On January 21st 2013 Chris Guillebeau came to Santa Cruz, CA on his first stop of his 2013 book tour to support his latest book – The $100 Startup. I had a chance to interview Chris before he took the stage. Here is the transcript.
Matthew: This is Matthew Swinnerton. I’m with InterrogationHub.com and Instant Magazine. I am here with Chris Guillebeau, writer of “The $100 Startup” and “The Art of Non-Conformity”. We’re totally excited to have him here. He’s actually starting a mini book tour starting in Santa Cruz, so we’re going to have an event tonight. I think we have about 300+ people here, so we’re very excited to have you. Thank you very much for being here.
Chris: Thank you. I’m excited to be back.
Matthew: Awesome. Thank you. Before we get really into it, I want to ask you a big question that’s been on my mind: What is the plan for 193?
Chris: 193 is my final country. For the past 10 years, I’ve been trying to visit every country in the world, and I’m coming down to the end. Last month I did Tuvalu, in the South Pacific. Then I did Guinea Bissau, in West Africa, the month before. Now I’m at the final country, which is Norway. 193 will be in April, on my 35th birthday. We’ve invited some of my readers, friends, and community to come and join. We’re going to have some kind of party in Oslo. We’re still trying to figure it out, but I think right now we have maybe 150, 200 people that are making the trek.
Matthew: Nice. I want to ask, you’re going to be at 193 countries, what are you going to feel like after you’ve accomplished that goal? That’s a monumental challenge that you took on. How do you feel it’s going to be, “What’s next?”
Chris: Yeah. In some ways, Matt, it kind of stresses me out. In some ways, it’s kind of like, “Yeah, this is awesome. I’ve been working for it for so long.” Then it’s just as you said, like, “OK. Where do we go from here?” Fortunately, the travel is only one thing that I do. I still write books and I do a lot of these kinds of community events; I will continue doing that. I host an event in Portland every year. I’m sure I’ll keep traveling, but it definitely is something that is on my mind, as well. Like, “OK. Then what’s the next quest?” For me, it’s not been just the travel, it’s also doing the quest; the notion of there’s all these places and they’re defined, there’s a list and I’m checking them off, and getting closer and closer. Once I don’t have that, I don’t know.
Matthew: Got to find out what your next quest is.
Chris: Exactly. I’ve got to figure it out, yeah. Let me know if you have any ideas.
Matthew: I think you’re probably good. You probably have enough ideas in your own head. Going back to your traveling; just traveling itself, going to all these different countries, do you actually like the actual aspect of the travel? Getting in planes, going to the airport, your bags; is that tedious after awhile?
Chris: It can be tedious, but I also like it. To answer your direct question, “Do I like it?” I think you have to. I don’t know that I’d be able to do it if I didn’t at least make my peace with that. In some ways, I actually enjoy the process of traveling. I don’t enjoy all those things all the time. Like I flew into San Jose and I had to get a rental car, and it was just kind of a stressful little situation, just like an annoyance, but it’s fine; it’s a part of it. What do I have to complain about? I get to go all over the world and see great places.
Matthew: Can’t complain, yeah. You mentioned it briefly there, can you tell us a little bit about your World Domination Summit? What is that about? I think it’s 163 days until that?
Chris: Yeah, very good. You know better than me how many days it is. The World Domination Summit is a gathering of creative people from all over the world. We have it in Portland, Oregon every summer, right around the Fourth of July. Last year, we brought 1,000 people together, and this year we have 3,000, so we’re definitely scaling up. It’s really fun. It’s just a lot of different people. We do have some programming and content. We have main stage speakers, but there’s also just a lot of gatherings and fun activities, as well.
Matthew: Nice. One of the standouts of last year was the $100 investment. Can you tell us about that?
Chris: Yes. I’m trying to think how to do so concisely, because there’s actually a 19-minute video online; people can watch the whole thing. The short version is, or the cliff notes version is: WDS is a non-profit event; we have no sponsorship, we don’t have any advertisers. It’s not because I think those things are evil, it’s just the DNA of this event is very much about community and connection. The first year we lost maybe $30,000 on it, which we were thrilled to do just because it was such a fun thing. The second year we kind of figured some things out. We had more people come, so we had a profit of close to $100,000, and the team decided to reinvest that money directly in the attendees. We also had an anonymous donor that came forward to kind of make up the difference. Basically, we gave $100 to all 1,000 attendees, along with kind of a charge at the end of the weekend to say, “Use this to do something interesting. I don’t care what it is. You can do something with business. You can do something with charity. You can give it to someone on the street. You can restock your wine cellar. I don’t care, just do something fun and then tell us about it.” We’ve been collecting all these stories.
