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The Agile Startup: Quick and Dirty Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know

ISBN: 978-1-118-54826-4
368 pages
September 2013
The Agile Startup: Quick and Dirty Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know (1118548264) cover image


An inspiring and impactful compilation of the most important lessons of entrepreneurship

The tools of a digital age make it easier than ever to start a new business. And with billion-dollar IPOs and acquisitions making weekly headlines, the potential rewards are enormous. But even with all of the advantages and resources that today's entrepreneurs have access to, the likelihood of any one business succeeding is slim. That's why you need the simple, clear lessons found in The Agile Startup.

Engaging and informative, The Agile Startup doesn't offer step-by-step instructions on how to build a better mousetrap. Instead, it shows you how to build companies that continually adapt to the "real" world. Along the way, you'll discover you're not alone in your entrepreneurial endeavors, and that almost every challenge a startup can face has already been faced, and overcome, by someone in the past.

  • Contains lessons culled from decades of creating successful companies, which includes possessing a flexible mindset
  • Provides valuable insights, based on a market-driven philosophy, regarding launching and managing products, businesses, and brands
  • Written by two authors who have a combined sixty-plus years of startup experience and understand the reasons behind their successes and failures
  • A companion Website contains supplementary material that allows you to learn in a hands-on fashion long after closing the book

The journey of a startup is daunting. Think about everything that has to be overcome and you'll quickly see that the odds are stacked heavily against you. But with The Agile Startup as your guide, you'll learn exactly what it takes to succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavors.

