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Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup Hardcover – August 12, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Exclusive Q&A with Bill Aulet, author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship

Bill Aulet
Bill Aulet
Why did you name the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship?

I love the name because in two words it captures the dichotomy that makes for a successful entrepreneur: the fearless spirit of a pirate with the execution skills of a Navy SEAL Team Six. At the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, we help our student entrepreneurs strike this balance.

Why did you decide to write this book now?

The book came about because MIT’s Howard Anderson and I were teaching an introductory entrepreneurship class and over time the class grew from five teams of four students to over 100 teams. We worked very hard to put materials together to help us teach the class in a scalable manner, and I soon realized that this was a pervasive problem that could cause a real crisis and halt the progress entrepreneurship was making in society. That was why I started writing the book.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

I get this question everywhere I go. Many people have the misperception that successful entrepreneurs are born, not made, with a history of high achievement. Other misperceptions are that entrepreneurs are mercurial individualists, that they love risk, and that they are undisciplined. In most cases it is quite the opposite; research has been proving more and more that entrepreneurship can be taught and that should be considered a legitimate profession and discipline. Entrepreneurship is a team-sport where ideas are much less important than the team’s ability to execute in a highly focused manner.

What makes you qualified to write a book on entrepreneurship?

In my 15 years of doing and teaching entrepreneurship, I’ve gained a lot of wisdom from the scar tissue of failure. It’s not that I’m a guru, it’s that I figure out what works and I pass on that knowledge. I’m fortunate to have this fabulous position at MIT from which I can foster a community where people can learn from each other.

After working at IBM for 11 years, I started my first company, which failed. This failure was so visceral and so real, and I learned a tremendous amount while crashing and burning. Above all, I became aware that the team that you work with is critically important. You need to collaborate with someone you can trust and who works in a way that is complementary to you.

Is there anyone who has been a particular inspiration to you?

During my time at IBM, I was amazed by the late Thomas Watson, Jr., who was able to scale a company in a way few others have done. The person who has probably inspired me even more is Mitch Kapor, who started Lotus Development Corporation and demonstrated that people could do positive things for society through business. He showed me business could be cool. He transformed Cambridge’s Kendall Square into a hub for innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

How does presenting the entrepreneurial process as a series of steps or a roadmap help the reader?

Entrepreneurship is not a purely sequential process, but we needed to give people a place to start to keep them from getting lost. I broke it down and determined the most logical starting point and built it from there. While there are many iterative loops along the roadmap, it gives enough structure so that people can get going.

Who should buy this book?

The people who should buy this book are those who are interested in entrepreneurship and want to understand the process. They may be first time entrepreneurs, experienced entrepreneurs interested in doing it again, or businesspeople trying to turn their ventures into high growth companies. In addition, many large, established companies are interested in utilizing the book to prove their innovation capability.

How does your book relate to the current state of the economy?

Creating jobs isn’t just about small businesses per se, it’s even more about new, high growth businesses. The Kauffman Foundation found that in 2007, two-thirds of new jobs came from companies one to five years old. Disciplined Entrepreneurship is about creating these new businesses that will drive economic growth.

How did you decide to work with an illustrator? What is your favorite illustration in the book?

The illustrations make the book more accessible. In my experience, people learn a lot more when they’re having fun. The illustrations add a dimension of fun to the book that make people more open to its message. They also distill the essence of each step.

My favorite illustration is the last one, because it drives the point that knowledge doesn’t set you free, but action does. Starting a company is not solely an analytical exercise; it requires action. That idea is a good one to end on, and it really resonates with entrepreneurs.


"This book provides an invaluable comprehensive framework for innovation-driven entrepreneurs to execute the business planning process." -Brad Feld

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118692284
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118692288
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

- Managing Director, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship
- Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management
- Chairman, MIT Clean Energy Prize

Bill Aulet is the managing director in the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at MIT and also a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The center is responsible for entrepreneurship across all five schools at MIT starting with education but also extending well outside the class room with student clubs, conferences, competitions, networking events, awards, hackathons, student trips and most recently accelerators. He teaches at least three different classes per year (introductory to advanced entrepreneurship classes) in addition to his responsibilities of running the center. His work has won numerous awards and most recently, in April 2013, Bill was awarded the Adolf F. Monosson Prize for Entrepreneurial Mentoring at MIT. During his three year tenure as the head of the Trust Center, he has conceived, designed and overseen the implementation of many new innovative programs including:

MIT Clean Energy Prize
Trust Center TV
Energy Ventures Class
Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP)
MIT Entrepreneurship Review
Entrepreneurial Product Marketing and Development Class
Linked Data Ventures Class
Founders Skills Accelerator
t=0 Entrepreneurship Festival
Beehive Cooperative
Entrepreneurs Walk of Fame
Corporate Innovators Sponsor Group
Applications of Advanced Entrepreneurial Techniques "GSD Ninjas"
Global Founders' Skills Accelerator

Prior to joining MIT, Bill had a 25 year track record of success in business himself. He has directly raised more than $100 million in funding for his companies and more importantly has led to the creation of hundreds of millions of dollars in market value in those companies. He started his career at IBM getting training and experience in technical, marketing, sales, financial and international business operations and management. After 11 years, he was named a MIT Sloan Fellow which resulted in him attending MIT for a one year degree program. Upon graduation, he resigned from IBM and became a serial entrepreneur running two MIT spinouts as the president/chief executive officer (Cambridge Decision Dynamics and then SensAble Technologies). The latter became a two-time Inc. Magazine 500 Fastest-Growing Private Company. With a presence in over 20 countries, SensAble also won more than 24 awards and was featured in Fortune Magazine, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications for its innovative products and strong business foundation. In 2003, he was recruited as chief financial officer to co-lead a turnaround of Viisage Technology, a security technology company with a dual focus in the areas of drivers' licenses and facial recognition. During his tenure of two and a half years, Viisage developed a new strategy, overhauled its operations, made three major acquisitions, executed two major fundraising rounds and as a result, its market value increased from $50 million to over $500 million.

