The Show: Why Do We Make Startup So Damn Boring?

Teaching Startup: The Show -- Episode 1.3


So this week I upgraded the cold open a little bit to make it more visually appealing. MATI Energy is the sponsor. And we start to get into a little more back-and-forth with a little less exposition.

That time we talked about sucking all the fun out of startup, keeping people out of the club, and Joe's cut-rate accelerator idea.

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Second *Five Reasons for Startup* Installment Covers Money

The Lottery, Your Career, Investment vs Revenue, Foundation First, Don't Blow It


In this latest installment of this final series "Five Reasons for Startup" on Teaching Startup, I tackle money. Cold hard cash. It's a legit reason for becoming an entrepreneur, and it can actually be a pretty wise decision provided you know what you're getting into. I cover all of that in this piece.


Five Reasons for Startup: Wealth

Let's talk about money. A lot of money. Big money. The root of all evil.

So you want to get into startup for the money. I get it. I'm not going to waste your time debating the merits of capitalism, morality, ethics, or throw a bunch of biblical tales at you. I actually admire your ambition. But there are some things you need to know.

Wealth is a legitimate reason for becoming an entrepreneur. As I discussed in the last installment, startup is full of unlimited possibilities, and in a lot of ways, startup makes it easier to get to where you want to be financially, once you throw out the conventional timetables and status symbols of the traditional American dream.

On the other hand, it's never easy to make money with startup, especially at first. Because unlike the corporate path, your mistakes won't get covered, you can't coast, and there's no large organization to get your back when your own personal results flag or you hit a slump.

And it's expensive to get your business to a point where the money coming in is both recurring and something you can count from month to month and year to year. That expense equates to either money out of your own pocket (or someone else's pocket who you'll have to repay before you get paid), or time, during which you won't be getting paid very much if at all.

But except for those two points on the near and far end, the rest of the Wealth equation for startup looks a lot like the Wealth equation for anything else. Work hard. Be frugal. Plan right. And if you're chasing startup only to chase Wealth, I mean, if you're chasing anything only to chase Wealth, you're probably headed into a world of hurt.

So don't do that.

Being an entrepreneur is not a lifestyle choice or a hobby, it's a career. There are just as many responsibilities, headaches, heartaches, and pitfalls as a corporate career. There are, however, a plethora of reasons why everyone should try startup at least once in their life. Here are some of those reasons, and yours might be totally different.

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Are Startup Accelerators Worth It?

New Episode of Teaching Startup: The Show


New episode of Teaching Startup is airing today. Are Startup Accelerators Worth It? features a conversation between Andy, who just got into 500 Startups and has been through a local accelerator, and Colgan, who has already been through 500 Startups with this company.

Plus there are a couple good questions from Chop, a rant or two from me, and a few laughs.

I did a "cold open" with this episode, and Sean is stepping up his game with the animations, bringing in definitions.

Episode 1.2: That time we talked about giving up equity, diva attitude, and the dumbest thing Colgan ever saw.

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Five Reasons for Startup: Independence

Do What You Love, Do What You Want, Be Your Own Boss, Unlimited Possibilities, Fulfillment


I'm going to level with you right out of the gate. No matter what your reasons are for getting into startup, I can assure you that those reasons are valid.

There's no judgment here, there's no list of right and wrong reasons for becoming an entrepreneur, despite what you will hear from people, including me, about phony entrepreneurism (known as wantrepreneurism), greed, or even whether or not your idea is particularly good. Let the haters hate.

I will tell you this though: The primary reason you SHOULD be getting into startup is Independence.

Independence is the driving factor for why I'm an entrepreneur, nothing else. For me, the monetary rewards would likely be better elsewhere, I'm not necessarily a person who has to make this world a better place through my work, and I can thrive in both the entrepreneurial and corporate environments.

No, the reason I'm an entrepreneur is because I treasure my independence. I want to go to work every morning feeling excited about what I'm going to do that day, and I want to come home every night feeling satisfaction in a job well done.

That doesn't happen every day, mind you, but for me, it happens more often being an entrepreneur than not. It may not happen for you. It definitely won't happen every day. But at some point on your startup journey, you'll feel the rush of independence, and you might get addicted to it.

Being an entrepreneur is not a lifestyle choice or a hobby, it's a career. There are just as many responsibilities, headaches, heartaches, and pitfalls as a corporate career. There are, however, a plethora of reasons why everyone should try startup at least once in their life. Here are some of those reasons, and yours might be totally different.

