Introducing Teaching Startup: Getting Started
Everything You Should Know About Starting Your Own Company in 10K Words
by Joe Procopio

So summer is winding to a close and that's kind of disappointing. I never feel like I'm squeezing an entire summer's worth of fun into what seems like an increasingly small window of time. Didn't summer used to be like end of May to beginning of September? Now it seems like it's three weeks in July, and for most of that time it's either 100 degrees or thunderstorming.

But I did get something accomplished this summer, and it came from an unlikely place.

On the digital shelves of Amazon you'll find my latest book, Teaching Startup: Getting Started. It is, as the cover proclaims, "everything you should know before starting your own company." It's a free book, because it needs to be, and it's a quick, easy, comprehensive-but-enjoyable read through each stage of startup and what and who you need to get through each one.

Go get it. Right now. There are no strings.

A couple of things this book isn't.

Notice I didn't say "everything you NEED to know," because this book isn't it. You can't possibly know everything you need to know before you start a company. If you did know all that, your hourly rate would be off the charts. But this a rough sketch of the startup universe. It's meant to tell you how long the race is and what the markers are, as well as what you should be bringing along with you.

And notice I didn't say "before starting your FIRST company," because the book isn't just meant for first-time entrepreneurs. It took me several years and several starts, including a couple exits, before I felt like I had the lay of the entrepreneurial land. Sure, I wish I had read this book before I started my first company. I also wish I had read it before I started by fifth company, or before I joined my first startup. Or for that matter, before I took my first job.

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Five Roles of Startup: Growth
Investor, Advisor, Mentor, Service Provider, Community
by Joe Procopio
Growth
The five roles I'm discussing in this series are general, but intended to identify everyone inside and outside the startup's organization. You must have someone playing all five roles, and in the early days, two or more of these roles are probably going to be played by the same person.

Up until now, all of the roles we've discussed have been people you bring into the company. Here they are:

Vision -- Founding, Leadership, Management, Product, Future. These are your leaders, explainers, and decision-makers.

Build -- Design, Engineer, Perform, Deliver, Support. These people make the product.

Sales -- Salespeople, Marketing, Business Development, Public Relations. These people sell the product.

Operations -- Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Administration. These people make sure the company is running smoothly and efficiently.

If you lock down these four roles, you are well on your way to building a successful startup that has a very good chance of having a long life. I will say, in all seriousness, that you can stop there, as long as you keep the best people in these roles.

However, if you're building a startup with an intent to be not just good, but amazing -- world-changing, dominating, life-altering, that kind of thing -- you're going to need boosters for your rocket, so to speak.

Filling this final role is what brings a business up to the speeds that we normally associate with the startup stories we see and hear about in the press. But just because you chase growth doesn't necessarily mean you're going to launch your startup into the stratosphere, up there with Google, Facebook, Uber, and the kinds of companies that grow to be worth billions of dollars.

Ultimately, how far you go depends on both how good you are and what you want out of your journey. You don't have to hit a home run -- a triple or a double is what you might want to aim for -- but regardless of how far you want to get, you're going to need to fill this final role.

Growth is the role that propels a startup beyond the limitations of the talent and resources within the company itself. Most of this role is filled with people who don't work for the company directly, but partner with the startup as a key member of the extended team.

The Growth people provide additional resources, including money, advice, connections, services, education, and more, usually in exchange for something else. That something else can be a piece of the startup, a percentage of the revenue, or even cash payment.

Two things to remember about the Growth team. 1) It should be relatively small, no matter how big your startup gets. 2) The individuals on this team should be temporary. Those aren't hard-and-fast rules, but it should be in the back of your mind that almost every member of this team will eventually be replaced, either by someone new or by no one at all because you no longer need what they provide.

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Five Roles of Startup: Operations
HR, Finance, Legal, Administration
by Joe Procopio
Operations
The five roles I'm discussing in this series are general, but intended to identify everyone inside and outside the startup's organization. You must have someone playing all five roles, and in the early days, two or more of these roles are probably going to be played by the same person.

The prior three installments in the Five Roles of Startup series were all about getting product out and revenue in. With Vision we set up leadership, with Build we're getting the product made, and with Sales we're putting the product into the hands of customers, the lifeblood of your startup.

You might think that once those three roles are filled, you can just sit back, repeat the cycle over and over, and carve out a lifelong career with maybe a golf membership and a better car than you would have driven otherwise.

I'm here to tell you that you probably can.

You were expecting the opposite, weren't you? Come on, admit it, you thought I was setting you up to slam the door in the face of your dreams.

