How Aggressive Goals Doom a Startup

That “Hockey Stick” Revenue Chart Might Be Setting You Up For Failure

Joe Procopio
5 min readMar 27


Buzzkill McGee

I know. I sound like a total wet blanket, but I often see lofty goals cause all kinds of trouble for startups.

To prove my point, let me open this post with a little visual exercise that you easily can do in your head.

Think about your last paycheck — yeah, the last time you got paid by an employer. Then break down your compensation into an hourly amount, $X per hour.

Pro tip: To convert your annual salary, lop off three zeroes and divide by two. $100,000 a year = $50 an hour. That’s close enough.

Then I want you to think back to your very first job, and how much you made per hour back then.

Now, imagine a plot of your hourly rate on a chart from then until now. Let’s say on a Y-axis scale from $0 an hour to $100 an hour, which is a good life goal that should cover most of the population. It’ll look something like this:

Yours is probably a nice up-and-to-the-right linear chart. Maybe some spikes, maybe it goes down a bit in places, but it should show growth over time.

Now, I want you to put that same data on a chart with a Y-axis scale from $0 an hour to $10,000 an hour.

Then I want you to try to track your progress.

Trust me. It’s down there at the bottom, but it’s impossible to see any meaningful changes in the curve, let alone react to them.

Startup founders do this with their financial goals. All. The. Time.


Well, the answer is kind of simple — probably best explained with another visual.

It’s because they’re trying to do this.



Joe Procopio

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