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Teaching Startup Debuts Episode 1 of The Show

Bringing Startup to Everyone


Yesterday, my side/giveback project Teaching Startup debuted the first episode of The Show, an online TV series dedicated to bringing the concepts of startup and entrepreneurship to a broader audience by making it more accessible.

It's been a long time coming. And we're pretty hyped about the results, even though we know we have a long way to go.

On The Show, we talk about startup without droning on about startup. Sure, we talk about startup, in fact, we do that a lot, and you'll definitely learn something. But we also talk about stuff that's far more interesting.

Pop culture? Of course. We don't do our jobs 24/7. Neither should you.

Sports? Yeah, look at us. It's in our DNA.

Parenting? No better way to learn about being an entrepreneur.

Humor? If you're not laughing, we're not doing our job.

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Embrace Chaos

My Theme for 2017


I don't do resolutions. I don't. The reasons why have been well documented. What I do instead, is themes. A theme isn't a resolution, nor is it a slogan. A theme, if I do it right, not only neatly encapsulates everything I want to be and do and try in the new year, but it's an evolutionary statement as well, applying not just to me, but how I see the world around me.

Therefore, I believe my theme can help you as well. It's doesn't have to be your theme. In fact, it shouldn't be your theme. But my theme might help inform your theme.

Here's my theme: Embrace chaos.

This is a statement I've been thinking about for a while. Personally, it represents a lot of what I need to be able to do in terms of pulling success out of failure, creating something from nothing, and generally finding happiness in a world that doesn't allow you time to be happy, let alone find that happy in the first place.

I'm not immune to personal disaster or disappointment or life changes that leave me reeling. I had those in 2016. This is how I'm dealing with them.

Professionally, I've landed on this statement as a prescription for not only what I go through as an entrepreneur -- although in that, I think it buttons up my needs pretty well -- but also what I do with the things I do to find satisfaction in my life.

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Five Kinds of Startup: Hybrid

Service + Product, Add Digital, Add Retail, Everything Else


If you're doing startup right, you're going to be doing things that haven't been done before. Your company might not fit neatly into the Product box, or the Service box, or the Digital box, or the Retail box.

This is fine. Actually, it's great. It's also not a new phenomenon or strictly a startup phenomenon. Hybrid companies have existed throughout history. But in startup, especially modern startup in the Internet era, Hybrid Startups are much more common.

A Hybrid Startup is the combination of one or more of the four kinds of startup I've previously covered. Actually, any combination is viable, but there are some key components to the four I'll discuss here that make them unique. There's also a fifth option, Everything Else, just in case your startup does something so new that it doesn't fit any definition at all.

While all businesses are unique, there are really only a few kinds of startup. How these companies operate, grow, and succeed will depend on what kind they are. Thus, a lot of the decisions you will make and paths you will take will depend on what kind of startup you're running.

Service + Product is the most common Hybrid, and it's often used as an accelerator for the business in which the startup operates. Back in the installment on Service Startups, I briefly discussed how a Service Startup can scale their efforts by making their service repeatable and more efficient. Then that Service Startup builds a framework or methodology so that some to most of the service work can be done either automatically, say with software, or by someone who doesn't need as much expertise in the field and is therefore less expensive as a resource.

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How Teaching Startup: The Show Almost Failed Immediately

You Can Do Almost Everything Right


First of all, a big thanks to the THOUSANDS of you who watched at least part of the Teaching Startup: The Show trailer last week. I'm pretty excited about this, even though a lot of how it will operate is still shrouded in mystery. That's partly fake-it-until-you-make-it, but I've been told it can be hard to get a handle on my vision for something like this, which makes me all the more grateful to Andy, Kyle, Sean, Jon, and Chop for just grabbing hold and hanging on.

Now, let's talk about how the trailer launch almost failed.

The three-word mission for Teaching Startup is "Take startup mainstream." Video, good quality, unique, fun, valuable video, is the way to do that. And instead of video, let's call The Show a television show, because that's what it is, but if I tell people I'm starting a television show it sounds even crazier that it already does.

That's cool and all, I don't care how crazy it sounds. I'm an entrepreneur. But people need a bridge to get on board with crazy. 15 years ago, electric cars were crazy. Then Tesla.

So anyway, I'm taking startup mainstream using television. But not reality television. That's why I took an unprovoked shot at Shark Tank. They're trying to take startup mainstream using corporate sensibilities.

Good for them. Go make your money. You're doing it at the expense of startup culture, but what do you care? You're owned by NBC Universal.

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Five Kinds of Startup: Retail

Product Line, Physical Space, Digital Space, Inventory, Logistics


It's one of the first things we think of when we think of business. It's the mom and pop shop, the restaurant, the boutique. It's Walmart, Amazon, and Starbucks.

