The Art of Startups

The Art of Startups

How to Beat Larger Companies Using Machiavelli’s War Strategies

By Edoardo Maggini
Foreword by Joe Gebbia

What does a five-hundred-year-old political and military strategist have to do with the world of startups? Through a graphic-novel format as innovative as its content, The Art of Startups shows how the principles Machiavelli outlined in The Prince and The Art of War can be applied to the modern business world. Four accessible chapters explore how Machiavellian tactics can help small startups to compete with large companies, maximize innovation with limited resources, negotiate effectively – and lead with impact.

PDF, 190 Pages


April 2020

£16.00, $20.00

EPUB, 190 Pages


April 2020

£16.00, $20.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
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  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

Startups are increasingly becoming the engine of innovation across all industries. We are living in an age where an entire generation of young entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and skill sets are coming together and collaborating with a desire to disrupt existing markets, challenge the status quo, replace the old with the new and, above all else, make the world a better place.

Startups, however, are constantly facing the challenge of how to make an impact given their initial small size and limited resources. Nine out of ten startups fail, and more than fifty percent do not reach past the five-year mark. The few that do manage to survive can quickly find themselves swamped in the oversaturated market, unable to make any decent progress. So how can they establish themselves among their immediate competitors, let alone defeat larger, more established companies? Is the story of David and Goliath still relevant in the modern business world? Hence the need to write an engaging book that offers unique, viable solutions to all the problems small startups face especially in their early stages.

This book provide practical teachings on how startups can strengthen their foundations, reach the pinnacle of the business world and, ultimately, become a virtuous leader of startups in the model of Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”

What does a 500-year-old figure from history have to do with the world of startups? I first encountered Machiavelli in high school in Italy. At the time, he did not represent much more to me than just another part of my studies, but he came rushing back when I moved to the US to finish high school in a small town of Ohio. I used to talk to people who knew little about Italy, but who could still quote Machiavelli’s most famous lines: “The end justifies the means” and “It is better to be feared than loved.”

Machiavelli seemed to be even more popular in America than in Italy. This triggered my curiosity and pushed me to do more research on him. I realized that throughout history, politicians, generals, philosophers and other leaders have all harnessed his philosophies in their own fields. He has also been criticized as being overly cynical, cruel or cutthroat. However, I think this is too dismissive and partial. Machiavelli was, more than anything, a pragmatic realist. He devoted himself to finding patterns in human nature and history, and was perfectly aware of what was ethical and unethical, encouraging aspiring leaders to reach their goals through “virtue”; to rely on hard work rather than luck; and to try to be loved rather than feared (while noting it is easier to be feared). He also understood that necessity and emergency compels leaders to make tough decisions.

During my studies at Harvard Business School, I began to apply Machiavelli’s principles to the business world, finding his teachings tremendously modern and useful for my own startup. I realized that as, a serial entrepreneur, I was already applying many of his tactics without even being aware of it. So I started decoding and adapting his writings to the world of startups, testing his teachings in the field.

From this experience, and from Machiavelli’s two most influential books “The Art of War” and “The Prince,” came the idea for “The Art of Startups.”


“This book is a must-read for every founder.”
—Dan Lyons, Author of Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble

“The enduring brilliance of Machiavelli is brought to life in this very compelling and very accessible book. A must-read for every entrepreneur and corporate strategist!"
—Mark DeSantis, CEO, Bloomfield Robotics, and Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship, Carnegie Mellon University

“Insightful, accessible and fun. If readers enjoyed The Lean Startup and Zero to One they are going to love The Art of Startups. The author has done a great job to educate its readers in a very clever and entertaining way!”
—Spandana Nakka, Co-founder and CEO, Sleek

“A startup guide like no other. Tech breakthroughs have washed ashore legions of spirited entrepreneurs; Edoardo Maggini hands them a tool to survive and thrive.”
—Igor Pejic, Author of Blockchain Babel: The Crypto Craze and the Challenge to Business

“The Art of Startups is an incredible read, easy and relatable and yet full of condensed structure and insights. It’s a great guide bringing together all of the stages of startup entrepreneurship, with a strong emphasis on strategy and approaches. I wish I had something like this to guide me when I started my first company in 2008!”
—Max Gurvits, VC, Vitosha Venture Partners; Co-founder and Chief Host at SummitSummit

“A brilliant and wonderfully entertaining book. An unstoppable read, full of surprises and rich with insight for every entrepreneur––first time or seasoned.”
—Avery J. Lu, Co-founder, Chief Marketing Officer and Managing Director, Investments, ActionSpot Startup Studio

“The Art of Startups really brings to life that behind great startups, and indeed great products in general, are great people. Telling the stories of these people is important in order to learn how to not only develop successful startups but also apply startup smarts inside corporate organizations.”
—Tim Heard, Co-founder and MD, Circle of Intrapreneurs

“While startups and entrepreneurship are inherently about invention, some of the best lessons in business can come from looking in the past to shape the future. Edoardo Maggini has done just that with The Art of Startups as he applies the principles of Machiavelli to winning in today’s modern world of entrepreneurship.”
—Dave Knox, Marketing Executive Coach, Venture Investor and Author of Predicting the Turn: The High Stakes Game of Business between Startups and Blue Chips

“Modern leaders need to challenge themselves with divergent thinking in order to stay sharp. The Art of Startups is a great opportunity to reacquaint yourself with tried and true business principles in a fresh new context.”
—Michael Ventura, CEO, Sub Rosa, and Author of Applied Empathy

“Part business strategy book, part leadership development book and 100% graphic novel, The Art of Startups is an entertaining guide to business innovation.”
—Nir Eyal, Bestselling Author of Hooked and Indistractable

Author Information

Edoardo Maggini is a serial entrepreneur and inventor who has co-founded three startup companies in the past 10 years ranging from the food industry to renewable energy. Edoardo, studied at Harvard Business School and worked in New York for a Fortune 500 as operations manager, where he invented an automated cleaning device for elevator steel cables. Edoardo is currently working at his new startup company, Fenix Technologies, in the recycling industry.


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Table of Contents

Introduction; Foreword by Joe Gebbia, cofounder and chief product officer of Airbnb; Cast of Characters; 1. Maneuvers—How Weak Companies Can Outmaneuver Stronger Ones; 2. Innovation—Using Few Resources to Innovate in a Big Way; 3. Alliances—Keeping Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Even Closer; 4. Leadership—Becoming the Prince; Bonus Chapter; Index.


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