His Startup’s Sales Goal Was $1 Million, But He Couldn’t Crack $1,000

How hockey stick growth expectations get in the way of goals

Joe Procopio
4 min readMay 19, 2022


It’s a phenomenon that happens to a lot of startup founders and leaders. It definitely happened to an entrepreneur I’ll call “Jeff,” who reached out to me a couple weeks ago.

Jeff is a repeat founder, now in the early stages helming his second startup, after exiting his first through a particularly lucrative acqui-hire (that’s where a company buys a startup solely for its talent). While the previous exit was good for Jeff and his team, it was also part of the current problem.

See, Jeff’s first startup had achieved an uncommon level of success rather quickly. During his first startup’s meteoric rise, Jeff got an acquisition offer that he couldn’t refuse. He took it. In retrospect, he believes it was the right choice and I, for one, agree.

Fast forward to today, and Jeff is attempting something that rarely happens in the world of startups: Doing the same thing and expecting the same results.

This time around, the results weren’t coming. A year into his new venture, Jeff’s plan for $1 million in annual revenue had come up short. About $999,000 short. He hadn’t cleared $1,000 in sales yet.

Now Jeff was burning through all the cash from his previous exit. He was running out of money, running out of fall-back options, and definitely running out of any patience he had left.

Honestly, it might be too late for Jeff’s current startup, but maybe not his next startup.

Or your startup.

The Myth Of Hockey Stick Startup Growth

It’s easy to think that the big paydays that happen with some startups could happen to any startup. But the truth is that there is no formula for startup success. Every venture is different. The same founder can run back the same team and the same technology with a different market or even at a different time and get completely opposite results.

While a big and brash goal might be a symptom of Jeff’s problem, it wasn’t the cause. The cause is a little more nuanced and a lot more prevalent than just trying to run it back…



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