Former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki’s 10 steps to getting started in business

Starting a business is hard, so entrepreneurs need all the help they can get.

Guy Kawasaki knows a thing or two about getting started. He marketed the personal computer to the world as Apple’s chief evangelist in the ‘80s, sits of the board of the Wikimedia Foundation, and currently evangelises for Australian design company Canva.

Speaking at the Wired for Wonder conference in Sydney on Wednesday, the Silicon Valley marketing pioneer said the biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make is shipping too late.

“Many would-be entrepreneurs are obsessed with shipping something that’s perfect, and they take too long,” he told the audience at the National Institute for Dramatic Art.

“My experience is people ship things too late more often than they ship things too early. If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake by shipping early.”

He said the key to the fast start was to “do something that is probably cringe-worthy”.

“You’re going to look back and think, my god, how did we ever think we should ship what we shipped. It should embarrass you. When I look back at the first book I wrote, it embarrasses me.”

But if you’re in an organisation and have the “luxury of cringing about version one”, it means you probably did it right. “At least it means you are still alive,” Kawasaki said.

And if you’re wondering whether you have a great business model or idea, he’s got one tip: ask a woman. Men have a “fundamental genetic flaw: they want to kill things”.

“Whenever you ask a man, is it a good idea to start a YouTube killer, a PowerPoint killer, an Apple killer, a CommBank killer, every man always says yes,” he said. “Men cannot resist the temptation to try to kill things.”

Here are his 10 steps to master the Art of the Start:


“Great companies start with people asking very simple questions. When you look at Microsoft or Google or Apple, you might think that at the very start they had a grand vision of an operating system, applications, devices, gaming. You’d be surprised to learn that most of these companies start with very simple questions like, ‘Therefore, what?’

“This happens when you have a perspective, a vision, and you know in your heart that some day there will be lots of phones with cameras, and they will all be connected to the cloud — therefore, what? Therefore you start Flickr, or Snapchat, because when this vision comes true there will be so many ways to get pictures online there should be a service to tap into that.”


“Most people are familiar with the concept of a minimum viable product — viable meaning you can sell it for more than it cost to make — but I would like to add ‘valuable’. A product that, to use the words of Steve Jobs, dents the universe. The final ‘v’ is validating. It should validate your vision, your perspective, your hope for the world.

“Imagine if Apple announced it was going back into the printer business, let’s apply the test. Is it viable? Absolutely. People will buy an Apple-labelled laser printer, no problem Is it valuable. I would debate it’s not valuable. And is it validating? Does it say anything about Apple’s vision for the future? Not at all.”


“Find complementary soulmates. There are only really two necessary skills: somebody has to make it, and somebody has to sell it. Everything else is bullshit. If you’re an engineer, you need to find someone who can sell. If you’re a salesperson, you need to find someone who can make it. Steve Jobs needed Steve Wozniak, Steve Wozniak needed Steve Jobs.

“You need to be on the same page. If some of the founders are looking at it as a lifestyle company where they’ll come in and work part time, never work weekends, come in late, and maybe quickly flip it, while others are willing to dedicate their lives, to lash themselves to the company, if the company goes down they’ll go down with it — that’s not people who are on the same page.”


“Be specific. It’s not about saying, we’re a software company, that’s not specific enough. Neither is saying we’re an enterprise software company. You need to say, we’re an enterprise software company serving the biotech industry, specifically the application process for FDA approval. It should be so specific that you have the name or the title of the person who has your money in her pocket.

“That’s the definition of a business model. [But] keep it simple. There are many ways to innovate on products and services, it’s very difficult but very rewarding if you pull it off. Don’t open up a dual front trying to innovate on your business model. You’re making your life too hard. You want a business model where it costs you $1 and you sell it for $10.”


“Milestones, Assumptions, Tests and Tasks — that’s the pecking order. You need to test the assumptions of your business. The Silicon Valley pitch for Pets.com is, there are 300 million Americans, one in four owns a dog, that means 75 million dogs, each eating two cans of dog food per day, that’s 150 million cans of dog food. How hard would it be to make a website that gets a mere 1 per cent of that?

“One way of testing your assumptions is to do a bottom up analysis. Using all of our SEO magic, perhaps we can get 100,000 unique visitors to our site every month. Let’s say out of those, 1 per cent buy a case of 25 cans of dog food. That’s 25,000 cans of dog food — so we have a bit of a discrepancy. Bottom up we come up with 25,000 cans, the other way we come up with 45 million cans. Guess which side of this spectrum your results are likely to be?


“Many entrepreneurs stand up in front of an audience and say, ‘I’ve got a patent-pending curve-jumping paradigm-shifting enterprise-scalable product’, because they think everybody else stands up and says, ‘I have a piece of crap that’s slow, buggy, hard to use and cannot scale’. Ask yourself, is your competition saying the opposite of you?

“Make it personal. The founder of eBay tells a story that the reason he started eBay was because his wife wanted to sell her Pez dispenser collection. It’s total bullshit, but it’s a great story. And embrace the 10-20-30 rule of PowerPoint. This means you have to tell your story with 10 slides in 20 minutes using no font smaller than 30 points.”


“You need to ignore irrelevancy. Everyone knows when you hire people you look at education and work experience. If you find someone with perfect educational background and perfect work experience, but does not love the product, I would make the case that work experience and background are irrelevant.

“The other thing is to hire better than yourself. ‘A’ players hire ‘A+’ players, ‘B’ players hire ‘C’ players, ‘C’ players hire ‘D’ playerse. If you start hiring ‘B’ players, if you lower your standards, you’re going to be surrounded. This is called the bozo explosion.”


“Social media is the best thing that ever happened to entrepreneurs because now marketing is fast, free and ubiquitous. When I started you would have to pay $75,000 for a Wall Street Journal ad. That’s not true anymore.

“Embrace the NPR model. NPR is like the ABC, but is supported very little by the US government. They have to run fundraisers, pledge drives every once in a while. But NPR provides such great content that people don’t mind and are happy to contribute. That’s the test for social media.”


“That is to make it rain — the American colloquialism for sales. The key to that is to let 100 flowers blossom. You may think you know exactly what people should do with your product or service only to find out you were wrong, that unintended customers use your product in unintended ways. Celebrate, declare victory.

“Apple wanted to make Macintosh a spreadsheet, database and word processing machine. Guess what? Zero for three. It became a desktop publishing machine. We did not plan that. Aldus PageMaker was a gift from god, creative desktop publishing saved Apple. Throw stuff against the wall, see where it sticks, go up to the wall and paint the bullseye around it.”


“The dangerous clown is the successful clown. Imagine you were Steve Jobs and you met [DEC founder] Ken Olsen, and you told him your idea for a personal computer, and he shut you down by saying there’s no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.

“He was a great entrepreneur, but he could not embrace the personal computer. Because if you think about it, at the time [Steve Jobs] was starting Apple, who would be a better investor, mentor, director, than someone like Ken Olsen? This is dangerous bozo-sity.”

SOURCE: Chung, Frank. “Former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki’s 10 steps to getting started in business.”
News.com.au  27 Aug. 2015: Web 15 Sept. 2015.