01. Learning how to Learn (with Tools)

01. Learning how to Learn

Estimated Time

  • Reading: ~7 minutes
  • Videos: ~23 minutes
  • To Do: ~TK minutes

To Do

  1. Identify the top skill you need to improve on, sign up for & start a class
  2. Take time to explore the tools and identify 3 - 5 that you plan to use
  3. Start a SOD - EOD process to build learning consistency

Episode Date: August 17, 2017

Jason Calacanis




Top Insights

  • "The number one skill in the 21st century is the ability to acquire skills"
  • Too many founders want a shortcut, there is no shortcut - do the work!

Be great at an important skill

  • As a founder, you do not need to be an expert at everything
  • You do need to have or develop valuable skills to move the company forward though
  • Jason points out — "There is no excuse for not having skills today"
    • There are so many free (or inexpensive) options to learn the necessary skills
    • Identify the skills you have, and those that you need to improve on
      • Then learn those additional skills!
  • The top skills Jason identified in a blog post, Advice to Founders Starting their Career, in 2015 that are still relevant today:
    • Sales
    • Coding
    • Product
    • Growth
    • Design
    • Corporate Storytelling
  • As a founder it is vital that you are adding skills to your tool belt, specifically in these areas
  • This may be pretty straightforward, but:
    • If you can not build a product - customers will have nothing to buy
    • If you build a product but can not sell it - you will not make money
  • In either case, you were unsuccessful in starting a company
  • To be a successful founder you need to be able to develop a product and sell it
  • Jason reiterates that a successful founder needs to:
    • Gain every skill you can
    • Build a great product
    • Build a great team
    • Delight customers
    • Be relentless and do the work

So when should you hire someone else to do 'the work'?

  • You do not want to have to rely on too many variables (like outsourced work) early on or you lose control before you even start
  • As a founder, you must get your vision off the ground
    • If you need help, find a co-founder who complements your skillset
  • When it is time to hire someone, the project they will complete must generate money - for example:
    • Development of the product
    • Marketing or selling the product
  • Before you hire someone you need to know how much the project costs for you (or your co-founder) to do it - at least back of envelope estimates
    • Do this with a simple formula:
      • To find the hourly cost take salary*1.3 / 2000 (hours)
        • Why 2000? 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year
        • Why 1.3? It takes into consideration the "all in" cost of the employee
      • Now find the cost of the project = hourly cost * estimated hours for the project
    • Let's take a small project for example:
      • If are making $100k, and anticipate the project to take 50 hours
      • hourly cost = (100,000 * 1.3) / 2000 = $65/hour
      • cost of the project = 65 * 50 = $3,250
    • Note: You can also reverse engineer this
      • For example if hiring a marketing firm is going to cost $10,000...
        • You can work backwards to find how many hours it would take you to accomplish the goal at your hourly cost and determine if that is a good use of your limited funds
    • After you work through the quick formula - ask yourself a few questions
      • Can you hire someone for significantly cheaper without loss of production quality?
      • What could you be spending 50 hours on if someone else is delivering the project?
      • How much revenue do you expect the hire to bring in, and when does it offset the cost?
      • Is it still worth making the hire?

How to Gain Skills

Do the Work

  • You can learn anything online today
  • Below are several great places to start learning
  • Identify one of Jason's core skills above where you believe you can improve and find a course to take that will add a new skill to your founder tool belt:
    • Codecademy: Learn to code interactively
    • Coursera: Free online classes from top universities and organizations
    • FreeCodeCampLearn to code for free with projects
    • Khan Academy: World-class education for anyone, anywhere
    • Lynda.com now LinkedIn LearningFocus on skills for job opportunities
    • Skillshare: Unlock your creativity with online classes and projects
    • TreehouseLearn to code, design, and more
    • UdacityGain expertise for the careers of the future
    • These are just a few places to start learning new skills


  • One of the biggest keys to building a startup and getting a MVP launched is identifying which tools will help you accomplish your goals
  • We have curated a list of some of our favorite tools to get you started
    • There are thousands of tools available - find the ones that work best for you!
    • Several of these tools have free versions, free trials, and tutorials available on their websites


  • Blush: Illustrations and design for your product/website
    • Portfolio company
  • Canva: Graphic design in minutes
  • Coolors: Super fast color schemes generator for designers
  • Figma: Design and prototyping tool for digital projects
  • Flat IconA search engine for thousands of glyph vector icons
  • Glyphsearch: Search for icons from other icon databases
  • InVisionWireframes and prototyping
  • Pixlr: A robust browser photo editor
  • Unsplash: Free high-resolution photos


