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A Guidebook for your Entrepreneurial Life
3DSAMPLE_The Tao of Startups.jpg

If the video above does not appear, click here if you are OUTSIDE CHINA

and here if you are WITHIN CHINA 在中国内用这链接为看视频


It all started when…

The seed for this book came from a short speech “Tao of Startups” I gave to an audience of entrepreneurs and investors on March 23, 2018 at the China Accelerator 8x8 Event in Beijing. The purpose of the talk was to take the audience through the entire “cycle” of creating a startup and discuss what is important (and what is not important) during each phase. Doing a startup is difficult and can be extremely stressful. It can also be extremely fulfilling. I wanted to lead the audience through a “guided meditation” of sorts to put them in the proper frame of mind for doing a startup—to look at the process from a holistic point of view. This speech resonated with so many people, I was inspired to expand it into a book. The video is about 15 minutes long and is presented in its entirety above.


BOOK Chapters


The core concepts Covered


In the startup world, there is a lot of talk about the original “idea” or the “big idea”.  Actually, the original idea is just a seed. It is a very small thing that has some potential.  Just like the tree that grows large from a single seed does not in any way resemble the original seed; the idea looks very little like the final product.  So, in a startup it makes no sense to focus too much on the original idea or who had it first.  There is nothing new under the sun. You are not the first person to think of the idea, nor is it your first idea. The trick is to choose the idea you want to build a startup on, validate it properly and then EXECUTE.  A startup is all about execution, not the original idea.

THE Pitch

The best way to test and refine your idea is to pitch it.  If you don’t do the hard work on this part you WILL miss valuable opportunities. All entrepreneurs should work on refining and perfecting their elevator pitches.  Make it something you do every day like brushing your teeth.  Like a yoga practitioner, practice every day.  I do. I will take the video of this speech today and watch it several times by myself and with others who will give me feedback.  Feedback and constructive criticism is essential!  Seek it out, proactively.

The Founding tEam

Assembling the right founding team is the most crucial decision would-be entrepreneurs face.  It impacts almost everything you do in the beginning. You need to get this right! In China and around the world I do workshops focused on this particular topic. The best idea in the world and the best elevator pitch cannot be turned into reality without a good, balanced founding team. No one remembers the other co-founders of Facebook. Nor should they, because Facebook didn’t need 5 co-founders.  Only two people of the five still work there today. Out of the top 20 reasons startups fail, most have a component that is related to founder issues.  Don’t do a startup by yourself. If you are trying to do a startup by yourself it tells investors that you can’t convince anyone to join you, or your idea is bad, or both.  The only one person startups are artists or consultants. 


Elon Musk famously said he never created a business plan.  I don’t think you need to either.  But you need to think seriously about your “business model”.   You need to explain it to investors as it evolves. However, I find most first time entrepreneurs are intimidated by this. So, in the early stages of a startup you should spend time on what I call the “inverted T”.  These are the core areas (value proposition, revenue, costs) you really need to have mastered when recruiting co-founders, investors, etc.

The PItch Deck

Yes, you need a good pitch deck. A pitch deck overview tells the world who you are and what you intend to do.  But no startup ever got funded on a pitch deck alone. The average VC spends less than 4 minutes looking at a pitch deck. Sending a pitch deck to a VC can only give them a reason to NOT invest in your company. While a good pitch deck may pique an investor’s interest, a decision to invest will not be made just by seeing the pitch deck. Investors invest in people, not pitch decks.  Spend some time crafting your pitch deck, show it to people, get good feedback and update it frequently. Personally, I almost never just send a pitch deck to an investor without a meeting first. 


There are lots of funding options out there. All have their pros and cons. Typically you don’t need any money to start. But you should think about what funding you might need and when or if you will need it. Where you get money to fund product development and growth is a decision that impacts almost every aspect of your startup--including your co-founder selection. Most first time founders feel that getting funding is the main objective in the startup. It is not. First you need to validate your idea and product.  I have done “bootstrapped” startups which are funded by customer sales that have never taken outside funding. You don’t need a VC’s money to do a startup. 


The ironic thing about choosing co-founder(s) is that from the moment you decide who will be the founding team, you then need to divide up equity in the company.  This should be done once and should be done right.  Don’t fiddle with it or change it, ever.  Do it once and then carve it in stone. While none of it really means anything unless your company has an equity event (a sale or IPO), it can cause lots of issues amongst founders and ruin the company if done improperly or if constantly changed. If the co-founders know each other really well they might be able do this in 5 minutes. If not, a long discussion and a lot of things will need to be discussed. It all boils down to who will do what and what experience does each person bring to the team.