Sure. Fine. It's no guarantee, but if you can dominate Vision, Build, and Sales, keep your employees motivated as they grow more experienced, stay relevant and unique, keep out of hot water, and continually solve customer problems in a way that makes them happy, you can repeat the cycle until you retire.

No joke, I'm totally cool with you doing that. Chances are, however, that you won't be totally cool with that. At least not for long.

So the final two installments in the Five Roles series are about building a better, faster, stronger company, with less emphasis on the product. The role I'm going to talk about in this lesson is one you need to think about every day. And to be honest, you have to fill this role whether you want to be the biggest company in your industry or you just want to coast.

Operations keeps your startup afloat, tasked with making sure that your company is doing well today and that it's set up to do better tomorrow.

These people are the gears, the nuts and bolts, the heart of the company. These are the folks in charge of finding your employees, keeping an eye on the money, making sure you stay out of trouble, and otherwise helping everyone else focus on their job.

Again, there are probably dozens of specific roles that make up Operations, and the very term can mean different things to different people. However, most of the role breaks down into a few broad, necessary components.

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Five Roles of Startup: Sales
Salespeople, Marketing, Business Development, Public Relations
by Joe Procopio
Sales
1 comment
The five roles I'm discussing in this series are general, but intended to identify everyone inside and outside the startup's organization. You must have someone playing all five roles, and in the early days, two or more of these roles are probably going to be played by the same person.

So far we've covered the two roles in startup that focus on turning a great idea into a great product. The Vision people are your leaders, your explainers, your decision-makers, while the Build role defines the team that makes the product.

But even when your startup has built the most awesome product ever, someone has to actually get out there and sell it. And no matter how amazing your offering is, this is not an easy job.

Sales is the role that pushes your product into the hands of paying customers, but this means much more than exchanging money for goods or services. In fact, for most startups, sales is where the grand plans break down, because too few entrepreneurs understand the sales process, and even fewer put a priority on the Sales role.

A common misconception in startup is that once the product is built, the customers will come knocking at your physical and/or digital door, wallets open, ready to purchase. But the famous phrase "Build it and they will come," was never true, regardless of what you've seen in the movies. "Viral sales" is also a myth, in the sense that you have roughly the same odds of creating a viral smash hit as you do of winning the lottery.

Sales must devise a strategy, or a series of strategies really, for reaching your market, educating them, persuading them, negotiating with them, closing the deal, and retaining them. Then all of these events must happen in the shortest possible time frame at a perpetually lower cost, all while figuring out how to get existing customers to buy more product more often.

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Five Roles of Startup: Build
Design, Engineer, Perform, Deliver, Support
by Joe Procopio
Build
1 comment
The five roles I'm discussing in this series are general, but intended to identify everyone inside and outside the startup's organization. You must have someone playing all five roles, and in the early days, two or more of these roles are probably going to be played by the same person.

In the first installment of this series, I defined what it means to play the Vision role in startup. These are your leaders, your explainers, your decision-makers. While the Vision role might seem the most important, the truth is that every one of the five roles is just as critical as the next.

To illustrate that point, someone has to make the thing you're going to sell. Build is that role, the people who design, make, test, move, and maintain the product. That's what we'll outline here. In future installments, we'll cover the three other roles: Sales, Operations, and Growth. You don't have to dig into all the roles now, but it helps to know what they are.

Build can be difficult because the skills required for this role totally change depending on what kind of product the startup sells. You need a completely different kind of expertise to make software as opposed to soft drinks, or heart rate trackers as opposed to heart medicine.

Furthermore, some startups don't even sell a product, they sell a service. For our purposes, however, a service should be treated as a product in most respects. A service startup should be trying to break new ground and invent new solutions to old problems, whether that's with consulting, photography, pet washing, or whatever.

So the concepts I'm outlining in Build are meant to apply to any kind of startup, regardless of the type of product or service.

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Five Roles of Startup: Vision
Founding, Leadership, Management, Product, Future
by Joe Procopio
Vision
One of the truest descriptions of an entrepreneur is a person who has to do a lot of different things at the same time. The term for this has always been "wearing a lot of different hats." I don't like this term, mostly because it implies that you have to take your leader hat off to put your builder hat on.

The truth is you have to stack several hats on your head at once. Like Bartholomew Cubbins.

On any given day, an entrepreneur must be a leader, a builder, a salesperson, an accountant, and do several other jobs. As the company grows, you can hire other people to do some of these jobs for you. Hopefully, the people you hire will be better at these things than you are.