  • BitBucket: Plan projects, collaborate on code, test, and deploy
    • For more advanced coding
  • Bubble: No code solution - build a MVP functional product
    • We will use Bubble to build the MVP in this course
  • Circle: Community platform for creators
  • GitHub: Build software better, together
    • For more advanced coding
  • Hive: Project management platform
  • Visual Studio: Comprehensive collection of developer tools
    • For more advanced coding
  • Zapier: Connect your apps and automate workflows


  • AngelList: Where the world meets startups
  • Beta List: Discover and get early access to tomorrow’s startups
  • Gumroad: Makes it easy for creators to get paid for their work
  • Product Hunt: Curation of the best new products, every day


  • Bitly: Create, share, and track shortened links
  • Grammarly: Find and correct mistakes in your writing
  • Hemingway: Makes your writing bold and clear
  • LeadIQ: Email sourcing
    • Portfolio company
  • Mailchimp: Manage email, social, landing pages
  • Medium: Write, read, and connect
  • Squarespace: Easily create a landing page
  • Typeform: Free beautiful online survey and form builder
  • ZenPen: The minimal writing tool of web


  • Airtable: Brings spreadsheets and databases together in a single program
  • Dropbox: Free, secure storage space - up to 2GB
  • Evernote: Note-taking and task management
  • Notion: One tool to write, plan, and get organized
  • Slack: Alternative to email - instant message communication
  • Trello: Keeps track of everything

Additional Tools

  • Delighted: Gather actionable customer and product feedback
  • Mercury: Banking built for startups
  • Stripe Atlas: Powerful, safe, and easy-to-use platform for forming a company
  • Wave: Manage business finances
  • Loom: Video messaging for work


Shift the Algorithm - Learn on Social Media

  • Use social media to follow, learn from, and interact with other founders, investors, and thought leaders in your space
  • The resources shared on Twitter can be extremely valuable
    • Not to mention the ability to connect and network!
  • Be consistently active and provide value

Examples of Twitter Resources

Who should you follow?

Learn how to Search

  • We use Google every day, but when learning online you may be looking for unique answers - use the full capabilities of the search engine to improve results
  • This article includes 20 Google Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently - a few are highlighted in the graphic below
  • image


  • When building your MVP if you get an error code and aren't sure what it means - copy it exactly into Google
    • There are almost always threads on solutions
  • Identify which Google results are labeled "Ad"
    • Often the best results are listed after the paid results

Be consistent in your learning

  • Another key to being successful and adding skills is to be consistent in your learning
  • Set aside a specific time every day to develop your skills and work on your product
  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande discusses how implementing something as simple as a checklist can improve your effectiveness
  • Jason wrote about how he uses checklists with his team in the End of Day (EOD) report
  • This process is great for teams shifting to a written culture but can provide a lot of insight and focus to a single founder as well
    • Set a goal of 3 - 5 things you want to accomplish each day
      • As you progress through the day check off how you are doing
      • At the end of the day write a quick sentence or two of what you got done, where you fell short of your goals, and why
      • Identify what blockers you have moving forward - and how you'll work through them (if available)
      • Then set the list for tomorrow so you can jump right into the work
  • I challenge you to try the SOD - EOD every day for one week and see how it works for you
    • If you love it - continue to use it to track progress and organize your learning
    • If it isn't for you - no need to continue after the week
  • If you want to learn more about how Jason uses the SOD - EOD check out E1236 of This Week in Startups:
  • Episode Date: June 24, 2021

Skill Swap

  • Leverage your community and network to see if you can exchange your skills and time for some of theirs
  • Everyone in this cohort comes with different experiences and skills and is a great place to start
  • There are people with backgrounds in development, marketing, sales, growth, content creation, enterprises, startups, etc.
  • When money is tight it is worth asking if anyone is interested in swapping skills
    • If you are open to swapping skills with other founders - let people know by posting in the chat
      • For example, "Hi everyone, I have an extensive background in marketing. I am interested in learning more about what it takes to develop a database.
      • Is there anyone with a programming background that would be interested in finding some time to exchange ideas? Here is a link to my calendar."
  • This exchange could just as easily take place on Twitter or other platforms for a greater reach

Growth Mindset

  • Shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset can be a challenge, but a necessity for founders
  • To develop your skills that aren't as natural requires this shift
    • This mindset shift is essentially moving from
      • Fixed: "I've never been good at math, no one in my family is, therefore I can't do Algebra" to
      • Growth: "If I study, ask questions, do the work, and practice every day I can improve my Algebra skills"
  • As a founder, you will live outside your comfort zone constantly
  • To be successful you need to be evolving in your skillset daily
  • The top founders in the world are always learning - take after their lead!
  • Remember the top skill of the 21st century:

"The number one skill in the 21st century is the ability to acquire skills" - Jason

To Do

  1. Identify the top skill you need to improve on, sign up for & start a class
  2. Take time to explore the tools and identify 3 - 5 that you plan to use
  3. Start an SOD - EOD process to build learning consistency
  4. Skill Swap