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Ep #48: Guy Kawasaki and The Art of The Start 2.0

guy-kawasaki My very special guest this week on The Brainfluence Podcast is the one and only Guy Kawasaki. He’s written a dozen New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books, and headlined countless conferences. Guy is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphics-design service, and an executive fellow at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple.

His latest book, The Art of the Start 2.0, is the new and updated version of his original bestseller, which was unsurprisingly titled The Art of the Start. A lot has happened since the first version came out eleven years ago. The newest version of the book is 64% longer than the original and includes Guy’s insights on social media, crowdfunding, cloud computing, and lots more. It’s full of practical advice that will help you start your business in this technology-driven world. His other recent titles include APE: Author-Publisher-EntrepreneurEnchantment and ten other bestsellers since 1987.

Today, Guy joins me to discuss his journey through school, writing and rewriting his books, and the current company he is supporting – Canva. It’s a remarkable free tool that I’ve been using since I heard Guy mention it. As you might expect, our chat is full of down to earth, practical advice.

If you enjoy the show, please drop by iTunes and leave a review while you are still feeling the love! Reviews help others discover this podcast, and I greatly appreciate them!

Listen in:

On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:

  • Why Guy re-wrote The Art of the Start from scratch.
  • How Canva can help your social media and blog.
  • Why making every customer process easy is so vital for entrepreneurs.
  • How Guy was able to double the engagement on all of his tweets in one day.
  • The biggest changes in social media.
  • Three books Guy thinks every entrepreneur should read.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to the Brainfluence Podcast with Roger Dooley, author, speaker and educator on neuromarketing and the psychology of persuasion. Every week, we talk with thought leaders that will help you improve your influence with factual evidence and concrete research. Introducing your host, Roger Dooley.

Roger Dooley:    Welcome to the Brainfluence podcast this is Roger Dooley and this week I’m really excited. Our guest is Guy Kawasaki he’s the chief evangelist at Canva an online graphics design service and an executive fellow at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Formerly he was an advisor to Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He’s the author of The Art of Social Media, Enchantment and 10 other books including his newest title The Art of the Start 2.0 the time tested battle hardened guide for anyone starting anything. That encompasses quite a bit welcome to the show Guy.

Guy Kawasaki:   Thank you very much for having me.

Roger Dooley:    Guy, just going through your bio and found something I didn’t know about you. You did your undergrad work at Stanford but then you got an MBA from UCLA. Your work is remarkably practical and down to earth, how did you get through an MBA program and not get totally screwed up?

Guy Kawasaki:   How did I overcome that?

Roger Dooley:    Yeah.

Guy Kawasaki:   This is a long time ago. I got my MBA … I was in the class 79 and back then in 1979 if you wanted to advance in your career, the MBA for many career paths was necessary and this is a little bit different today. Actually I got an MBA. I loved UCLA. I’m very active with UCLA to this day. After UCLA when all my friends were going to investment banks and consulting firms and large package goods companies I went to a small jewelry manufacturer in downtown LA and I truly learned to sell because we had to sell to retailers who sold to consumers. It was just a great experience for the rest of my life. I have the academic training and I loved UCLA but I also had many years of hand to hand combats.

Roger Dooley:    Your work is very, very practical and down to earth and sort of an anti-MBA program almost although I have you beat. I got mine from University of Tennessee in ‘77 for the same reasons. At that point corporations pretty much demanded that as a right of passage. Guy you have seemed to have leveraged the evangelist thing into a career. Your working with Canva now, after hearing you mention them I checked them up and signed up, and since then I become a paying customer although not necessarily in a huge way yet. For listeners who haven’t heard of Canva or tried it, how do you describe it briefly?

Guy Kawasaki:   Canva is an online graphics design service. When you need to create social media graphics, email graphics, posters, business cards, real estate fliers, book covers and you’re not an expert at Photoshop. You haven’t bought Photoshop or rented Photoshop or mastered Photoshop, Canva is an alternative. We think it democratizes design just like Apple democratized computing. You go there and we have a bunch of designs created in advance. You can use our stock photos or upload your own and in literally minutes and you can testify to this Roger literally minutes you can have beautiful graphics.

Roger Dooley:    The basic service seems to be free and the monetization seems to be a lot of photos and backgrounds and designs and so on that are a dollar. There’s a lot of free stuff there but there are many more that cost a dollar. Is that a viable monetization model? Can you sell enough dollars for pictures?

