10 lessons from Guy Kawasaki

Today I had the amazing opportunity to hear Guy Kawasaki to speak at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at UNSW.

For those that don’t know him:

  • Former Chief Evangelist at Apple (Responsible for marketing Apple products) and worked alongside Steve Jobs
  • Started several businesses and now an investor
  • Currently the Chief Evangelist at Canva and sits on the board of Wikimedia.

So here are the key takeaways/points he addressed:

1. Ask simple questions

Dumb it down. Figure out what exactly it is that your company does by asking the most simple questions.

No big company knew from the start that they were going to dominate the global landscape. Apple started by providing people access to beautiful personal computers so they didn’t need to travel to the library/computer labs. Facebook was a college social network to see friends and who was dating who. The list goes on.

Guy identified the three questions that a company should ask themselves:

  • Your business does XXX, therefore what?
  • Isn’t this interesting?
  • Is there a better way?

2. Make a MVVVP

We all know what a Minimal-Viable-Product (MVP) is, however Guy expresses that we should create a Minimal-Viable-Valuable-Validating Product (MVVVP)

  • Minimal — The most basic form
  • Viable — Economically feasible
  • Valuable — Does it make lives easier?
  • Validating — Does it validate and align with your company’s vision?
  • Product — Self Explanatory…

An example he prompted was that Apple could have made the best laser printers, but what value does that bring to the world? Compared to devices that provide access to wealth of information known as the Internet, what would cool printers have done for Apple?

3. Get going

The main goal of a company is not to raise money but to serve its customers which is done through product. So move with momentum. Don’t stop and be driven by a great leader and purpose. I.e. Apple was driven by Steve Jobs and beautiful design.

Also, move so fast that you would consider your product cringeworthy.

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late — Reid Hoffman (Co founder of LinkedIn)

Revise fast. Once you’ve shipping out your product. Readjust accordingly to what your customers care about, but do it fast and keep going through the feedback loop.

To build a company you need two complementary souls: One to build. One to sell. You need both of them and your vision has to be aligned with each other’s or the company will not succeed.

Make a mantra for your organisation. Not the typical McKinsey mantra about sustainability and growth. Make it a two-three word statement of what your company does.

  • Canva — Democratising design
  • FedEx — Piece of mind
  • Nike — Authentic athletic performance.

4. Define a business model

Be very focused and figure out what your business model is. Entrepreneurship is about wealth transfer and someone is waiting for you with their money, but they have to know how your business works.

Try not to innovate on business models, stick with what y0u know.

Ask women for feedback on your business model. They are better judges and don’t have the tendency to break and kill things like men do.

5. Weave a MATT

How to organise your priorities:

  • Milestones— most important focus for entrepreneurs is to finish X (something you can tell someone you have accomplished)
  • Assumptions — a lot of assumptions and data is out there, so you have to test it yourself to understand them
  • Tests — Get your hands dirty
  • Tasks — Have to support all of the above (M, A, T)

6. Storytelling

The most important part when pitching your company. People invest in people. So learn to tell a compelling story about why you started the company and what it means to you.

Apply the Opposite Test — try use the opposite words that your competitors would use. What are you describing that is different.

Embrace the 10/20/30 rule:

Once again, people invest in people. What makes you stand out from the competition. So go to LinkedIn or Twitter and look up your potential investors/clients. What commonality can you find between the two of you. Do you both like hockey? Did you both go to the same university?

Also, don’t use a white background with black text.

7. Hire infected people

Ignore the irrelevant stuff — the presence of the perfect background and the lack of a perfect background. Yes it would be great if they have the perfect scores, side projects, personality and alignment with your vision but that is very rare in this world. What matters is that the person aligns with your vision and has the desire to learn and grow.

Hire people who are better than you. If you hire a B player person, he/she will hire a C player and this will eventually lead to Z players. You focus on your strengths and then hire people who have other strengths in different fields.

Apply the shopping centre test. If you saw your potential hire at the shopping centre, would you be willing to go down the escalators to introduce yourself or would you ignore him/her? You want to have a strong desire to go see that person.

8. Socialise your business

Marketing is cheap/free compared to 10–20 years ago where you had to pay $75,000 for an ad in the Wall St Journal. So take advantage of the times and make your social profile attractive. People only have a few seconds to judge your social profile — consider it like Tinder. Interesting or not interesting.

So perfect your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and ask yourself why would people follow or connect with me.

Embrace the Wikipedia model for social media. Give them great content for a long time but when the time comes, ask for a donation with a boring ass banner. It’s about providing quality value first, then taking the ‘right-hook’ and asking for a sale.

In regards to your social media content, make sure it’s so compelling that people would be willing to risk their reputation to ‘reshare’ it and recommend it to their friends.

9. Seed the clouds

Let a hundred flowers bloom. Put your product out there and if others use it for a different purpose, look into it and reassess. The customers dictate the direction of your product.

Influencers are key to marketing your product. Reach out to the ones that align with your company value and actually love your product.

Also make sure your product is easy enough to use and find.

10. Don’t let clowns grind you down

There will be people out there (winner bozos) saying that your product is not good enough or the timing isn’t right. Be blindly optimistic and don’t listen to the nay-sayers.

One extra lesson

Download the Canva app and get $10 credit using Guy’s account. It’s the least we can do for being given so much value :P

Once again, a big thank you to the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre and the team behind the event organisation. It was an amazing talk and I’m sure everyone got a lot value out of it.


I’m Tom and I want to make social media more ‘social’. Currently helping businesses get started and grow their Snapchat. I also blog about everything to do with the platform at theyellowghost.com .

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