The Voice of Non-Conformity – A Conversation with Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, combines the entrepreneurial musings of an early stage startup to create a unique business perspective. Best known for his popular blog, The Art of Non-Conformity, and his book with the same title, he has also written guides for travel and small business topics. The few lines that inspired me to connect him (during his recent visit to India) say – Imagine handing a letter to your boss that reads, “Dear Boss, I’m writing to let you know that your services are no longer required. Thanks for everything, but I’ll be doing things my own way now.”


Perhaps his unifying theme is based on facilitating entrepreneurship and productivity by starting businesses with minimal expenses and maximum dedication. Hanging around to get some extra insight, I grabbed the opportunity to have a short interview with him.

Chris, how was your journey in India?

It was excellent! I had a great experience, visiting seven cities and speaking to all kinds of people. I’m very inspired with the entrepreneurial spirit that is in the DNA of many Indians.

Chris - Visit to India

What is your definition of a successful startup, and how do young entrepreneurs achieve it?

A small business that achieves profit and freedom for the owner. Young entrepreneurs achieve it first and foremost by focusing on helpfulness–on making something that is fundamentally useful and changes the world in a small way.

What is your opinion regarding the entrepreneurship space in India?

Well, as mentioned, I feel very positive about it overall. Perhaps the one weak point is a lack of role models. In speaking with thousands of business school students, I learned that many are motivated by the idea of pursuing entrepreneurship, but they feel pressured to take “safe” jobs with multi-national companies.

When the brightest young minds in a country like India have the desire to make someone else rich, which is essentially what employees do, it’s not a good sign. So I think the answer lies in more people leading the way from within the country, perhaps helping others think through what really is safe and what really is risky these days. In my view, entrepreneurship is often the safe choice, and working for someone else is what is risky.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Follow your passion… maybe. Most entrepreneurs who are successful are passionate about their work, but you can’t follow just any passion. Therefore, the more important lesson is to make sure your passion can be translated into something that other people want.

When did you start your first official business and what motivated you to be an entrepreneurial author?

When I was 19. I was initially motivated by the idea of not working for anyone else (smiles).

How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?

I use only organic strategies, no paid advertising of any kind. My readers are essentially my greatest marketing asset—they are the ones who tell other people about the work, and that’s how it grows.

How do you achieve balance in your life?

I have no interest in balance; I have an interest in challenging myself to do big things while living a life of gratitude and abundance. Most balanced people don’t change the world.

If you had to invest either in Facebook or Google, which one would invest in? Why?

I’m not an investor. I’m more interested in encouraging people to create their own projects. That’s where most of us will find true freedom, not in following what someone else has done.

So looking back at the ancient times, people who were dissatisfied with their lives dreamed of finding magic lamps, buried treasure, or streets paved with gold. Today, we know that it’s up to us to change our lives. And the best part is, if we change our own life, we can help others change theirs.

You can follow Chris on Google Plus and Twitter