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Table of Contents

Why You Should Read This Book xiii

The Entrepreneur’s Life Cycle xv



Rule #1 3

What’s Your Why? 4

You Are Wrong 7

Heaven . . . and Hell 8

You Get Only 15,000 Days 11

The Entrepreneurial Method 12

Focus on Problems, Not Solutions 15

Three Requirements for Success 16

Dreamers versus Doers 19

Get Out of the Building 20

Business Plans Are Worthless 23

Let Them Steal It 24

Embarrass Yourself 27

Fail Fast—and Often 28

Contain Risk as Early as Possible 31

First, Decide What Not To Do 32

Rules? What Rules? 35

FOCUS—Follow One Course Until Successful 36

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid 39

Get in over Your Head 40

There Is No Silver Bullet 43

It Ain’t a Problem ’Til It’s a Problem 44

Launch to Learn 47

Resourcefulness, Not Resources 48



Is it Feasible? 53

ASS Out of U and ME 54

Three Questions You Must Answer 57

Double Your Worst Case 58

Five Risk Factors 61

Product 1.0—A Brochure 62

Good Ideas, Bad Businesses 65

Wrong Questions → Wrong Answers 66

Vitamin, Painkiller, or Cure? 69

Create Massive Value 70

Why Won’t It Work? 73

Show Me the Money 74

Does It Pencil? 77

Play Dumb 78

Take a Haircut 81

If You Build It, Will They Come? 82

Buying Customers 85

CLV >= 2 × CAC 86

Cash Is More Important than Your Mother 89

Think Like a VC 90



Break It Down 95

Ride the Wave 96

Know Thy Market 99

WII.FM—Your Favorite Radio Station 100

Tell Me What Sucks 103

You Can’t Boil the Ocean 104

Reframe the Competition 107

Make a Competitive Matrix 108

Differentiate or Die 111

Competition Is a Good Thing 112

Follow the Leader 115

Fast Followers Finish First 116

10× Better 119

You Need a Moat 120

Zero Degrees of Separation 123



What’s Your Business Model? 127

The Best Source of Capital 128

How Do You Make Money? 131

Gross Profit Margins 132

Prefer Variable to Fixed 135

Go Bootstrap Yourself 136

The First Rule to Making Money 139

The First Dollar Is the Hardest 140

Bottoms Up 143

Build a (Bad) Financial Model 144

How Much Runway? 147

Know Your Do-or-Die Numbers 148



Luck Is Not a Plan 153

What’s Your Positioning? 154

Hold the Presses 157

Old Meets New 158

Sell Wants, but Deliver Needs 161

How Can I Help You? 162

Turn $1 into $2+ 165

Do It Twice 166

Perception Is Reality 169

Be a Guerrilla Marketer 170

The Secret to Writing Copy That Sells 173

Promise . . . Then Overdeliver 174

Your Brand Talks 176



Not So Fast, Partner 179

Get a Pre-Nup 180

ABCs of Hiring 183

Your Startup Is a Boat 184

The Build/Sell Team 187

Make Sure You’re Aligned 188

How to Get the Best People 191

Fire Yourself 192

You Are Not Scalable 195

Mess with the Vest, Die Like the Rest 196

Delegate, Don’t Abdicate 199

Form an Advisory Board 200

Who’s the Boss? 203

The Right Partner Formula 204

Hire Slow, Fire Fast 205

Sharing a Submarine 206



Get Your Story Straight 209

Get to the Next Step 210

Half as Long Is Twice as Good 213

First Rule of Elevator Pitches 214

Get Used to Rejection 217

Use the Use Case 218

Make It Stick 221

Name It and Frame It 222

Find the Hot Buttons 225

Fake It ’Til You Make It 226

Be Simple, Not Simplistic 229

Don’t Bury the Lead 230

Back of a Business Card 232



You Are the First Investor 235

Got Traction? 236

Passionate Obsessed 239

Pigs Get Slaughtered 240

Investors Are Not Created Equal 243

Do You Want to Be Rich or Be King? 244

When No Leads to Yes 247

The Train Is Leaving the Station 248

Calling All Angels 251

The Lemmings Need a Leader 252

Don’t Expect to Hear “No” 255

Save the Best for Last 256

Get to Your Next Milestone 259

Fuel to the Fire 260

A Demo Is Worth 1,000 Words 263

Money Only Buys Time 264

If You Want Money, Ask for Advice 267

The Investor Triad 268

The Day You Take an Investor’s Money 271

What’s the Business Worth? 272

Valuation Isn’t Everything 275

Friends, Family, and Fools 276



Nail It before You Scale It 279

Tipping Point 280

Think on Paper 283

The First Question to Ask 284

Make Meetings Matter 287

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst 288

Expect the Unexpected 291

Be Your Own Customer 292

Think Big, Execute Small 295

Forget the Mission Statement 296

Metrics Matter 299

Your Network Is Your Net Worth 300

Who’s the Bad Guy? 303

Your Reputation Precedes You 304

Build It Like You’re Going to Sell It 307

Be Frugal, Not Cheap 308

When the S#!t Hits the Fan (and It Will) 311

Know When to Fold ’Em 312



Startups Are Boring 317

Young at Heart 318

Your Three Hats 321

You Are on Your Own 322

Dangers in the Moonlight 325

The Part-Time Entrepreneur 326

A Family Affair 329

Congratulations, It’s a Boy! 330

Ten Things You Should Never Do Before Starting 333

The Five-Year Overnight Success 334

Conclusion 335

Acknowledgments 337

Recommended Reading 339

About the Authors 341

Online Course Off er 343

Index 345


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Author Information

JEFF SCHEINROCK is currently a Continuing Lecturer at UCLA Anderson School of Management. He is also President and CFO of the venture investment firm Originate. Scheinrock has personally raised over $1 billion in venture capital, served as the chief investment officer of a fund-of-funds, and helped take Packard Bell from inception to over $7 billion in annual revenue. He has negotiated in excess of $1 billion in bank debt and $3 billion in trade credit from companies such as Intel, Microsoft, Panasonic, Tatung, Lite-On, and Seagate. Scheinrock also handled the negotiation and structuring of many acquisitions, including Zenith Data Systems and Ark Interface Software, among others.

MATT RICHTER-SAND is a serial entrepreneur, having launched three businesses. An Air Force veteran, he earned an MBA from UCLA before spending two years as a venture capitalist. Currently, he mentors entrepreneurs and is actively building his third startup.

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Press Release

September 17, 2013
The Agile Startup: Quick and Dirty Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Jeff Scheinrock and Matt Richter-Sands’ New Book

The Agile Startup:

Quick and Dirty Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Over 200 lessons on how to be an agile entrepreneur, decrease risk and build a successful business


Even with all of the resources available to entrepreneurs, the chances of getting a company off the ground are daunting. For the fortunate few who manage to get a startup off the runway, building and leading a new company can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Nobody understands this better than coauthors Jeff Scheinrock and Matt Richter-Sand.   In their new book, The Agile Startup: Quick and Dirty Lessons Every Entrepreneur Should Know  (Wiley; September 2013; hardcover and e-book), they share the lessons they've learned over the years while founding startups, working with early-stage companies, and consulting with entrepreneurs.

Engaging and accessible, this reliable resource is for every kind of entrepreneur, from those just starting out to the established, early-stage CEO. It quickly shows how to dodge painful, common, and avoidable mistakes and get a startup business in a position to prosper. Through the hundreds of startup lessons found here, readers will be exposed to the latest ideas, philosophies, frameworks, and best practices for entrepreneurship in today's dynamic global markets. The book offers valuable insights on essential issues, including:

  • Reduce risk by turning assumptions into facts as quickly as possible
  • Put together a powerhouse founding team and the best way to make partnerships work
  • Use competition to gain an advantage, breaking down a market, and effectively acquiring customers
  • Perfect the startup pitch, from getting an audience to understand an idea in less than three seconds to a surprisingly simple way to figure out if the pitch is working
  • How to find the perfect investors and determine if one is needed in the first place
  • Transition from the "feasibility" stage of the Entrepreneur's Lifecycle to actual business building activities


There’s more information available at http://www.agilestartup.com/, where the authors frequently post new startup strategies. The site also contains other timely tools and tactics for the avid entrepreneur. 

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