Guy Kawasaki:   We shall see. We have other monetization models coming down the pipeline. This is just the first permutation but we are signing up literally thousands of people every day. Right now this is February 2015 roughly 1 design is created every second on Canva.

Roger Dooley:    That’s great.

Guy Kawasaki:   It’s definitely doing well.

Roger Dooley:    That’s good. I ran a totally unscientific test the other day. I was doing a blog post on my neuromarketing blog and it was about pricing which is an abstract topic. There aren’t pictures of people setting prices that make any sense and I always try and include a graphic with each post so at least for sharing purposes and so on there’s a graphic to share. I said just as a test I’m going to create multiple graphics and I created 3 new Canva graphics and included a couple of graphics from past post that I referenced.

Surprisingly the post went mildly viral on Facebook. It got thousands of views over thousand shares but it’s not scientific. I can’t say it was the additional graphics but the fact that it did well on Facebook is atypical for me. Usually I get my shares on Twitter and LinkedIn and some on Facebook but anyway I thought that was really interesting and I credit the graphics as being at least part of that success.

Guy Kawasaki:   We’ll take the credit.

Roger Dooley:    That’s right. When in doubt, take the credit.

Guy Kawasaki:   I have slightly more scientifically tested this where I have tweets with and without graphics. It was a very hard stop. At a day in December of last year we decided to add a graphic to every one of my tweets from Alltop and the next day engagement doubled for every one of those tweets. It doubled the engagement because we included a graphic.

Roger Dooley:    That I don’t doubt at all. I think there’s some pretty good even more statistical research. I think maybe Dan Zarrella did some work on that showing that tweets with graphics definitely get more engagement

Guy Kawasaki:   If you’re using social media as a platform, if you’re an entrepreneur social media is your marketing then here’s a very easy way to double your impact. SEO people are jumping up and down when they get 10 or 15% improvement. We’re getting 100% improvement.

Roger Dooley:    That’s great stuff. I was a big fan of your original Art of the Start book. I tried to find my copy of that and then I remember I gave it to a friend who was starting a business and needed some sound advice because I wanted to compare the new version to the old version. I think the information said that there’s 65 more page.

Guy Kawasaki:   Yes 64% more pages.

Roger Dooley:    How was that world changed since the original book and what new stuff have you put in there?

Guy Kawasaki:   The book is 10 years old and let’s just say 10 years ago there was no social media. There was no cloud computing. There was no crowdsourcing. There was no crowd funding. Costs were higher. There were larger barriers to entry. You had to buy tools. You had to buy infrastructure. You had to buy red commercial real estate. It’s a completely different world. You’ll love the story.

When my publishers told me and convinced me to revise the book Roger I’m not making this up the editor literally told me “We’re going to give you the manuscript back in word, turn on track changes so that after you make your changes our copy editors will just approve or deny the changes using track changes.” I literally laughed out loud because basically every line of the book has been changed. Have you ever seen the document with lots of tracks changes turned on?

Roger Dooley:    It would be horrible mess.

Guy Kawasaki:   It would be unreadable. It was very funny. That’s how much work went through it. This is a tricky situation if you think about it. If I tell you the book is completely new it implies that the old book was completely wrong and completely bad. If I tell you that there’s hardly any changes then you’d have to ask the logical question, why buy it? This book is just the right amount. There are some stuff in that book that was right the first time and remains right.

Such as the Guy Kawasaki theory of PowerPoint which is 10 slides 20 minutes 30 point font. That has not changed. I don’t think it’s ever going change. I don’t think 10 years from now we’re going to be saying “Why don’t we have 50 slides with 90 minute meeting and 8 point font.” There’s some things that just don’t change.

Roger Dooley:    I’ve been at that meeting guy.

Guy Kawasaki:   A lot of it has not changed but I buffed and polished and added, I remodeled. It wasn’t just a paint job.

Roger Dooley:    I’m going through the book I can see obviously a lot of things have changed in terms of those things that you mentioned the social aspects the crowdsourcing, crowd funding. It’s …

Guy Kawasaki:   You know what’s really funny in the old book 10 years ago Microsoft was dominant so I used a lot of Microsoft examples of things gone right and domination and all the positive stuff. Now when I looked at this draft I said “Wow I have to change Microsoft to Google.”

Roger Dooley:    Can you just do a search and replace on that or …?

