Don’t Get Fooled When the Easy Money Lie Looks Like the Hard Startup Truth

When Is a Side Hustle a Scam and When Is It Just Sketchy?

Joe Procopio

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image by drobotdean

I usually write these posts to dispense strategic and tactical startup and business advice, the kind that’s difficult to follow. As you can imagine, advice that’s difficult to follow doesn’t exactly burn up the Internets. On the other hand, I feel like I could write about startup scams and sketchery all day, every day, and get a lot more people to read me.

As it is, I only write about the sketchery when something really pisses me off.

Like this did.

How To Make $100,000 on a Side Hustle

A friend of mine passed along something they found on a legitimate startup ecosystem website. It was a pitch disguised as a how-to wrapped up in a blog post. It was written by someone I didn’t expect it to be from — credentials-wise, I don’t know the poster. So I read the whole thing, because it “felt” like the stupid make-easy-money sketchery I’ve seen a million times before in a million different varieties.

To my disappointment, it was exactly that. But instead of getting angry and burning bridges, I decided to break it down and lift boats.

Here’s how a “sketch startup” works. It’s like a scam, only not as bold, and usually nothing illegal is happening. People just lose money the old fashioned way, by spending it on someone’s unproven idea to game a system for pure profit.

Step 1: Are You Tired Of…?

A sketch startup can be anything from a bait-and-switch 12-step-style program to a “real” startup incubator or accelerator. I think we all know which one I’m talking about, but they’re far from the only one.

Sketch Startups take many forms, so they’re hard to spot right away, but almost always, the first thing you notice is that they bash the “traditional” startup process and how antiquated it is, what with all its hard work, capital requirements, and high failure rate.

The case I was sent did that on, like, every level, from throwing barbs at Silicon Bros to the insider jargon to the boomerism of VC firms.

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com