The information and the way it’s organized and presented in “The Tao of Startups” is so focused, simple and powerful that I highly recommend it here at China Accelerator both our young entrepreneurs and our mentors alike. James’ leverages his wealth of startup experience to show entrepreneurs what is important and how to handle the most crucial parts of the startup experience effectively.
— William Bao Bean, Managing Director, China Accelerator

The valuation

How much is your startup worth? There are no real rules or guidelines for setting the value of a startup company, but coming up with a valuation is absolutely necessary if you plan Tto  accept money from an investor. This is the part of the startup process where the startup founder(s) and the investor(s) interests are diametrically opposed. The investor wants the most shares of your company for the lowest price and the founder(s) want to give up the fewest shares for the highest price. Getting investors to believe in you and your ability to deliver is key. There are no rules or formulas for doing this equitably. It is a pure negotiation.

The Investor Meetings

Every conversation with a potential investor is a chance to learn something. You had better look forward to these discussions as you will likely be having many of them.  Most founders of famous companies (Google, Amazon, etc.) had to meet with more than 100 investors before getting that first key investment. In the meeting you must come across as relaxed. Make it a real conversation. Try to find out what the investor wants and see if it matches well with your vision. Be the Buddha!

The Due Diligence

When you do find an investor that is right for you and you want to accept their money you need to certain things prepared:  bank accounts, legal entity, etc. These things all need to be done and ready before you talk to investors.  However, I find many first-time entrepreneurs spend too much time on them because doing them feels like checking off items on a check list. Make sure you prioritize these things properly and get them done at the right time.



about THe Book

Face it. Odds-wise you have a much better chance of becoming a pro athlete than a successful startup entrepreneur. Internationally successful serial entrepreneur James LaLonde takes you through the key things you need to get right in the early days of your startup before you turn the next 5+ years of your life and your startup into a stress-laden nightmare.

How to do all the things that most first-time entrepreneurs get wrong or ignore are here in this book:

  • How to select the right co-founders

  • How to build a winning Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

  • How to make a bulletproof pitch deck and then successfully use it to get VC funding

Also, a lot of essential information that has never been organized and gathered in one place is all here:

  • All the ways you can get funding without giving up precious equity to VCs

  • How to split the equity between co-founders to ensure its fair and won't end up being a point of contention that destroys your startup

  • How to set the valuation for your startup and how to get investors to accept it

- How to get through all the investor meetings and the inevitable due diligence so you can get the investment you need to grow your business

- and much more!

The author, James LaLonde, is a sought-after speaker and startup mentor with 15 years of doing multiple startups in Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Beijing. In addition to his startup and investment activities, James serves as a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing (affiliated with Loyola University) and is a mentor for China Accelerator, Stanford University Graduate School of Business and The Beijing Center.

The materials contained in this book have perfected over years of the author's actual startup experience, thousands of hours of startup founder mentoring, hundreds of hours of presentations and university lectures to people who are planning to start companies. The book gives you everything you need to get you and your startup team and product launched and funded without any fluff or non-essential filler. The 8-minute presentation that formed the genesis of this book idea and subsequent university course is on YouTube (see above).

The book is available in paperback as well as Kindle and eBook formats

Available in paperback as well as Kindle and eBook formats

Available in paperback as well as Kindle and eBook formats



All 5 star reviews on

All 5 star reviews on



Below are a number of bonus materials that were referred to or supplement the contents of the book. PLease feel free to download and share. Don’t forget to subscribe to get all the latest information!

Click here to download the Pre-SHA Template

Click here to download the Pre-SHA Template

Pre Shareholders Agreement (Pre-SHA) Template

This is a simple document you should sign in the first weeks you decide to do a startup. Even before you have decided the share ownership, this document allows you to identify the co-founders and work together without worrying that any intellectual property rights (IPR) you create together in the process can be improperly used in the future by one of the co-founders.


For press, recommendations, referrals and other legitimate uses please find the book cover logo in both PNG and JPG format

Click to download the JPG and PNG versions

Click to download the JPG and PNG versions

Click to download the JPG file

Click to download the JPG file


For press, recommendations, referrals and other legitimate uses please find the book cover logo in JPG format.



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A PLACE TO PRactice Your Pitch In front of Other Entrepreneurs and Like-Minded Individuals. IF YOu Participate You Will Get Honest FeedBack and YOU WILL Get Better!

OPen TO Anyone, Any Language is FIne. Free pizza and Water for all. If YOu Pitch you will get online written feedback, a video of your pitch and a Pitch club T-Shirt.


(the meeting room is on the roof of the building. take the elevator to the 5th floor and walk up the stairs one floor TO THE ROOF)

Runcheng Building. (Roof), No. 12 Dongdaqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China 100010 (Next to West Side of Guanghualu SOHO)


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Please confirm your attendance in advance by sending me a message on WeChat. We will put you in the WeChat group and can send you address details if you do.

Please confirm your attendance in advance by sending me a message on WeChat. We will put you in the WeChat group and can send you address details if you do.