Guy Kawasaki:   Pretty close. Microsoft is no longer a good example of lots of stuff. That was very funny.

Roger Dooley:    Maybe they’re on their back. We’ll see. Seems like Satya Nadella is doing some interesting stuff there but they sure missed a few big changes in the market place.

Guy Kawasaki:   As soon as he figures out not to tell women to depend karma for raises I think he’ll make a lot of progress.

Roger Dooley:    Poor choice of words for sure. Guy, another product that you hooked me on was Buffer. It’s a social sharing tool and your book emphasizes the concept of easy to start, easy to convert and easy to use. I think Buffer along with Canva are both great examples of that. You can start for free. You don’t have to build out a big profile or anything or put in a lot of information. Buffer in particular is just dead simple to get going on.

I’m previously signed in for Hootsuite and it’s a very powerful tool. Good grief! Every social media expert uses it. Despite its features I can never really get going on it. It’s just intuitive for obvious and Buffer made the process seem just completely effortless where everything is pretty done. You can get going and then you can change things. You don’t like our schedule, make your own schedule. You don’t have anything to tweet, well here’s a couple to try. Of course now it worked. They converted me to a paid plan but easy is really an important part of the process today, isn’t it?

Guy Kawasaki:   People are just so resistant to speed bumps. I have to disclose not only am I chief evangelist of Canva I’m also an advisor to Buffer. What people would be listening wondering what the hell Buffer does. Buffer is a place where you can write a social media post and you can schedule it for multiple services, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter and you can set the times that these things go out because you may be writing at midnight but you want something to go out at 8 am. What you do is you add new post to the Buffer and then Buffer sends it out later. That’s the gist of Buffer.

If you know your readership is primarily west coast you’d want to send it out when the west coast is awake. That is what Buffer does and it allows you to spread things out so you’re not manually posting every hour. You can just set it up to go out every hour and forget about it. These are some of the tools that are very good for marketing for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs aren’t buying Super Bowl commercials. They have to use social media and tools like Canva and Buffer make social media so much easier and powerful.

Roger Dooley:    I think one key thing is they’re both designed to be used very quickly by an end user who isn’t necessarily experienced. If you’re big enough to hire a social media expert to do your social media then you probably need Hootsuite but if you’re an entrepreneur starting up a business you really don’t have the time to spend on extensive social media work but you still need to get your information out there and Buffer makes that really simple.

Guy Kawasaki:   I would say that if you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t have the money to buy an agency and even if you did have the money I would tell you not to because A social media is not that hard. You shouldn’t have abdicate your social media role and B you will have much better engagement and a sense of the pulse of your customers if you do it yourself. This is something that I think entrepreneurs now … Listen when you’re a fortune 500 company and you have 100,000 employees and your marketing budget is $200 million a year god bless you I don’t expect you to be tweeting yourself with Buffer.

Right now you should be doing hand to hand combat. You should not abdicate this to an agency because the agency is going to ultimately send some 22 year old millennial who just graduated with a degree in English to represent your company online. I don’t think so. That’s insane. I think people should or entrepreneurs in particular they should not think that social media is something you do after everything else is done.

Social media equals marketing. You saying that you want to abdicate your social media you don’t want to do social media, you think social media is a fad when people say that I hear them saying marketing is a fad. We don’t need to do marketing. We abdicate our marketing and no entrepreneur in their right mind would say such a thing.

Roger Dooley:    Guy how do you keep from getting sucked down the rabbit hole of social media because it’s really easy to … I totally agree that entrepreneurs need to do some or all of it themselves because as you say you can’t really just accept third party input and say “Hey this is what your customers are telling you.” How do you stay productive and still interact with people on Twitter and the other services? Where do you find that balance?

Guy Kawasaki:   Roger you being the neurobiology, social psychology expert you are you’ll understand that maybe you didn’t do it consciously but you just try to frame the question. I refuse to be framed because the way you pose the question is as if social media is not essential and is not important. You’re saying “How do you try to do all this unimportant not essential stuff while you have other important essential stuff?’ I don’t believe that. To the core of my existence I believe that social media is core to success for entrepreneurs. It’s like saying “How do you the sales thing when you’re busy doing R&D?” You have to do both.