If you think about all the things an entrepreneur has to do, it can be overwhelming. Maybe you're an expert at one or two of them, or maybe none of them, and that's OK. Maybe you're good at a few others. Maybe you stink at finance, or sales, but if nobody is paying the bills or bringing in money to pay those bills, your company is not going to last long.

I'm not going to talk about every job at once. Much like when I wrote about the Five Stages of Startup and broke the timeline down into a simplified roadmap, I'll reduce the dozens of jobs an entrepreneur needs to do down to five basic roles you have to fill.

The five roles I'm discussing are general, but intended to identify everyone inside and outside the startup's organization. You must have someone playing all five roles, and most of the time two or more of these roles are going to be played by the same person.

First off, here are all five roles, because before you dig deeper into any of them, you should be aware of what they all are:

Vision -- Founding, Leadership, Management, Product, Future. This is the one I'm talking about now. There is also:

Build -- Design, Engineer, Perform, Deliver, Support

Sales -- Salespeople, Marketing, Business Development, Public Relations

Operations -- Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Administration

Growth -- Investor, Advisor, Mentor, Service Provider, Community

Vision determines company direction and momentum, primarily focused on making the product better, the sales stronger, and the company bigger.

A startup exists to turn a great idea into a great product to be sold to a large market by a great company. The vision role breaks down every piece of that sentence and answers all of the questions along the way. Why is the idea great? How will the idea become a product? What specific problems does the product solve? How will the company make and sell the product? Who will the company be selling to? How will the company reach these people?

And on and on.

The Vision role informs and leads the four other roles -- Build, Sell, Operate, and Grow -- and it does this in the following ways:

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Five Stages of Startup: Level 5 -- The End
Exit, Failure, Graduation, Next, Giving Back
by Joe Procopio
Level 5: The End
The five stages of startup I'm discussing are not THE five stages of startup. They're just landmarks, broken down and generalized into something that we can all hopefully use as a guide, not gospel.

This is the final stage of the generalized startup timeline, and with this, we've now covered the entire roadmap, from humble beginning to glorious end. Level 1: The Jump is the period of time when you have a great idea that will become a great product. Level 2: Start is when the company is formed, it figures out how to operate, and launches that great product. Level 3: The Journey is about running and growing your company and selling your product. Level 4: The Grind covers all the ups and downs along the way.

But all good things…

The End can happen a few different ways. There are happy endings, horrible endings, and endings where you just shrug your shoulders and move on.

You shouldn't really do a lot of planning for the end. Your goal is to build an incredible business, one that you want to work on every day for the rest of your life. But let's face it, you're an entrepreneur, and you might find that there are other ideas you'd like to pursue -- ideas that may be totally different from the one that got you where you are today.

If you've done your startup right, there will be several knocks of opportunity at your door, people who want to buy everything you've built, and you'll need to listen to most of those offers. If you've done it wrong, failure -- inevitable, heartbreaking failure -- will come calling instead, and that's a call you've got to answer too.

Oh, and I need to tell you that you can do everything right and failure might just show up anyway. He's kind of a jerk.

Regardless of how you close the curtain on your startup, the end is also a new beginning, and you'll need to know how to start over.

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Five Stages of Startup: Level 4 -- The Grind
Growth, Culture, Change, Trouble, Pivot
by Joe Procopio
Level 4: The Grind
The five stages of startup I'm discussing are not THE five stages of startup. They're just landmarks, broken down and generalized into something that we can all hopefully use as a guide, not gospel.

This is the fourth of five stages that make up a generalized startup timeline. You don't have to read the previous installments, but it will help, especially if you're just starting out. Level 1: The Jump is the period of time when you have a great idea that will become a great product. Level 2: Start is when the company is formed, it figures out how to operate, and launches that great product. Level 3: The Journey is about running and growing your company and selling your product.

So far, everything about startup is straight-up awesome. The early days are the reason most entrepreneurs start their own companies in the first place. It's living the dream, writing your own ticket, creating your own destiny.

But not every day is going to be your favorite day at your startup. Sometimes, it's going to feel like a job. And there will be those rare times when it's going to feel like the worst job you've ever had.

Let's deal with that.

The Grind is the part of startup that is the least glamorous, the most difficult, and probably lasts the longest. Now, nothing about startup is easy. Coming up with a great idea is hard. Turning that idea into a product is hard. Building a company to sell that product is hard. Getting your first few customers and funding is hard.

But once all that machinery is in place, it's time to make it better, faster, stronger, and more efficient. This is the point where the steady state changes, and it changes often. Customers won't be happy, investors will meddle, competition will appear out of nowhere, costs will rise, employees will quit, and everyone around you will, at some point, stop caring about the success of your startup.

