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Book Summary: The Unfair Advantage – How Startup Success Starts With You

The Unfair Advantage (2020) demonstrates how we all have something that can catapult us to success. Drawing on their extensive experience in the start-up world, co-authors Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba break down various personal advantages and how they can be leveraged for the benefit of your business. Wherever you are on your start-up journey, The Unfair Advantage will help you identify what gives you the upper hand and how you can immediately start making it work for you.

Book Summary: The Unfair Advantage - How Startup Success Starts With You

Life isn’t fair…

  • Good timing can matter more than hard work.
  • Well-connected people get better jobs than more qualified people.
  • And the rich keep getting richer.

You can let the unfairness of life deter you from trying something bold or you can focus on developing an unfair advantage. When you have an unfair advantage, your odds of starting a business and working for yourself go up substantially. Authors Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba have identified a handful of advantages that allow entrepreneurs to stand out in the marketplace and construct a competitive moat around themselves.

Content Summary

Intelligence and Insight
Education and Status
About the author
Table of Contents
Video and Podcast


Entrepreneurship, Business, Self Help, Productivity, Personal Development, Psychology, Economics, Science, Education, Startups, Business Motivation, Self-Improvement, Motivational Business Management


Money offers you more time to develop a product and a greater ability to reach a critical mass of people. If you were building the first airplane, more money in the bank would allow you to test more planes and have a longer runway to get those test planes off the ground.

If you don’t have a bunch of money in the bank, create an unfair advantage by making your money go further. Could you move somewhere less expensive? Can you create a 10-hour-a-week freelancing gig to pay your living expenses and give yourself time to try different business ideas? Could you move back in with your parents to get an unfair advantage?!

Even in cases where you need a substantial amount of capital to start a business, your ability to pitch your business to investors and sell your vision will be your unfair advantage.

Intelligence and Insight

If you’re “smarter” than most people, you solve problems quicker than most people – an obvious advantage. But a more significant and less obvious advantage is the ability to notice lucrative problems. In the 1970s, Steve Jobs noticed a problem with personal computers. Jobs firmly believed that electronic devices needed to be beautiful, elegant, and simple – a problem that few people noticed or cared about.

Develop the unfair advantage of insight by being on the lookout for consumer pain and frustration and by consistently asking questions that get to the root cause of people’s pain and frustration – dig deep and long enough and you may find a lucrative product idea before anyone else.


Research show timing accounts for almost 50% of a startup’s success or failure. Being at the right place at the right time and trying to get lucky can seem like an unfair advantage largely out of your control and not worth focusing on – but you can influence luck more than you think. Peer-reviewed studies show that merely thinking you are a lucky person makes you more likely to experience good fortune because you see events as unexpected opportunities and act on them. For example, if you believe you’re lucky, you’re inclined to strike up a conversation with a stranger on a plane or at an event because they might unexpectedly improve your life.

Your unfair advantage can begin by habitually thinking of chance encounters and perfect timing in your past that led to the good things in your life. Being grateful for the luck you’ve had will improve your mind’s ability to spot lucky opportunities in the future. Combine a lucky mindset with a willingness to act (meet people, put stuff out into the world, and go places where you are likely to encounter ideas on the cutting edge of your interests – like Silicon Valley for technology entrepreneurs), and you have the perfect recipe for making luck your unfair advantage.

Education and Status

Getting into a prestigious school like Harvard or Stanford provides a considerable advantage. The same is true for getting into a prestigious company like Google or Goldman Sachs – both give the perception you’re special and can add value. If you’re working on a financial product startup, being an Ex-Goldman Sachs employee or a London School of Economics grad can get you more meetings with influential people.

If you cannot get into a prestigious school or organization, you can still develop an unfair education and status advantage by going on a self-directed learning journey and stacking marketable skills, such as programming and design, or engineering and sales. Become an expert in two seemingly unrelated fields that you can merge, like genetics and artificial intelligence, or virtual reality and psychology.


If there is one life heuristic that will lead to an unfair advantage, it’s this: make learning your number one priority. Select your adventures, jobs, and startups based on how much you can learn – even if that means temporarily sacrificing more lucrative and enjoyable experiences.

Whatever you learn, use it to increase your generosity. Building a reputation as a skilled and generous person will do more for your status over several decades than a prestigious degree.