Today, in addition to his work at MIT, Bill works individuals and companies to become more successful through innovation-driven entrepreneurship. From single entrepreneurs trying to launch new ventures all the way up to large multi-billion dollar corporations seeking to achieve their goals through entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, and innovation, the same fundamentals have been successfully applied. He also serves on the board of directors or advisors for a number of companies. He is a regularly featured speaker at management leadership programs on topics such as entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, entrepreneurial marketing, technology innovation, creating sustainable and rapid profitable growth, financing strategies, and operational excellence. He writes as much as possible in places such as Xconomy.com, Sloan Experts, the Boston Globe, the Kauffman Foundation, the Huffington Post and the MIT Entrepreneurship Review. A former professional basketball player, Bill lives in Belmont, Massachusetts with his wife and has four grown sons. Mr. Aulet holds a bachelors degree in engineering from Harvard University and an SM from the MIT Sloan School of Management

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are an entrepreneur or any operator of a company for that matter, and you need/want/desire actionable help in your building company, then this is the best book I have ever read for that purpose. I checked in my office and found 18 books on entrepreneurship. In some ways they were all helpful. But, they all have a common challenge: they are all at too high a level. The advice is too general to take action on. This book by Bill Aulet is the opposite. It lays out step by step with specific directions and real examples of what to do and how to do it. It just doesn't say "develop your value proposition", it tells you how to! It doesn't say "what is your Cost of Customer Acquisition", it guides you to the correct way to do so. This fills huge gap in the literature on entrepreneurship.

I am now working on my 5th company and we are about 2 years in. I took the book and compared to what we have already accomplished and found many ways in which we didn't do enough or could have been more thorough. The payback was instant. It has made us a better company.

New entrepreneurs especially, will benefit from this book. It forces you to do the real work to demonstrate if your idea for a company has legs or not. Can you create and capture value? This book will help you make that determination fast!

If you only get one book on entrepreneurship, this should be it!

Jim Dougherty
Founder Madaket Health
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I downloaded the Kindle version of this book after a glowing recommendation by my father, who is a veteran of the retail industry and has been an entrepreneur for nearly the last 20 years (his take, paraphrased: "I saw the author on Squawk Box, it was a fascinating interview, I picked up his book and finished it the next day"). As a researcher in environmental engineering and an entrepreneur myself, I am always consuming new information about ways to more effectively develop and grow my businesses, but I have found many startup-related texts are extremely general in nature and many of the principles touted in these other texts cannot be readily applied. That is not the case with Bill Aulet's new book.

I breezed through this book in a matter of hours, taking several notes throughout where I could directly apply the principles to my existing ventures. I can't remember the last time I picked up a book of this nature and found such immediate, practical use out of it.

This book is a must for anyone that wants to cultivate their idea, technology, or passion into an impactful venture.
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Format: Hardcover
There are more entrepreneurs than ever who are getting seed funded. So, while there is a significant amount of Series A venture capital money available, the law of numbers say that most young companies will struggle to get funded by the venture capital community. The press is now calling it the "Series A Crunch". But if you are an entrepreneur and you want to make it through this tough passage, I strongly suggest that you get this book ("Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup" by Bill Aulet) and use it as your guide. It provides a prescriptive checklist of what you need to do in order to build a company and make yourself attractive to series A investors like myself.

As a 23 year veteran of the Venture Capital Industry, I love and admire entrepreneurs and have seen many books on entrepreneurship. But most offer lots of storytelling, anecdotes, and inspiration. I have never met an entrepreneur who needed more motivation. What they need is a true roadmap to building a successful company. I attended a book launch hosted by my friend and entrepreneur, Freddy Kerrest, on Friday. The book blew me away.

I have never seen such a clearly laid out and comprehensive map to help an entrepreneur get Series A funded - it is truly all the best company-building advice of today's smartest early-stage venture capitalists and entrepreneurs blended together in an orderly context . It does this by visually laying them out in a very valuable poster and then systematically going through each of the 24 steps.

Each step is explained in easy to understand language and "whimsical illustrations" with multiple examples for each.
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Format: Hardcover
It's easy to have an idea for a business, the hard part is figuring out where to start once you have one. This book finally gives a Step #1. Whether you are new or practiced entrepreneur, this book brings clarity to the questions to ask and the steps to take.

As an entrepreneur in residence at MIT, I refer aspiring entrepreneurs to it on a regular basis. It provides clear examples behind the theory and an easy guide to follow as you go down the path of bringing your idea to market. My only wish is that I had had it when I started my first business.

If you have an idea and don't know where to start, start here!
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Over the last 8 months I've used the book and its processes as a guide for several entrepreneurial projects, and finally for launching a business. It has helped keep us focused, moving forward, and iterating appropriately and I find myself referencing it on a frequent basis.

Although the pictures can be silly at times, the material is serious. As an MIT student I particularly like that it is focused more on providing structure and practical applications of tools, rather than just being inspiring.

It's nice that Disciplined Entrepreneurship doesn't necessarily propose that it is a better method than others. Instead it provides actionable frameworks (I've heard it described as a toolbox) around other tools and methods available such as The Lean Startup, Crossing the Chasm, and Inbound Marketing.
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