You’d never tell an entrepreneur don’t worry about sales that’s a secondary concern. That’s something that you do when everything else is done. Sales is crucial. Social media is crucial and so to use a sports analogy this is kind of like saying to Tiger Woods. “Why do spend so much time playing golf?” Playing golf is what Tiger Woods does and so for me social media is what I do. It is core to my existence and I think it should be core to the existence of entrepreneurs. It’s your marketing platform. Man up and get with it. It’s essential to what you do.

Roger Dooley:    That’s a good point. I didn’t mean to imply but it wasn’t important but by reframing it you’re really saying that social media is a much of a core competency say as knowing how to manufacture your product or train people on your product or that sort of thing.

Guy Kawasaki:   Absolutely.

Roger Dooley:    How has social media changed do you think? Not really from the very beginning and had a bazillion followers before many people are even aware of some of these services. Do you see less engagement these days from activity? I get the report as talking to Chris Brogan a couple months back and he commented that even though he’s got more followers than ever there’s just so much content out there on social media that he doesn’t necessarily see the same level of engagement on each of this activities.

Guy Kawasaki:   I think that’s probably true. One of the ways that you have to combat this is always be posting something valuable. Add a graphic. Repeat your tweets. Repeat your post and these are necessary things. I made a recent discovery that maybe blogging will make a comeback because social media is so noisy that when you have a loyal following they’ll subscribe to an RSS feed for you blog or they’ll visit your blog regularly or your social media will point them to your blog. Maybe blogging will make a big comeback because of the excessive success of social media.

Roger Dooley:    I think it already is in part because of Facebook where a lot of businesses were focused on Facebook because they were generating a lot of traffic. Their pages were getting likes. It all seemed to be wonderful until suddenly their content wasn’t being exposed to their followers unless they paid for it. I think that was a wakeup call that if you’re going to invest in building a platform maybe you should own the platform instead of being at the mercy of somebody else.

Guy Kawasaki:   I have to say that it took me a while to wrap my mind around Facebook. For Facebook, I had all these people who voluntarily opted in to see what I did and then Facebook was deciding which 5 or 10% of those people who I thought all would want to see because they said so aren’t seeing it and only 5 or 10% are seeing it. At first I was like morally appalled that Facebook would do this but then I thought about it.

First of all Facebook is not a charity. They have their bills. They have to make their money so I understand that and I feel like I’m a guest in their house. I’m not going to complain about the food. Then you look at it and you say well I can promote my post and yes you’ll be paying Facebook money but when you promote your post you can select demographics, regions, language, interest, all these things and have very directed marketing program. We’ve also tried things where we’re making an offer to only US and Canadian citizens.

When we used to just blast that out we get complaints from all over the world as if I was trying to personally screw them. I couldn’t do some things because of Amazon’s way of handling international rights. It’s not like I was trying to screw the person in South Africa, I couldn’t do it. What was I supposed to do not do promotion in the US because I couldn’t take care of the person in South Africa? With Facebook you can say I want only US and Canada and it’s not that expensive. I’ve come around. I would rather pay and get great results than not pay and get crappy results.

Roger Dooley:    Can’t disagree with that. I’ve done a little bit of Facebook promotion and it has been relatively cost effective. I think that the companies that really figure this stream of free traffic much as they might experience with Google or people who relied on Google for years is providing all of their free traffic and then suddenly the algorithm changes and oops it’s not there anymore.

Guy Kawasaki:   One approach to those people who say I asked them “Are you a charity? Do you work for free? Do you give away whatever you do?” I think on the internet there’s this entitlement syndrome where you get these people who say “Your content wasn’t perfect for me delivered in the perfect format at the perfect time. How dare you!” It’s like hello!

Roger Dooley:    What do you expect for free?

Guy Kawasaki:   What do you expect for free and you can unfollow me. I’m not forcing you to subscribe to me but I will say I don’t want to get into it like a negative downward spiral that is a tiny amount of people and I don’t think you should make your decisions about marketing and social media based on a tiny, tiny, tiny minority. I think there is a …

Roger Dooley:    That’s true. The negativity is going to stand out and a lot of people see it and don’t comment but then you get 2 negative comments

Guy Kawasaki:   The old theory used to be you have 2 people who are negative it’s really 20 because the other 18 don’t want to bother. You multiply by 10 but with social media if 2 people said something negative there’s probably 2 million who liked it.

Roger Dooley:    They didn’t bother to comment. Guy is good as usual and let’s move on.

Guy Kawasaki:   That’s my delusion.

