How to Start at a Startup When You Know Nothing About Startups

Allow me to introduce myself…

I’m Britany.

I recently started here at Skaled as Social Media Editor.

I know branding and copywriting. I know how to build quality content and market it.  But I initially knew very little about startups…

The first time I wrote copy for Jake, our CEO, I crafted an entire paragraph around a sports analogy in response to his request to highlight our role as MVP.

Clearly, he wanted me to explain how Skaled could be the most valuable player for startups who need help. We’d step up to the plate, accept a long pass for a fourth quarter touchdown, and sink a three pointer with seconds on the clock.

Clearly, I didn’t have a clue.

After completing my sparkling metaphors, I read it over and over – feeling the pre-publish nerves, tingle through my finger as it hovered over the mouse.  It was my first week – I couldn’t screw up!

Then an inkling came over me. MVP? Did he really want me to describe our business as the Most Valuable Player of teams that had been working together for years, only to have an outsider come in and take all the credit? Skaled can do great things for startups, but we didn’t want to label ourselves as a ball hog, did we? Could MVP possibly stand for something else?

In meticulous researcher fashion, I Googled it.

First result… MVP: Most Valuable Player.

Second result… MVP: Minimum Viable Product.

What the heck is Minimum Viable Product?

In further meticulous researcher fashion, I consulted Wikipedia.

“In product development, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a strategy used for fast and quantitative market testing of a product or product feature.”

Well yes, that made sense. It now seemed highly probable that I had misunderstood my CEO’s request.

Thank goodness for the publish finger hover.

As a newbie to the startup world, I’m constantly encountering lingo I do not understand. I’m a writer. I went to ART school. Business and sales strategies are foreign territory for me. But now that I’ve been here a few weeks, I’ve begun to collect tricks for getting by in this new ecosystem and constantly learning along the way.

1. Listen to EVERYTHING.

It isn’t eavesdropping if your office is an open floor plan. I’ve found that turning an open ear to my coworkers calls, although sometimes confusing in their one-sidedness, is extremely helpful in getting a feel for what they do – what WE do as a business.

In a less nosey fashion, ask to sit in on meetings and calls whenever possible, and soak it all in.

2. Read Blogs

I could read up on sales and marketing and business strategies all day, if I didn’t have other responsibilities. Instead, I take a slice of each workday to peruse the startup blog feed I’ve built up, and I learn something new with every post I read. It also gives me ideas for my own content, and material to insert into the conversations that initially floated above my head.

There are so many great blogs out there (like this one!) and they exist to provide knowledge and a foundation for conversations. Use them.

3. Understand the value of your own skills.

The startup world is an exciting place, full of ambitious people with big ideas. A variety of personalities and skills are necessary to turn those ideas into realities. I may not have understood exactly what a VC is or does when I started (don’t worry, I’ve since looked it up) but I do bring a unique set of skills to the table that further enhance our overall abilities as a team. As Social Media Editor, I’m developing Skaled’s brand and online presence with my social media marketing, blogging, and copywriting experience, and that’s an area that was previously neglected. Look who’s MVP now! (I couldn’t resist.)

4. When in doubt, look it up.

If anyone at work saw my Google history, I’m sure I’d become the brunt of some goodhearted teasing. And the truth is, a lot of what I look up, I do already understand. But you can never be too cautious in strange waters, so I Google A LOT, just to be sure that I’m not crafting more sports copy in place of sales lingo. (It was damn good copy, too – such a shame.)

Everyone that enters the startup world, at some point, doesn’t know exactly what they’re talking about. But there are plenty of ways to accelerate the learning process, optimize your unique set of skills, and acclimate to your team’s work environment. In the meantime, always take a moment to hover over that publish button…


Any advice to add? We’d love to hear it!

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