How Poor Leadership Choices Turn Into Startup Schemes

Bad decisions can turn a startup into a scheme, which is one step away from a scam

Joe Procopio
4 min readMar 24, 2022


image by jcomp on freepik

When is a startup not really a startup? It’s a surprisingly necessary question.

If you’ve ever been burned getting too close to a startup that isn’t really a startup, that’s a mistake that you probably won’t make twice.

Unless you’re Softbank.

But if you’ve never been up close and personal with a startup scam, scheme, or simply a cascade of poor leadership choices made by a CEO who really shouldn’t be a CEO, the temptation to hop on board what seems like a deep-pocketed, world-changing gravy train can be overwhelming.

That’s how scams work.

There’s a lot of money to be made in entrepreneurship. I don’t want you to fall into the same money trap I see both new and veteran entrepreneurs get caught in over and over again.

The Temptation To Believe Perceived Value

Let’s put it in more understandable terms — or maybe less understandable. The question “Is a startup really a startup?” comes from the same place as the question, “Does an NFT really have any value?”

One side answers yes, absolutely. Not only does an NFT have value, it has an intrinsic value that is so misunderstood, that to be in the current crop of forward-thinking NFT investors is to set yourself up for a once-in-a-generation windfall of wealth creation.

Twice-in-a-generation if you count crypto.

The other side says no. NFTs are, at best, a derivative crypto scam and, at worst, a digital Ponzi scheme. Yet, anyone who bought a Bored Ape back when Bored Apes were cheap is definitely laughing from the very top of that particular pyramid.

For now.

Most of us — like, 99 percent of the world — ultimately just shrug at the question, because the answer is more nuanced and complicated than we have time for.

But maaaaybe we’ll play around on OpenSea and Decentraland — just in case.

When a Startup Becomes a Scheme



Joe Procopio

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

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