The Launch Path

What this is all about.

I was lucky enough to grow up in Silicon Valley, and I’ve been immersed in the startup world for my whole career. This set of Medium posts is my attempt to distill the lessons I’ve learned in my career into a framework to help entrepreneurs everywhere to thrive and succeed.

I started my first business at the age of 18. It went bankrupt within two years. Since then I’ve started four more companies, sometimes with better results.

I’ve raised angel capital, I’ve raised venture capital, I’ve spent it all and then raised some more. I’ve hired some great people and…

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You could pay big money to Hopin, On24, or Vimeo Live. Or you could roll-your-own, using ingredients you probably already have.

During The Time of Covid, we’ve all tried to figure out how to do virtual events and conferences. Initially, we all used Zoom because that was what we already knew. But Zoom’s webinar functionality isn’t great, since that’s not their core use case. There are bunch of new virtual events platforms such as Hopin and On24, but my experience with them is that they are pricey and buggy.

And so for Demo Day for the 4thly Startup Accelerator last month I decided I’d try to create my own, using tools I already had — and I was surprised at how…

The Launch Path, Step 8.

Every great entrepreneur has the ability to tell a crisp, clear, and compelling story about what she’s working on — and why it matters.

Sidebar Articles:
On pitch decks.
Preparing great presentations.
Presenting your startup at Demo Day.

If you walk into Warren Buffett’s office in Omaha, you will see on his wall a certificate for completing a $100 course on public speaking. It was while he was at Columbia Business School that he saw an ad in the paper for a Dale Carnegie public speaking course. “I went to Midtown, signed up, and gave them a check. But after I left, I swiftly stopped payment. I just couldn’t do it. I was that terrified.”, he recounts.

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The Launch Path

Optimizing your path to startup success.

When I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, in our first session I ask how many students are in the class hoping to get a business plan template of some sort. Typically around a third of them raise their hand, and I encourage them to drop the course immediately. Because entrepreneurial success has nothing to do with writing business plans.

No business plan ever survived first contact with actual customers.
-Steve Blank

Entrepreneurial success is mostly about mindset. It’s also about following an iterative process of testing your assumptions. My Launch Path framework is designed to help you with both.

Much of…

Photo from Unsplash.

Table of Contents

A framework under development.

The Launch Path is a framework designed to help entrepreneurs get efficiently from an early idea to successful startup venture. I’m developing the content here, so please be aware that it’s a work-in-progress. Input welcome!

How to use this framework.

Step 1: Listen to the waves.
Step 2: Build something people want.
Step 3: Draw the landscape.
Step 4: Build an engine of growth.
Step 5: Create an economic model.
Step 6: Create a capital strategy.
∞ Step 7: Frame a funnel.
Step 8: Be a master storyteller.

A legal primer for Entrepreneurs.
★ Resources for Entrepreneurs
A brief history of Silicon Valley.
The women who built Silicon Valley

Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Disposable cups are an environmental disaster. 16 billion coffee cups a year get tossed into the trash, along with 500 billion plastic cups. The world has a coffee habit, and the earth has a garbage problem.

We all know that re-usable cups are the solution, but it’s just not practical for us to carry a re-usable cup wherever we go. Or is it?

Zylch, a new Silicon Valley startup, has taken on this challenge by re-imagining the cup. Their team of designers thought to themselves, “What if the cup was collapsable?”. You could slide it into your pocket, expand it…

Photo by StellrWeb on Unsplash

Is that enough acronyms for you?

Once upon a time, accountants developed a standardized way of representing the economic model of a company. If you had a widget factory, the cost of manufacturing each widget would be Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), and everything else was overhead (Sales, General, and Administrative, or SG&A).

COGS are your variable costs (because those costs vary with the number of widgets made each month) and SG&A are your fixed costs, because the overhead is the same each month, no matter how many widgets you sell.

Revenue minus COGS gives you gross profit, gross profit minus SG&A gives you net profit.

This is a simple one. They can get very hairy.

In the world of startups, few things are as consequential as the Capitalization Table. Conceptually, it’s a very simple document— it’s just a list of who owns what percentage of the company. But it can get complicated in a hurry, with cofounder agreements, stock options issued, lawyers who hold stock warrants, investors who own preferred shares, advisors who were promised equity, and many other twists and turns.

It becomes a sacred document, and every investor you talk to for each round of financing will ask for a current Cap Table. Your lawyers will need it. The bank will ask for…

The Launch Path: Step 5.

How much capital do you need? What are the right sources and structures for that capital?

Sidebar articles:
Glossary of startup financing terms.
Debt vs Equity — which is better for entrepreneurs?
Avoid my fundraising mistakes.
You don’t need no stinkin’ venture capital.
How a cap table mistake cost me $130K.

Most startups require some sort of capital to get off the ground. The good news is that in 2021 there are more sources and structures for startup capital than ever before.

I’m always amazed when new entrepreneurs tell me that their biggest hurdle is finding financing. …

Bret Waters

I’m a Silicon Valley guy. I teach entrepreneurship at Stanford, coach startup CEO’s at Miller Center, and run the 4thly Startup Accelerator. Also, I love tacos.

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