We've all said to ourselves at some point in our past, "Someday, I'm going to open my own… THIS." For a lot of people, THIS is a bar, usually in college and it lasts for about a week.

While all businesses are unique, there are really only a few kinds of startup. How these companies operate, grow, and succeed will depend on what kind they are. Thus, a lot of the decisions you will make and paths you will take will depend on what kind of startup you're running.

Retail is when you want to sell stuff. It could be your stuff, it could be someone else's stuff, but regardless, you're providing the place for customers to come buy stuff.

While it's much easier to set up a Retail startup these days, thanks to the Internet and distributors like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, it's much, much harder to succeed, thanks to the increased competition brought about by that very same ease of entry.

The good news is you can open an online store and be in business today. The bad news? You can fail and close it as early as tomorrow. I know. That's harsh. But Retail has never been easy. Ask anyone who has done it.

They'll tell you that you can't ignore the past ten years, and the ever-increasing pressure on retail brought about by online shopping. It impacts everything, whether you're a mom and pop shop or a big box chain.

The Retail landscape is constantly changing, and there are new models out there like subscription shopping (Dollar Shave Club, Blue Apron) to replace every trend that seems to be dying out (daily deal sites like Groupon, auction sites like QuiBids). There are even new ways to start a physical Retail presence like food trucks or pop up stores.

All that said, the basics of Retail startup are still the basics, and they haven't changed for centuries.

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Teaching Startup: The Show -- Trailer


So, you're one of the first people on the planet to see the humble beginnings of what will eventually become Teaching Startup: The Show.

Teaching Startup: The Show is a bunch of entrepreneurs talking about startup, among other things, and discussing real, relevant issues in an honest and open way. This is not Shark Tank. This is real startup talk. DIY startup. Punk startup.

The Show opens up startup to everyone. We talk in frank, easily understandable, no-bull terms, with content delivered by actual entrepreneurs with real-world startup experience. The target audience is from middle-school to middle-age, whether you're just thinking about jumping into startup or you've sold a couple companies and maybe want to give back.

This is a new way of doing things, and I know it seems a little crazy.

But if you get it, if you dig the vibe, if you think you connect with what we're trying to do, there are couple ways you can get involved.

Sign up for the beta program waiting list. Invites will start going out in late December.

Give us a thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to the Teaching Startup channel.

Follow the @TeachingStartup Twitter or like the Teaching Startup Facebook page.

Tell your friends -- just the cool ones -- not the jerks.

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Five Kinds of Startup: Digital

Packaging, Access, Adoption, Tailoring, Evolution


The last two installments of the Five Kinds of Startup Series have been cake. I can pretty much explain what a Product Startup does in four words: Make something, sell something. The same thing is true for Service Startups: Do something, get paid.

This is not true for all startups. And it's especially not true for Digital Startups.

While all businesses are unique, there are really only a few kinds of startup. How these companies operate, grow, and succeed will depend on what kind they are. Thus, a lot of the decisions you will make and paths you will take will depend on what kind of startup you're running.

I debated calling this category Information Startups or Data Startups, because I believe those terms make it easier to understand the type. But ultimately, those are really just subcategories of a greater whole.

For example, the most obvious (and overdone) example of an information startup is a social network: Facebook. If you think of a photo of someone's lunch as a computer file broken down into millions of bits of data and passed over the Internet tubes to be accessed by potentially billions of people, you've got the components of information, data, and content startups. So the Digital Startup is really about collecting, packaging, and delivering those ones and zeros, whether they form a jpg file or a massive database of sales information.

This means that Digital Startups are a bit of a riddle. So before we dive in, let's make sure we're all talking about the same thing.

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Start Your New Year's Resolutions In December

Forget Goals. If You Want to Succeed, You've Got To Prepare


There you go. There's some of my best advice, right there in the title and subtitle. If you want to stop right here and just go and execute on that advice, go nuts. I won't hold it against you. Get started.

In the rest of our time together, I'll explain why I'm giving that advice, so you'll understand that I'm not just putting words into neat sentences to make myself seem smart.

I'm not a believer in New Year's resolutions. For that matter, I'm not a huge fan of locking into any goal and putting blinders on to get there. Yeah, I know, you hear this kind of thing all the time -- in sports in relation to championships, in academics while striving towards a big test, in the workplace barreling forward to the end of the quarter or the fiscal year.

But this advice is not for you, it's for the drones.

A good coach tells his or her players to march forward with blinders and earmuffs and keep chopping and grinding and all sorts of cliched useless platitudes while keeping eyes on the prize with one heartbeat to shock the world.

