By Giles Lury, executive chairman of The Value Engineers, a strategic brand consultancy and author of The Prisoner and The Penguin and 75 other modern marketing stories
When I read the premise of John Mullins’ book I was thrown. He states that the prototypical path that conventional wisdom holds as gospel today is:
- Step 1: Come up with an idea for a new venture
- Step 2: Write a business plan
- Step 3: Raise some venture capital
- Step 4: Get rich!
As a marketer, this was an anathema to me. I kept wondering where the customer was and how could this be “wisdom”. Then I realized it was obvious; I’m not an investor or entrepreneur and my perspective is different.
Mullins is, in fact, quick to point out it is a false gospel and most of the world’s fastest-growing companies did not start this way. He goes on to identify six groups of target readers: aspiring entrepreneurs, early stage entrepreneurs, angel investors, people running incubators, “3Fs: family, friends and fools”, often the backers of early start-ups, and innovators in big companies looking for the next big thing to buy. For angel investors, incubators and big company innovators, I think this is an enjoyable, informative book.
It identifies five approaches 21st century entrepreneurs have used to kick-start businesses, using customers’ funds to get going. He illustrates the approaches with case histories and anecdotes. I hadn’t heard the story of Michael Dell stashing computers he was working on behind the shower curtain in his roommate’s bathroom to hide his fledging business from his parents who thought he was focused on his pre-med major.
Each chapter draws lessons about the approaches and finishes with questions investors should ask of entrepreneurs following any of the five models. Some seem a little obvious, but they are a good checklist.
Aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs may benefit from the book, if they are not too busy launching their businesses; the 3Fs, being “family, friends or fools” may well ignore the advice and invest anyway.
The Customer-Funded Business: Start, Finance or Grow Your Company with Your Customers’ Cash