Matthew: We don’t have time now, but if our viewers can actually go online, go to YouTube and see some of the stories, they’re pretty awesome, what people did with that $100. Definitely check it out online. You can find it really easily. I think you just put in ‘$100 investment’, and you’ll probably find something.
Now let’s get back onto the topic at hand, “The $100 Startup”. You’re starting this mini-tour, like I mentioned, in Santa Cruz. Let me ask you, what was the genesis behind it? We were just talking about it briefly, but were you just like you had a conversation with somebody that’s like, “I’ve got to write a book about this”? How did that start?
Chris: In a way it was like that, it was very organic. I did a previous book tour for my first book. I went to all 50 states. I went into every province in Canada, just met really interesting people all along the way, including a lot of unconventional or unexpected entrepreneurs; people who started businesses without going to business school, without spending a lot of money, usually by using the skills that they already had. A lot of them didn’t even necessarily think of themselves as entrepreneurs. They were just doing something that they enjoyed but they had found a way to make that profitable, and not just a little bit profitable but provide for themselves and their families to make a good living.
I thought no one’s really telling this story. No one is really telling this story in a systematic way. There’s a lot of information about bigger startups. There’s a lot of information about starting a traditional business, which involves a long business plan and going to beg for money at the bank and all that kind of stuff, but no one’s really looking at this whole micro-entrepreneurship, ‘micro-business revolution’ as I call it. That’s kind of how that came to be, originally.
Matthew: Talking about writing a book, we have a lot of entrepreneurs that read our site or read our magazine and they want to write a book. It’s daunting in some way, like, “How do I get it out there? How do I publish it? Do I need to self-publish it? Do I have to find a distributor? What do I do?” Can you give them some advice? I know that’s a humungous question.
Chris: Sure. That’s a lot of questions all together, because those are different questions. How to publish the book is a very different question than how to write the book. I would say let’s break it down. What really is daunting? If you can start a business, if you can do anything in an ongoing, consistent manner, you can certainly write a book. What I do is I break things down into very specific, deliverables. An average non-fiction book is about 70,000 words, so most of us can write 1,000 words a day if we really kind of focus and get to it. If you can’t do that, then do 500 words a day. Obviously, there’s going to be an editing process, there’s going to be a lot of other stuff, but if you think of it in those chunks, if you think of it in terms of the chapters and what’s the overall message and what goes where, I really think anyone can do it. As to publishing, that’s a totally different thing.
Matthew: OK. I’ll let you go on that one. I have two more questions I want to ask: How do you balance family life and work life, and at the same time have this humungous career of traveling and doing these community things? How do you do that?
Chris: That’s a good question. I guess people will answer that question differently for themselves.
Matthew: How do you do that?
Chris: How do I do that? I can’t speak for my wife because she’s not here; you’d have to ask her as well. I guess I travel a lot, but I’m also at home a lot, as well. We went to India together last month. I did “The $100 Startup” tour there, but she was with me. I guess I also believe it’s OK to have goals and dreams of your own, as well as joint goals that you pursue together. She has her own career; she’s an artist and she does her thing, and I try to support that as much as I can.
Matthew: Nice. Last question. Going along with that, what makes you happy? That’s a big open question too.
Chris: What makes me happy?
Matthew: Yeah. When I asked that question, what came to mind?
Chris: I like making things, I like creating. I think Seth Godin said that creativity is the instinct to produce. It’s like when I get up in the morning I’m like, “OK. What am I working on? What’s next?” Just like you asked that question about what’s next for me, I feel like if I don’t do that for a few days or a week or something, I start feeling bad, so it makes me happy to create and to connect with people as well.
Matthew: Nice. I like Seth Godin’s new book. I can’t remember the title.
Chris: “The Icarus Deception”.
Matthew: Yeah. He mentions about art, and he says about that, “If you do something that touches somebody, that’s art.” It makes us happy. I really enjoyed that. I guess you have to get on stage here so I appreciate you being here. Thank you very much.
Chris: Thanks, Matt. Appreciate it.
Matthew: Thanks a lot.
To lean more about Chris Guillebeau follow him at: