An update on The Takeoff
How can we make The Takeoff as helpful for you as possible?
|Michael Spiro||Oct 16, 2020||2|
Happy Friday everyone!
Doing something a little different this week… we don’t have an interview. Sorry!
Instead, we thought it would be a good time to share an update with you about where The Takeoff is right now, what we have in store moving forward, and how you can help make The Takeoff the best it can be. This is a slight attempt to build in public — a trend I’ve been following pretty closely recently.
Below is a quick rundown of what’s included in today’s newsletter. Feel free to skip to any section that interests you.
Quick note upfront: We want to hear from you! If there are things you think we can do better or ideas you have for how we can improve The Takeoff, let us know! We want to make The Takeoff as helpful as possible for you (our subscribers)! You can DM us on Twitter or respond directly to this email :)
Rundown of today’s newsletter
Our (current) mission.
Background / Origin of The Takeoff.
Where we are today.
Our (current) mission.
Our goals are ambitious.
We want to change the way students and other young talent learn about startups & entrepreneurship, find roles at hot startups, launch companies of their own, and start making the world a better place (however you want to define this) for all.
Put simply, what Y Combinator does for early-stage founders / startups and what Wall Street Prep does for future bankers, we want to do for students interested in tech and startups.
This is no easy task. It will not happen overnight. It will require some luck. And, it will require buy-in and hard work from a lot of people. But, we believe that we can make it happen.
This is only the beginning. We thank you greatly for being an early part of our story. And, we look forward to exploring the next steps in this journey together.
(So now that you know where we hope to go, let’s take you back to where it all began.)
Background / Origin of The Takeoff
I actually wrote a blog post a few months ago highlighting the specifics about The Takeoff’s origins. You can find that post, here.
If you want an abbreviated version, I’m here to help (in bulleted form too because, well, that’s just way easier to consume).
Background. As a freshman / sophomore in college, I found it incredibly difficult to find good startup-, tech-, and venture-related resources on campus. I wanted to learn more about startups and what it is like to join a startup / found a company out of school. I wanted to meet other students on campus with similar interests to me, who didn’t want to go down the traditional undergraduate business school to investment banking or consulting path. I wanted to find cool internship opportunities at startups founded by WashU alum (I go to WashU btw). However, I found this incredibly hard.
The difficulty. The most helpful resources I found were online, at places like YC’s How to Start a Startup, The Twenty Minute VC, and Bessemer’s Atlas. These resources were (and still are) incredible sources of knowledge gain for me. But, they are not focused on helping students. I found it incredibly hard to find students on campus with similar career interests and ambitions to me — after all, over half of Olin students go straight into banking or consulting out of school (Olin is WashU’s business school). And, when I went to the career office for help finding startup roles, they essentially told me, “Find cool startups online and email the CEOs.”
Banking & Consulting resources. Meanwhile, my friends who were interested in consulting and investment banking roles had an abundance of resources and opportunities thrown at them. Quite literally… I knew that something needed to change. I started the Washington University Entrepreneur Society and started reaching out to founders and investors who went to WashU and / or work in St. Louis. The WashU Entrepreneur Society is exactly as it sounds: an entrepreneurship club for WashU students. The main goals when founding this club were: (1) bring like-minded students on campus together in a unified group, (2) allow founders and investors in the WashU community to share their stories and advice with current WashU students, and (3) help make WashU into the Stanford of the Midwest (I’m still optimistic this can happen — it’ll just take time). More on the Entrepreneur Society, here. The Entrepreneur Society helped me get in touch with successful alumni and individuals in the WashU community. I set up as many phone calls as possible with successful alumni, mainly asking for advice and having a learning-first mindset in all conversations. I wanted to learn as much as possible from these people about startups, tech, entrepreneurship, venture capital, etc.
The Takeoff. I succeeded in learning a ton from the folks I chatted with, but I wanted to find a way to share their thoughts and ideas with more students. So, I found a few friends who shared an interest in startups and entrepreneurship, and we came together to brainstorm the best way to help students learn more about the startup and tech world. Particularly, we wanted to allow successful founders, operators, and investors to share their stories and offer advice to students. Enter, The Takeoff.
Where we are today
Today, The Takeoff is a newsletter and podcast doing two main things:
Interviewing founders, operators, and investors, allowing them to share their stories and offer advice for the next generation.
Sharing curated content for our subscribers.
To date, we’ve released 34 interviews via our newsletter. We also recently launched a podcast (shoutout Lukas) and have released 3 interviews there, too. Our early podcast episodes are all focused on healthcare and, in particular, telehealth. You can check those out, here (Apple Podcasts; Spotify).
Our interviews are a great way for students, recent grads, and really anyone to learn from some of today’s leading startup figures about the companies they’ve built and been a part of, advice they have for students interested in founding or joining a startup, and much more. They’re also a great way for our interview guests to give back and inspire the next generation.
Our five most popular interviews to date:
(The YC fam has 3/5 top spots 🚀🚀)
The second type of content we produce is a newsletter called What We’ve Been Following that highlights some of the newsletters, podcasts, blog posts, tweets, startup news, and more than our Team thinks would be helpful for our subscribers. We release these every other week, typically on Friday but occasionally over the weekend. To get the best content to include in these newsletters, our Team consumes a lot of news, information, and knowledge and shares their favorites in our Team’s Slack channel #whatwevebeenfollowing. Moving forward, we’d love to add two aspects to our What We’ve Been Following newsletters:
Share resources that our Community shares with us. If you read anything cool, see anything on Twitter, or listen to any awesome podcasts that you think we should include in one of our What We’ve Been Following newsletters, send it to us! We’ll give you credit, don’t worry :) You can email us email@example.com, DM us on Twitter, or just Tweet @_TheTakeoff.
Share things our Community is working on. If you are working on a startup, cool project, or doing anything else you want us to share with our following, once again, shoot us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), DM us on Twitter, or Tweet at us (@_TheTakeoff). We hope we can bring more awareness to all the awesome things our Community members are working on!
What do we have in mind moving forward? Think next 6-12 months.
We have a lot of plans and ideas for the future. We likely won’t get to all of these, and I hope we get to many things that aren’t currently listed. But, to give you a sense of where we (hopefully) are headed:
Produce more types of content. We started by sharing long-form founder and investor interviews via our newsletter. We expanded to include What We’ve Been Following. We then launched a podcast. Now, we want to do even more. I am most interested in starting to do “mini deep-dives” on sectors and areas of interest, sharing our findings via The Takeoff. I just started doing research for my first The Takeoff “mini deep-dive” and Lukas recently started doing research for one of his own, too. These “mini deep-dives” will essentially look like the work a venture capitalist may do while looking into a certain industry, company, or space. We’ll share industry basics (key definitions, TAM — if appropriate, trends, etc.) and share some companies in the space that we find exciting. We’re also thinking about other forms of content we can produce — if you have any ideas or want to get involved, email us (email@example.com) or shoot us a DM on Twitter.
Other ideas here: Collab with other newsletters and podcasts; Have more industry- / vertical-focused interview series (As mentioned above, Lukas’ early podcast interviews have all be telehealth-related. I’d love to do more industry-focused interview series.
Expand our Contributor program. We’ve been super selective in expanding our Contributor program to date because we wanted to make sure we had a model that could work long term. We think we’ve found this model and are thinking about expanding the number of Contributors we have. Our existing Contributors have mainly just focused on interviewing people for our newsletter (See Gaby’s interviews with JMJ and Joshua Browder). But, we want to allow our Contributors to do much, much more. If you are a student and want to get involved with The Takeoff as a Contributor, shoot us a note with the type of content you’d be interested in creating (our Twitter, my Twitter, my LinkedIn — you can also just respond to this email).
I have four things in mind for projects Contributors can work on, but I’m open to more!
Writing What We’ve Been Following newsletters
Projects, research, etc. of your choosing (Want to explore all of the startups founded by alumni of your school and share your findings? We’ll help you do so (Lukas and I actually did this for WashU a few years ago). Want to DM 50 venture capitalists asking a question like, “How can a student best prepare to enter the world of VC?,” and write up a blog about the responses? We’ll help you. Want to do something totally different? Let us know your ideas, and we’ll see if we can make something work.)
Launch a referral program. It’s probably not time for us to launch a referral program yet, but it’s on our minds. Packy McCormick launched a referral program for Not Boring in late June and has seen crazy growth since then. I’m talking ~4,000 to >17,000 in less than 4 months. That’s f***ing crazy! Morning Brew’s referral program has worked wonders in helping get them to where they are today (2m+ subscribers & a reported acquisition by Business Insider for north of $75M). We want to create a referral program for The Takeoff in the near future. We’ve explored a few potential ways to set this up, but, frankly, haven’t fallen in love with anything yet. If you have any ideas / recommendations for how we can go about this, we’d love to hear from you! (If you want to get involved and help set this up, shoot Roshan a note and we can try to figure something out!)
