“Want to find a good SaaS idea? Start a business, literally any business. You will soon realize how bad every existing tool is that you have to pay for to run that business, and you will quickly become overwhelmed by the number of things you feel you need to build yourself.” - Adam Wathan of Tailwind UI.

When you are validating a hypothesis, do not ask leading questions—questions that point people to the answer you want to hear. Instead, think about creating the kind of feedback loop that author and tech entrepreneur Rob Fitzpatrick writes about in The Mom Test.

Don’t ask “Would you pay for my product?”

Instead ask “Why haven’t you been able to fix this already?”

Four questions to ask before you start building:

  1. Can I ship it in a weekend?
  2. Is it making my customers lives a little better?
  3. Is a customer willing to pay me for it?
  4. Can I get feedback quickly?

Everything that a software engineer can do today, everyone can do tomorrow. It means you need to know less to do more.

You will be wrong a lot; the goal is to get less wrong as quickly as you can.

Sell to Your First Hundred Customers

Skip launches until you have repeat paying customers. Than launch to thank them.

Focus on the slow and steady journey of selling to your first hundred customers.

“Viral success” is a myth, pure and simple. There is no such thing.

Treat the sales process as an opportunity for discovery.

Turn every failed conversion into an insight and bug fix. Either you’re talking to the wrong person or you need a bug fix.

Don’t give away your product for free because people jump on free stuff even if they don’t want it.

  1. Make a list of everyone who has written or shared anything about a similar business. E.g. reporters and micro-influencers.
  2. Contact them all personally. Offer to walk them through your product, or meet them at your store, or give them a free meal.
  3. Ask for their personal, candid feedback. Do not ask for reviews, or a social media post, or for them to tell their friends. Your goal is to improve your product experience, and you should make it clear that you massively appreciate their support.

Never oversell. Be honest, open, and always kind. Show them how you most recently improved your product. Tell them a recent failing. Don’t sell them on your product, educate them on your journey and learnings.

In the early years of Gumroad, they scoured the web for people who could benefit from a product like Gumroad and then told them about it.

People are going to not write back and people are going to say no, but every now and then someone’s gonna be interested and say yes. And you wouldn’t have had that chance if you hadn’t gotten all the no’s first.

Manual sales will be 99 percent of your growth in the early days, and word of mouth will be 99 percent of your growth in the latter days.

SEO and content marketing is after you talked to 100 person.

You need far fewer customers than you think. When Slack IPO’d, 575 of their customers accounted for 40% of their revenue.

Focus on smaller, reliable customer. Don’t reach for the masses.

Staying hyper-tuned-in to my customers will be your guidance. Not sales. Not marketing. Customers, educating, and being educated.

Launch after you have a successful business. Spend your business’s profits, not your own money. Better yet, celebrate your customers’ success.

Once you have a hundred customers, some of them now repeat customers, selling your product better than you can, you’re ready to move on to the next chapter of your business: marketing.

Marketing by Being You

Sales got you to one hundred customers. Marketing will get you to thousands.

Marketing is not advertising. Ads cost money, and minimalist entrepreneurs only spend money when we absolutely have to.

Spend time instead of money. Blog posts are free. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Clubhouse are free too. Build an audience.

Selling forces you to leave your bubble and convince them one by one. Marketing is harder, because instead of going to your customers, you have to make them leave their bubbles and come to you.