The Startup Glossary: Founders Share Their Go-To Learning Tools by Jenna Abdou


Whether you mispronounced your boss’ name (It’s just Mike, not Mique) or were caught taking a selfie in the elevator, we all have our collection of embarrassing office moments. 

My most cringeworthy thus far happened when my dad asked our team to go around the table and share the resources we use to learn.

For the first time, I had nothing to say. I was deeply embarrassed that six months into my career I’d yet to find a learning resource that stuck.

One fateful afternoon in January, I sat in the same spot preparing for my interview with Greg Hong, the Co-Founder and CEO of Reserve. While researching, I stumbled upon the post, This is How You Build Partnerships to Make Your Startup Better, Faster, Stronger in the First Round Review. 

At the time, I was unfamiliar with The Review. I did know, however, that the insights Camille Ricketts, Head of Content and Marketing at First Round, included in the post were so actionable that I had to share it with my family and friends. 

The following weekend marked an important transition in my career; Article after article in The Review, I had finally found the ‘How-to’ guide I was searching for.

Today, the First Round Review is my Holy Grail of startup advice. Camille’s even become a friend and role model who motivates me to work harder and smarter.

Discovering The Review changed the course of my career, and I’m so excited to share the top resources Arian Radmand, Brittany Hodak, Liz Wessel, Mike Townsend, and Munjal Shah use to get constantly better. 



Arian Radmand, Founder and Director of Engineering at CoachUp

I’m a firm believer that there really isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ destination.  You need to pick the right tool for the job, so generally speaking I really just look for the top resources for the specific areas I need to improve.  Often times, the challenge is understanding what your business needs, and then understanding what you need to do to give your business what it needs.  After these two things are clear, it’s usually a piece of cake to find the top resources where you can learn.

I had to wear many hats while getting CoachUp off the ground and along the way I chose to educate myself based on what was top priority.  While building the initial platform, I was a regular listener to the Ruby5 podcast (our platform is built in Ruby on Rails).  When it came time to grow and expand the engineering team, I found that the book The E-myth was the most helpful resource, as it explained how to lay a solid foundation and create long lasting businesses that will withstand the test of time.  Something that I knew I had to do from day 1.  As I’ve gotten more involved with our product, I’ve turned to product psychology resources such as the book ‘Hooked’ to help me understand our users better.

I’ve generally found that conferences are a waste of time, so I don’t really attend many.  For the most part all the conferences I’ve been to are mostly networking focused, which means they’re great places to meet folks, but not necessarily learn things you didn’t already know.


Brittany Hodak, Co-founder of ZinePak

As an entrepreneur, I'm constantly looking for new places to learn! One of the most important things anyone can do is look for peer groups to learn from and contribute to. My favorite such group is called YEC, or Young Entrepreneur Council, and it's a constant source of information and inspiration.

I enjoy Gretchin Rubin's podcast on habits and productivity, and the Foundation video podcast series with founders and leaders. I try to attend at least one conferences each quarter (I try to mix it up between marketing, C-level leadership, and entertainment conferences) and at least two fun, non-work networking events each month.

Liz Wessel, Co-Founder and CEO of Campus Job 

I read tech news daily (TechCrunch, HackerNews, VentureBeat, etc) to keep updated on trends happening in tech and new tools my team can use to improve our business or make our lives easier. I don’t have one particular podcast that I’m more connected to than others; rather, I listen/watch podcasts based on the content of the episode. As for conferences, I honestly try to avoid them unless I have been told by many sources that it’s worth the time. I often find conferences to be an excuse to use company budget for shmoozing with others who just want to shmooze.



Mike Townsend, Co-Founder of HomeHero

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks throughout the day. I use Natural Reader app to audibly read a few blogs. I think most learning happens by continually reading and listening,  conferences are an excuse to meet people in the industry, which has value.

RadioLab, Tim Ferris, and Stanford’s ETL Series are podcasts I listen to most often.

I also write and read actively on Quora and host a podcast (Aroundthecoin.com) with 2 of the smartest minds in technology and payments, with over 10,000 combined answers on Quora.

Here is my list of mind expanding books that I’d recommend. 


Munjal Shah, Co-Founder and CEO of Health IQ

I’ve found the most value from conferences like The Lobby and F.ounders. Almost all of the participants are CEOs and there are no panel discussions on stage. They have small sessions and you pick which group you want to go with. It’s 10 CEOs, sitting on bean bags in Hawaii, talking about different topics like hiring. I learn a ton because it’s intimate, and it’s totally off the record, there are no reporters; What happens is that people share the real stuff.

I was talking to two CEOs the other day and one of them said ‘God, I hate recruiting. It’s the worst part of my job.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, me too!’ and so was the other one. There’s just an honesty to the whole thing. You get that in these intimate settings and you learn so much more than when somebody is on stage and they are posturing and not giving honest answers. Blogs are the same thing. They don’t know who’s going to read it so they’re posturing. It’s only when you’re in these intimate settings, where everyone knows it’s safe, that all of the great stuff comes out.


Image retrieved the The Collabara Project. 



Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Michael Serbinis: What I've Learned — Visionary Entrepreneur, investor and CEO and Founder of the new healthcare startup, LEAGUE, Michael Serbinis shares what he learned building three disruptive startups, selling two of them and working with Kimbal and Elon Musk.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.


back to the blog