Improve our distribution channels. So far we’ve been primarily focused on nailing content. 37 interviews down, we feel pretty confident about the questions we ask and the caliber guests we have on The Takeoff — though there is definitely room to improve and grow moving forward. That said, we want to blow this thing up. To date, our main channels for newsletter & podcast promotion have been LinkedIn and Twitter. We haven’t spent a cent on The Takeoff and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon. Though, we want to get the word out about our newsletter and podcast in a more efficient way. Me Tweeting to my 240 followers or writing on LinkedIn to my 1300 connections only does so much. Sharing content from The Takeoff’s accounts, we run into similar issues. We want to expand to other circles. We want students at schools throughout the country to know about The Takeoff. We want to help as many people learn as possible. I suspect that launching a referral program will help set this in place, but we want to find new channels before doing so. I want to have students at Michigan, UCLA, Harvard, Morgan State, Duke, Baylor, and Illinois all subscribing to and raving about The Takeoff. I want to get the word out about what we are building and get more students involved as Contributors. I want different schools to share our interviews and newsletters with their students as a way to help students learn more about startups, tech, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and much more.
20 Min VC for students. We want The Takeoff to essentially become The Twenty Minute VC for students (and much more). We want students everywhere to look to The Takeoff when trying to find student-centered advice on startups, entrepreneurship, venture capital, life, and more. I want freshman entrepreneurship and CS students at schools throughout the country (and world) to hear about The Takeoff the second they step on campus. Can we make this happen? I hope so, but we need your help. If you have ideas for how we can grow, or if you want to get involved, let us know.
We have a rockstar Team!
Roshan is a junior in Washington University's McKelvey School of Engineering. He is spending this semester taking classes from his home in Menlo Park, CA. Roshan spent this past summer as an Investment Analyst @ Octahedron Capital. He spent last summer as a Product Management Intern @ Rubrik and the summer before that as a Product Management Intern @ Sumo Logic.
Lukas (Co-founder & Podcast Lead)
Lukas is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis. He is in St. Louis for the semester (he’s actually one of my suitemates right now) and has also been making road trips here and there. Check out some cool pics from his trips @shotsbybock.
Lukas is originally from NYC and worked in a few finance internships before getting into the healthcare space. He is currently working for BlueSprig, an ABA therapy provider working to change the world for children with autism. Lukas is currently producing a podcast for them.
Lukas enjoys rock climbing, listening to music, and watching documentaries.
(Alex is also one of my dream interview guests. Hopefully we can make it happen in the not too distant future.)
(If you want to learn more about Work at a Startup, check out our interview with Ryan Choi from Y Combinator who runs the program.)
Yash spent this summer as a Software Engineering Intern at Procter & Gamble. He is originally from Cincinnati, OH and loves skateboarding, running, and following the NBA.
Gaby is a student at Stanford studying Symbolics Systems. She is originally from Santa Barbara, CA and is currently an Investor at Chapter One.
She loves hiking, music, going to the beach, coffee, and her bulldog.
Shaheel is a senior at The Wharton School. He is originally from Cincinnati, OH and has previous experience as a Summer Analyst at Adage Capital Management, Campus Partner at Ground Up Ventures, Business Development Intern at CyteGen Corp., and a Summer Analyst at IndieBio.
Shaheel enjoys playing jazz music, working out / playing tennis, and a good Settlers of Catan game. His favorite newsletter is 3-2-1 by James Clear, and his favorite podcasts are Invest Like the Best by Patrick O’Shaughnessy and The Tim Ferriss Podcast. His dream interview guest for The Takeoff is Satya Nadella.
(Last, but hopefully not least. I’ll put this in the first-person because I feel weird otherwise.)
I’m a senior at WashU’s Olin Business School. I’m originally from Westchester, NY and have spent the past few summers as a Summer Analyst at JMI Equity, a Summer Analyst at Equal Ventures, and a Data Analytics Intern at Intello. I also spent some time at Ground Up Ventures and started the WashU Entrerpeneur Society during my sophomore year (Roshan now runs the club).
I love playing soccer, watching sports, and nerding out on a bunch of stuff. I’ve also recently gotten into lifting and, honestly, I think it’s been one of my saviors during the pandemic.
We want to help you as much as possible. As such, if you have any ideas for ways to improve The Takeoff, let us know. If you want to get involved as a Contributor, let us know. If there is a founder or investor you are dying for us to interview, let us know. If there’s any way we can be helpful, let us know.
Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) | Twitter (
I’m on Twitter @mspiro3 👋 (direct any thoughts / comments / questions to my DMs)
If you find The Takeoff valuable, share it with friends, or subscribe 👇 if you aren’t already (you’ll get an email every Monday with a new interview and every other Friday with some curated-content that you may find useful).