Did I talk you out of it? No? Good. Here's how to get through the rest of your startup's life cycle.

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Five Stages of Startup: Level 3 -- The Journey
Leadership, Making, Hiring, Funding, Customers
by Joe Procopio
Level 3: The Journey
The five stages of startup I'm discussing are not THE five stages of startup. They're just landmarks, broken down and generalized into something that we can all hopefully use as a guide, not gospel.

So far in this series, I've covered the first two of five stages that make up a generalized startup timeline, beginning with Level 1: The Jump. This is the period of time before the thing is actually a thing -- when it's just a great idea that will become a great product. After that, the startup moves to Level 2: Start, when the company is formed, it figures out how to operate, and launches that great product.

Now we embark.

The Journey begins when the startup looks, acts, and feels like a real company. There is a product or service out there on the market, and customers are now the most important factor in determining success.

The Journey is the best part of startup. It's the early days when there are few rules and everything feels new and fresh and within your control. The Journey can last a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. Enjoy it. It's why you did this.

But the journey can't last forever, and you can't coast through this level. You're building on what you've accomplished and driving forward at top speed, trying to perfect the product, sell the product, grow the company, and scale the operation. Here's what you'll need to do that.

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Five Stages of Startup: Level 2 -- Start
Risk, Creativity, Logistics, Planning, Execution
by Joe Procopio
Level 2: Start

The five stages of startup I'm discussing are not THE five stages of startup. They're just landmarks, broken down and generalized into something that we can all hopefully use as a guide, not gospel.

Last time, I defined and discussed the first level of what's basically a generalized startup timeline. Level 1: The Jump, covers the period of time before the thing is actually a thing -- when it's just a great idea that will become a great product that can be sold to a market by a company.

And, of course, the moment when the entrepreneur has decided that they're all in on starting that company.

Read Level 1: The Jump if you haven't.

Now let's start making stuff.

Level 2: Start

Level 2 begins at that all-important point when the company is real and you arrive for your first day of work. Oh yeah, congratulations on the new job. Celebrate, but then get to work. This is where you make your new job into a real job.

Start is entirely about creating both the product and the company - they will work together as one symbiotic machine that, ultimately, will solve a big problem for your market. The company and product are usually indistinguishable, and the founders are tasked with getting both off the ground at the same time.

This is also the level that everyone associates with the Hollywood version of startup. This is the daring young genius tucked into a dorm room under a hoodie level. This is the Mark Zuckerberg wanna-be level. The Shark Tank level.

Don't fall for any of that, because despite everything you've learned from television and the movies, this is the level at which you will most likely fail.

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Five Stages of Startup: Level 1 -- The Jump
Ideation, Creation, Formation, Community, Help
by Joe Procopio
Level 1: The Jump
The map to startup success is really difficult to draw. Startup is about doing new things in new ways, and no two startups achieve success in the exact same way.

And because startup success is so hard to map, it's also hard to teach -- which makes it hard to learn.

So you have to teach and learn startup in new ways, but you also have to create a few universal ground rules, like landmarks on a map. That said, let me be very up-front about what I'm about to tell you:

The five stages of startup I'm about to discuss are not THE five stages of startup. They're just landmarks, broken down and generalized into something that we can all hopefully use as a guide, not gospel.

I broke these five stages into levels, because every entrepreneur should constantly be asking where they're at. It's the first thing they should think about when they wake up in the morning -- with the next thing being: How do I get to the next level?

It's important to define and discuss each level because there are different skills and actions required at each level -- because there are different rules and needs at each level.

Example: Level 1 entrepreneurs, those who are just starting out, need support, advice, guidance, and they need to be totally flexible about what they're building and what it is they're trying to accomplish. Level 4 entrepreneurs, those already living the dream, need some of those same things, probably less flexibility, but definitely more problem-solving, leadership, and crisis management.

Now, since the only way to know where you're going is to know where you are, let's figure that out, starting with the first steps.

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Welcome to Teaching Startup

Entrepreneurial mentoring at scale

If 99% of a startup’s success is based on team, why aren’t we identifying and educating potentially great founders at scale?

Teaching Startup is an educational network that delivers entrepreneurial mentoring at scale and in a unique, easily-consumable manner, to people of all ages and backgrounds. Using quality, tested content and an unstructured learning framework, Teaching Startup creates valuable new paths for anyone, regardless of experience, connections, or access, to embark on an entrepreneurial career. In short, Teaching Startup builds great entrepreneurs.

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