Roger Dooley:    Let’s talk about books for just a minute Guy. I think The Art of the Start both the original but now the new version is a book that really needs to be on any entrepreneur’s bookshelf. To me there’s so much basic solid advice in there that covers really a wide range of topics. It’s almost a bible. I’m going to be pitching an angel investor tomorrow okay that’s it here.

Another one that I would add to that bookshelf is Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week. I listen to a lot of podcast and a lot of interviews and I can’t count the number of successful entrepreneurs who begin their story by saying they were stuck in some kind of a boring job or they were in a corporate role they didn’t really care for until they were inspired by Tim’s book to strike out on their own. Absolutely none of these entrepreneurs is working for 4 hours or less a week. They’re all working their butts of. Nevertheless they are happier and they were inspired by that book. Do you have any other suggestions that would go on that essential entrepreneur reading list?

Guy Kawasaki:   Roger when author tells you to read somebody else’s book there’s no more sincere form of flattery than that just FYI. On my list would be several books. One is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. This is a book about creativity and unleashing your potential not listening to naysayers its written for writers but it can be applied to entrepreneurs. Just stick in the word entrepreneuring for writing that’s number 1. Number 2 would be a book called Influence by Bob Cialdini. I think it’s a great, great book about social psychology and practical application of social psychology so Bob Cialdini’s book.

Roger Dooley:    Needless to say I’m a huge of Bob’s. He’s got plenty of other books out there too as recent one The Small Big is really good. Many people who already read Influence …

Guy Kawasaki:   They should read it again.

Roger Dooley:    Go back and read it. It’s funny that book remains the bestseller after 30 years. It’s phenomenal.

Guy Kawasaki:   Another book is a book called Absolute Value and it’s a book by a guy named Emanuel Rosen. The gist of this book is that in the old world it was a pyramid so you sucked up to the Wall Street journal, CNET, Wired Mashable, TechCrunch and they told the great unwashed masses what to do or in the book business you sucked up to the New York Times Book Review. They wrote a review and they told the unwashed masses to read your book. The crux of Absolute Value is the opposite. That now that reviews can be put out by anybody instantly. That you cannot only focus on the top of the pyramid you have to get your book out and convince many people to write reviews.

On CNET the day after Motorola introduces a new phone there’s 50, 60 people talking about it. It’s not because they’re waiting for the Wallstreet journal smart phone reviewer to review the phone to decide to buy it. In the book business Amazon flips the switch and says your book is for sale the next day you look and there’s 20, 50 reviews and they’re either 4 and 5 star or they’re 1 and 2 star. I don’t think people wait for the New York Times Book Review to review a book before they book anymore. They go to Amazon they see it’s 4 ½ stars they read a couple of reviews. Then one click it’s in their cart. Boom! Done. Emanuel Rosen goes through the consequences when information flows this fast and this free.

Roger Dooley:    Those were some great suggestions Guy. It’s about time to wrap up and I want to close by saying that you’d been a big inspiration to me Guy both through your writing and through personal encouragement. We’ve known each other for a years, encounter each other at numerous conferences and really its meant a lot to me.

Guy Kawasaki:   Thank you.

Roger Dooley:    I know that through your new Art of the Start you’re going to reach a lot of other entrepreneurs. Let me remind our listeners we’ve been speaking with Guy Kawasaki the chief evangelist of Canva and the author of the new book The Art of the Start 2.0 the time tested battle hardened guide for anyone starting anything and we’ll have links to Guy’s book and the other resources that we talked about on the show notes page at as well as a text version of our chat. Guy, why don’t you tell our listeners how they can find your stuff online and connect with you?

Guy Kawasaki:   The easiest place is just to go out my website and logically it’s There’s links to everything. There’s a whole page about the book and resources from the book. There’s an entrepreneur’s quotient test so you can see what your EQ is and that’s the place to start.

Roger Dooley:    I’ll interject. I saw that you have additional resources to go with Art of the Start right and various other things to go along templates and things that people can access via the website.

Guy Kawasaki:   I try to add value.

Roger Dooley:    That’s great. Guy thanks so much for being on the show.

Guy Kawasaki:   Thank you Roger. Take care. Bye.

Roger Dooley:    Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Brainfluence Podcast. To continue the discussion and to find you own path to brainy success, please visit us at

Thank you for joining me for this episode of the Brainfluence Podcast. To continue the discussion and to find your own path to brainy success, please visit us at

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