What I learned from Arvid Kahl about audience first entrepreneurship

I’ve seen a lot of hype for Arvid Kahl’s new book The Embedded Entrepreneur, so here’s my non-hypey review.

Overall I’d rate it at a 6/10. Some thoughts below 👇

(Not trying to pick a fight or anything. Just thought that something that’s not just pure hype might be helpful.)

The book’s working title was Audience First and I’m the guy who wrote that “Build a business, not an audience” essay, so I was of course curious.

I think I’m exactly in the target audience since I’ve dedicated this year to learning how to bootstrap a sustainable business.

There are two types of non-fiction books:

  • Books that were written because the author has something to say.
  • Books that were written because the author wanted to write a book.

Lots of gray in-between the two but to me Arvid’s book felt closer to the second category.

It’s easy to spot books that were primarily written because the author wanted to produce a book since they’re obvious remixes of other people’s work.

I wasn’t able to find much in The Embedded Entrepreneur that I hadn’t read somewhere else before (c.f. Amy Hoy, Tyler Tringas).

With that said, I should point out that The Embedded Entrepreneur is a good remix.

It’s well written, nicely edited, and references the sources it draws inspiration from.

If you haven’t read any book on bootstrap entrepreneurship, then The Embedded Entrepreneur can definitely be a useful place to start, especially since it contains references to most of the standard sources.

Another minor point: I really don’t like when books on entrepreneurship use the book itself as a primary example.

It would’ve been far more inspiring if he’d picked something like Cattle Farmers (which he has on his list) as a case study instead of Bootstrapped Founders.

Speaking of which, case studies in general would make the book 10x better.

And I’m not talking about anecdotes like how Paul Jarvis started Fathom Analytics. It’s always easy to find examples that support any point you want to make.

One example he uses is how he would do audience research on artisanal beekeepers in New Jersey. But then instead of doing what he just proposed he moves on.

The story of how he called the New Jersey Beekeepers Association would be fun + provide first-hand learnings.

Arvid is at his best when he’s not theorizing or summarizing other people’s work, but writing about what he actually does. This is why the final chapter on “Audience Building” is the strongest.

In it he shares the exact playbook he uses to build a loyal following.

While I don’t agree with him that building an audience is what you should focus on when your goal is to build a business, there are tons of interesting insights in this final part of the book.

So if for whatever reason your goal is to build a Twitter audience, then I can highly recommend The Embedded Entrepreneur.

If the book’s title was “How to build a Twitter audience” and just consisted of the final chapter I’d rate it a 10/10.

Interestingly, (maybe I just missed it) Arvid didn’t include the smartest marketing strategy he uses himself:

Get lots of early feedback.

Beta testers will become emotionally invested in the project’s success and hence help you get the word out.

Written on June 4, 2021

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