Very concise book review of the book “Before you startup” (5 minutes reviews of Indian startup books- a series)

Book title: Before You Start Up: How to Prepare to Make Your Startup Dream a Reality

Written by: Pankaj Goyal

Pages: 200 (paperback), Printed in 2017

Languages: English and Hindi

The Gut Punch (USP of this book):

You are dreaming of starting up, scaling up, success, millions of $ and marrying that dream girl after you’re successful, rich and settled, then mummy comes and splashes you with cold water, you wake up to the reality but at the same time you’re better prepared than you were before you slept last night.

This is the very crux of this book and it adds immense value, trust me on that!

Key concepts covered:

Start-up failures (big time/USP), Business idea generation and evaluation, choosing co-founder and your spousal relationship, exit from startup and what to look beyond 12 months

Read this book if….

We all have that senior who has aced the exam and knows the tricks, you consult him before exams, he scares you as hell but gives you pointers the day before the exams, you go give the exam and keep thinking yes usne yeh bola tha mje during the exam! You get scared but come out better prepared!

This is that book for your start up dreams!

The first half of the book will scare the daylights out of you, you might end up changing your plan or shelving it altogether if you read with open mind and honestly, but if you’re still standing there, still willing to pursue your startup dream, you’ll have better questions to ask yourself and countless others (since during the journey- others are going to ask anyway- starting with parents, your friends, that Sharmaji whose infamous ladka aces all the exams in life, has a beautiful wife and is always better than you in all regards!, your clients, your boss when you quit the job to startup and the dreaded VC/ Investors!!), reading this book- you’ll be asked these questions when your life, time and relationships are not yet at stakes (hopefully)! It’s not just less than 200 very readable pages, it’s the thinking that results after reading them, will deliver the value for time and money you spend for the book and its immense to say the least. Consider this book as your vaccine against potential startup failure and you’ll get the most off it.

Objective assessment of the book:

· Value for money: 10/10

· Cost: 150 t0 200 INR (PB), available on Kindle unlimited

· Length: 200 pages (PB)

· Time investment: Low ( can read in a single day/weekend easily 4 to 6 hours)

· Focus area in startup context: End-to end, practical and Indian

· Readability: High (10/10)

· Talks of real life experiences? : Yes (9/10)

· Teaches concept (s) in detailed with focus? : Introduces many relevant topics, not in detail

· Writing/ narration style: Very easy to read and understand, tough to face the realism it brings

· Would you want to read again and again?- Absolutely

· Practical in Indian context: Very relevant for Indian startups

· Concept heavy vs based on practical experiences/advises: Practical advises with introduction to concepts

· Prior startup specific knowledge/exp required?- No (anyone can read, everyone should read)

· Recommended for: Anyone who is interested in Indian start-ups or psychology of startups

What the readers are saying about this book?

Amazon (1443 reviews)- 4.3 stars out of 5

Goodreads (254 reviews)- 4.23 starts out of 5

Most common themes in these reviews:

  1. Reality of starting up and Difficulties of entrepreneurship

2. Too dark, depressing

3. Mind games and mindset prior to entrepreneurship- the psychological game of business

4. Easy quick read with dark pages

5. “Reality check”

6. Audience categorization: Instance ’18 years old’ ‘Friday night entrepreneurs’, and ‘1 year old entrepreneurs’

7. Message is real and hard hitting

8. Basic struggles to become an entrepreneur

9. Best suits the people who are obscure about their startup plan

10. A lot of pragmatic advice

10 Takeaway msgs/ concepts/areas of focus/Learning points from this book-

1- Starting up is never easy (you will know this in your bones in first half of the book!)

2- Stages of startup cycle and general challenges of starting up

3- Psychology of startups-inner game, mindset and psychological game of entrepreneurship

4- How to choose your co-founder, The rule of 2 and why it matters

5- How to know your ‘Why’ and what knowing your why would do for you in dark times (USP)

6- Equity based business vs cash based business and why it matters

7- How to generate and evaluate a business idea (Very good information)

8- Various roles in a typical startup and why

9- How to distribute ownership based on what a co-founder brings to the table (Equity Split)

10- The final checklist before starting up

In the author’s words (quotes from the book that capture spirit of this book):

1- “I want to start up. I have an idea. How should I go about it?” And each time my answer has been, “Are you sure? Do you even know what it means? How are you preparing for it?”

2- “As a founder, you will be the last one to be paid — after your employees, suppliers, investors — that is, if anything is left at the end.”

3- “Founders are said to sleep like babies — waking up crying every few hours!”

4- “Do you remember the world’s most successful man, “Sharma ji ka beta”? He haunted you in your school, college, job, and even your personal life. Once you decide to start up, he will be back, with a vengeance!”

5- “My biggest mistake as an entrepreneur was I did not know why I wanted to start up. The second was having the wrong co-founder.”

6- “Your “Why?” is the key to a positive state of mind when you are running the entrepreneurial marathon. It keeps you motivated on a day-to-day basis. Your “Why?” will help you stick to the fight when you are hit the hardest. Knowing your “Why?” will help you make the difficult decisions in your entrepreneurial journey. Your “Why?” will eventually serve as the motivation for your employees, providing a bigger purpose and goal for their work.”

7- “In the age of the Gold Rush, it was not the gold diggers, but the tool providers who made real money.”

8- “Hundreds of new “intentions” to start up are launched every Friday evening over drinks. Most of them fizzle out by Monday morning when the office routine strikes.”

9- “Also, being the founder or the CEO does not mean you will have no bosses. There are always bosses. In reality, you come last. Your employee can leave you and move to another company within a day. Your investors can scream at you for results. Your customers will make you wait for hours outside their offices. However, it is very important to note here that full independence is a myth.”

10- “If you are chasing money, go where it is. Cash is your best friend and your deadliest enemy. If the business runs out of cash, it is as good as dead.”

11- “Understand the competition. If your identified problem is real, chances are someone is already solving it. If you believe there is no competition, either you have not thought hard enough, or researched hard enough . . . or your problem statement is not real. As you identify the competition, you will also understand how crowded the market place is, and how can you win in that space.”

12- “The ultimate feedback is when you ask your customer to take out the wallet and pay for your product.”

13- “You can change everything in a startup later — the product, services, employees, or even the idea itself — but you cannot change the founding team.”

14- “The Rule of 2”: two skill sets core to its existence. It can be product development plus sales, subject matter experience plus sales, subject matter expertise plus operations, or any other combination. Keeping in mind the “Rule of 2”, which are the two skills without which you cannot even start your business? Between your co-founder and you, are you strong on those two skills?”

15- “A “fair” split of equity should be a composite of multiple factors: idea, work distribution, cash investment, time commitment, and in some cases, relevant experience.”

16- “Hiring is the #1 problem for most startups. You compete with well-funded startups, high paying banking jobs, high flying consulting jobs, and secure corporate jobs.”

17- “Don’t buy a Ferrari when you can get away with a Maruti. Don’t buy a Maruti, if you can get away with cabs. Don’t cab it if you can use public transport. No need for office space in expensive locations, expensive furniture, or expensive equipment. Avoid unnecessary pizza parties, picnics, and eating at upscale restaurants. Each small expense adds up.”

The bottom-line:

How to get the best out of this book: “Before you startup”

It’s a very readable, hard hitting book. You can finish even in one go (4 to 6 hours) or over a weekend. Be tough, brave and consider this book and questions it asks as the audit of your startup dreams and read again and again, across various stages of your startup journey! If you’re a total novice to Indian context of startups or startups as a whole, this book is an excellent starting point, your very first book on the subject!

About the author:

“Before you startup” is written by Mr. Pankaj Goyal, ex IIM-IIB student and ex-entrepreneur himself.

Author’s Goodreads page: Pankaj Goyal

Amazon.in Link for Before you startup (Hindi)

Amazon.in Link for Before you startup (English)

Goodreads for the book: Before you startup

Very important: a request from heart

I really want to know your kind opinion about this review: did you find the review useful? Was it worth your time? Did it add value? Did this review make you want to read the book? What would you have done better to make this review better?

I want your honest opinions, please add your comments below or reach out to me in LinkedIn/medium msgs with your feedback :)

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