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Five Stages of Startup: Level 4 -- The Grind
Growth, Culture, Change, Trouble, Pivot
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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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The Show: Episode 1.2 -- Are Startup Accelerators Worth It?
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Startup accelerators are all the rage -- hard to get into and seemingly a one-way ticket to success. Colgan has been through 500 Startups, and Andy is on his way after a successful stint at The Startup Factory, so we have a conversation about the pros and cons.

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What's Your Biggest Weakness?
Teaching Startup: The Show - Episode 1.5
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In this episode we focus on our weaknesses. Not necessarily our failures, but those pieces of us that we're bad at. Startup doesn't talk about weakness much. Failure stories are great, but 90% of the time they're humblebrags -- "We flew too close to the sun like Icarus!"

Honestly, that's not helpful. What we do is talk about what makes us fail, and succeed, in terms that everybody here can easily understand.

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No One Cares That Life Gave You Lemonade
Entrepreneurs Really Don't Want To Hear Your Success Stories
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People like to read about entrepreneurs--about the things entrepreneurs do.

But I have noticed how few entrepreneurs say anything worth reading about (maybe myself included).

The problem is that...

Entrepreneurs are seldom good at discerning why people care, which leads entrepreneurs to assume something like, "these people are hanging on my every word." No, they are not. They came to see some action, which, 95% of the time probably means a train-wreck failure, and maybe 5% of the time means some story of overcoming the odds. These readers show up to be entertained...the same reason they read Harry Potter.

To these readers, you are the freak show they paid $0.25 to see.

"Uh huh, and what did you do when life gave you lemons?"

But there is another reason why people read about entrepreneurs: to learn. And this audience includes both current entrepreneurs--across a spectrum of experience--and aspiring entrepreneurs. These readers are not looking for entertainment (Harry Potter already gives them that). They came to learn how you turned lemons into lemonade.

For those people, the most worthless thing you could say or write is a story about lemonade. No one learns about overcoming challenges--about how you turned lemons into lemonade--if the story begins once your challenges have been overcome.

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VIDEO: How To Build Relationships With Investors
Teaching Startup: The Show - Episode 2.4
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Just because your startup landed venture capital, that doesn't mean you're successful. And just because you've been offered investment doesn't mean you should take it.

If you and your investors don't have a solid relationship, it could spell the end of your startup. Or maybe just the end of your leadership there.

What starts as a discussion about emulation versus experimentation (and maybe a little man-crush from Colgan), turns into the finer points of authenticity, honesty, and relationships with investors. Investment means the clock is ticking and the runway is getting shorter, every day. Those relationships are going to get real critical, real quick.

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One Bad Early Hire Can Kill a Startup
It Comes Down to Managing Expectations and Staying Agile
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Two years ago, an entrepreneur came to me with a dilemma. She had been approached by another entrepreneur who was being forced to wind down his own fledgling startup as his funding dried up. He was a one-person shop, he had made a decent run of it, but time was up.

Now he wanted to go to work for her.

I walked her through the dilemma. The guy had great tech and had been able to do a lot in a short amount of time with limited funds and resources. His was a tragic and all-too-common story. He raised a small seed round, crushed his milestones, a lot of investors were saying "maybe," and he just ran out of runway.


So I asked her: Where's the dilemma? He didn't want a lot of money or equity. He wasn't looking for a specific role, but he came with ideas. He had connections, experience, and he filled a gap in a place she wasn't super strong. He came with zero baggage. He wasn't a jerk, no blemishes on his personal record.

She then explained, in a long, roundabout way, that he didn't fit the plan.

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Tatiana Battles the Big Boys
The Startup Show: Episode 6.6
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In Episode 6.6 of The Startup Show, Joe Procopio (Automated Insights, ExitEvent), Jon Colgan (Veeto, Cellbreaker), and Andy Roth (RocketBolt) discuss the challenges of starting up a retail product, in this case, Mati Energy, with founder and CEO Tatiana Birgisson. The beverage industry is home to some entrenched, deep-pocketed (sometimes evil) corporations, and the plucky startup has to be more than just unique and hardworking to survive in that environment.

There's almost always an element of luck involved.

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How To Almost Kill Your Startup
The Startup Show: Episode 6.2
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In Episode 6.2 of The Startup Show, we interrogate the amazing Tatiana Birgisson, founder of rapidly-growing natural energy drink startup Mati Energy. Mati has exploded over the last 18 months, and they've started to go up against big, entrenched players, including behemoth multi-national corporations (think Coca-Cola). Find out how Tatiana learned fast, kept her company agile, and how she recovered from a critical mistake that almost killed her company during its first mass-production run.

Tatiana talks about some of the things she didn't think she would ever need to deal with, including delivering batches to local companies out of her car and hand labeling over 100,000 cans of Mati before she could afford professional canning.

One of the hardest lessons to learn but one that became an incredibly valuable weapon in her startup battle was cultivating and managing the relationships on her team through Mati's rapid growth. This included letting go of a lot of that aforementioned grunt work, delegating it to her team and, as the kind of perfectionist that most founders are, learning to live with the results.

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Five Stages of Startup

Five Roles of Startup

Five Kinds of Startup

Five Funding Sources

Five Reasons for Startup