But the coach is not marching to those orders. The coach is constantly monitoring and reassessing and changing the game plan based on perpetually incoming new information.

The coach knows there's no direct route from the beginning of the season to the championship. The coach is working his or her butt off to lay new path just ahead of the team and building walls on either side, while telling them that this path was there the whole time and they should just focus on that newly laid piece of path that he or she just put down.

In life, you're not the player. You're the coach.

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Survive, Advance, and Move On

Doing the Wrong Thing for the Right Reasons


At the end of this past summer, I wrote a piece about bribing my daughter to play soccer.

It's not as awful as it sounds.

Let me break it down real quick.

See, at the end of last spring season, she had just barely aged out of her bracket, born less than three weeks after the cutoff and gifted with my height and growth cycle, my 11-year-old mighty mite found herself placed on a u15 team in a different league.

Now, that's not so bad. I'm all for a challenge. But it turns out, the team she got placed on had been together for a couple seasons with a coach who was super (but not overtly) competitive. These kids were playing to win. They all knew each other already. They were good. They were winners. And they wanted nothing to do with this pipsqueak new girl.

The first practice was an unmitigated disaster. They wouldn't talk to her, let alone pass to her in drills or tell her what she was doing right or wrong. And when compared to her former, all-girl, 10 & 11-year-old team, these dudes were twice as big, ran three times faster and longer, and fought five times as hard.

To put the final nail in the coffin, the only other girl on the team (a 13-year-old) quit before the second practice.

I got all of this news on my way home from work the night of that first practice, and was further told that she was absolutely, positively not going to play on this team, which meant she would not be going to the next practice after school the following day.

I had 20 hours to fix this. With bedtime and school, I had 45 minutes.

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Five Kinds of Startup: Service

Expertise, Viability, People, Overhead, Scale


When we talk about the ingredients for successful startups, one of the primary rules is: Find a problem a lot of people have and solve it. Product Startups, as we discussed last time, take the long road to complete that journey. It's a daunting undertaking to try to solve a problem with a thing. It's a much more direct route to solve a problem with people.

We live in a society of perpetual progress, and this progress continues to create opportunities for doing things for other people that they can't or don't want to do themselves, because they're either lacking in the latest knowledge or they're just short on time.

So if you're really good at something, you can probably create a Service Startup around it, as long as you can do it more cheaply and more quickly than they (or anyone else) can.

This is not as easy it sounds. You may be an expert in computer software, accounting, plumbing, interior decorating, or shopping. You may be the person to whom everyone runs when they have a problem they can't solve. You may even have a part-time gig making a little side money off people who find your expertise worth paying for.

The big question is: Can you make a business out of it?

While all businesses are unique, there are really only a few kinds of startup. How these companies operate, grow, and succeed will depend on what kind they are. Thus, a lot of the decisions you will make and paths you will take will depend on what kind of startup you're running.

Service startups are fairly common. They spring from a wide range of industries, talents, and offerings, and they usually start out as a single operator who realizes he or she can do all of those things their employer is currently doing for them -- finding new business, providing access to equipment and training -- with a shot at more control, as well as better salary, benefits, and working conditions.

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Good Job, Baseball

The 108-Year Drought That Saved The Show


Baseball finally righted itself early yesterday morning when Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant came up smiling before making a laser throw to Anthony Rizzo for the final out of the 2016 World Series.

It only took 22 years. Not even a quarter of the time it took for the Cubs to become World Champions again.

I was introduced to the game of baseball by an unlikely teacher. My grandmother, Angelina Procopio, came to America as a little girl, and immediately fell in love with the New York Yankees of the 1940s and 1950s. Her favorite players, Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto, were models of the American Dream with an Italian heritage.

She introduced me to the Yankees shortly after I could walk, and my first memories of baseball are of those late 1970s teams -- Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Graig Nettles, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage. I'd listen to broadcasts on an AM radio and drift off the sleep nearly every night from April to October.

Baseball was my jam.

When I was old enough to play, I found another player to love. Sure I had loved Reggie and Bucky and Dave Winfield, but I had never seen anything like Ozzie Smith. While my size and power weren't working for me on the ballfield, I did have good hand-eye (thanks, video games!) and quickness. Ozzie, a small contact hitter and defensive genius, was my spirit animal, and by the time he executed his first backflip in the 1982 World Series, he was my hero.

I loved baseball, everything from the numbers to the smell of the grass to belting out Take Me Out To The Ballgame as loud as I could, every time, without fail.

Then 1994 happened.

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