“Life is unfair. Hard work isn’t enough. To succeed, you have to leverage your unfair advantages. And yes, even you have unfair advantages, whatever your background.” – Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba

About the author

Ash Ali is a growth hacker, entrepreneur, and angel investor with over 20 years of experience in the tech industry. Hasan Kubba is an entrepreneur whose specialities are growth, marketing, tech, and fundraising. Both Ali and Kubba have lent their expertise to hundreds of start-ups and founders the world over, and they’ve spoken at events for TEDx, Startup Grind, Salesforce, and Ernst & Young. The Unfair Advantage is their first book.

ASH ALI is the co-founder of Uhubs, a skills training platform to help entrepreneurs and professionals. He sold his first internet business at age 19. With over 20 years of hands-on experience creating and growing startups, he has consulted, advised, and invested in hundreds of startups.

Ash Ali | Website
Ash Ali | Instagram @ashaliuk
Ash Ali | Twitter @Ash_Ali
Ash Ali | Facebook @ashaliuk
Ash Ali | LinkedIn
Ash Ali | Medium @Ash_Ali
Ash Ali | Email #1
Ash Ali | Email #2

HASAN KUBBA is a specialist in technology startups, marketing, and fundraising. His TEDx talk titled Startups, Entrepreneurship and Unfair Advantages was voted highest ever on the Official TED subreddit.

Hasan Kubba | TikTok @hasankubba
Hasan Kubba | Twitter @StartupHasan
Hasan Kubba | Instagram @startuphasan
Hasan Kubba | LinkedIn

Ash Ali & Hasan Kubba

Table of Contents

Preface to the US Edition ix
Introduction 1

Part 1 Understand
1 Life is unfair 13
2 Our entrepreneurial journeys 20
3 Success is both hard work and luck 39
4 Introducing Unfair Advantages 51

Part 2 Audit
5 Introducing the MILES Framework 63
6 Mindset 71
7 Money 82
8 Intelligence and Insight 95
9 Location and Luck 115
10 Education and Expertise 139
11 Status 152

Part 3 The Startup Quick-Start Guide
12 The why 177
13 The type of startup 183
14 The idea 192
15 The people 203
16 The business 213
17 Fundraising 225

Conclusion 239
Acknowledgments 243


This ground-breaking book exposes the myths behind startup success, illuminates the real forces at work and shows how they can be harnessed in your favour.

The world isn’t a level playing field. Meritocracy is a myth. And if you look at those at the top, you realise that behind every success story is an Unfair Advantage. But that doesn’t just mean your parents’ wealth or who you know. An Unfair Advantage is any element that gives you an edge over your competition. And we all have one.

Drawing on over two decades of hands-on experience, including as the first Marketing Director of Just Eat (a startup now worth over £5 billion), the authors show how to identify your own unfair advantages and apply them to any project. Hard work and grit aren’t enough, so they explore the importance of money, intelligence, insight, location, education, expertise, status and luck in the journey to success. From Snapchat to Spanx, Oprah to Elon Musk, unfair advantages have shaped the journeys of some of the most successful brands in the world. This book helps you too find the external circumstances and internal strengths to succeed in the world of business and beyond.


‘A powerful way to think about success as an entrepreneur.’ – Ali Abdaal, Productivity YouTuber, Podcaster & Ex-Doctor

‘Crucial business advice that you won’t get anywhere else.’ – Derek Sivers, Entrepreneur & Author of Anything You Want

“A fast-paced read with excellent insights from a remarkable entrepreneurial story.” ― Daniel Priestley, author of Entrepreneur Revolution

“What a masterful and thought-provoking book: a must for every entrepreneur regardless of the stage of your journey.” ― Byron Cole, Business Growth Expert and author of Self Made

“In a no-nonsense approach, this book shows you the truth that business and life aren’t fair, and goes into the methods and practices to let you take full advantage of your unique skills and assets.” ― Rune Sovndahl, founder of Fantastic Services

“The Unfair Advantage breaks down how people from all walks of life and backgrounds can achieve unfair advantages in their entrepreneurial journey or career. An indispensable handbook for the masses.” ― Dion McKenzie, founder of Colorintech and Tech Investor

Video and Podcast