Business English Lesson Plan: Start-Ups

Business English Lesson Plan: Start-Ups

Level: advanced

“Starting your own business is like riding a roller coaster. There are highs and lows and every turn you take is another twist. The lows are really low, but the highs can be really high. You have to be strong, keep your stomach tight, and ride along with the roller coaster that you started.”

Lindsay Manseau, photographer and entrepreneur


  • Comment on the quote above. Do you agree that starting a business is like riding a roller coaster? Why / why not?
  • What is a start-up? What famous start-ups can you think of? Why have they become wild successes?

Make sure you understand the word right:

A start-up company is a small business that has recently been started by someone (the Collins Dictionary)

A start-up is a fledgling business enterprise (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary)

A start-up is a newly established business (the OED)

Note that a start-up doesn’t necessarily mean innovation, although some people mistakenly associate it with a brand new idea

  • Why are start-ups considered risky? Do most start-ups fail? If so, why?
  • In your opinion, what factors account the most for company success and failure?

Pre-viewing vocabulary activities:

Choose the right synonym for the words in bold:

  1. If you take a group of people with the right equity (fairness / encouragement / value) incentives and organize them in a start-up, you can unlock human potential in a way never before possible.
  2. I named my company IdeaLab for how much I worship (despise / love / understand) the aha moment when you first come up with the idea.
  3. Does the company have a very clear path generating customer revenues (respect / loyalty / income)? That started rising to the top in my thinking about what mattered most for success.
  4. How does the company score on this dimension (aspect / character / type)?
  5. This factor came in (proved / believed / finished the race) second.
  6. This isn’t absolutely definitive (absolute / great / uncertain).
  7. Companies were looking for cost-effective (costly / good / economical) ways to get traffic.
  8. If you have something you love, you want to push it forward (make progress / effort / history with it).

Fill in the gaps with the appropriate word/words (the first letter is given):

  1. It is important to treat all the employees with e… .
  2. This adds a new d… to our work.
  3. I know you’re all tired, but we have to p… .
  4. One study said the government would gain about $12 billion in tax r… over five years.
  5. She seems to w… her boss. I’m not sure it’s OK.
  6. No one has come up with a d… answer as to why this should be so.
  7. She c… in first in the local election.
  8. The management tries to produce the magazine as c.. as possible.

Watch the video and be ready to discuss the essential elements that lead to success: idea, team, business model, funding, and timing. Take notes while watching:


  • What conclusion did the speaker come to after he had ranked across all the 5 success attributes? What do you think about his findings?
  • Why does the speaker mention Uber, Airbnb and YouTube?
  • According to the speaker, what is the best way to assess timing?
  • Why is it bad if your idea is in advance of the time?
  • Why does the speaker quote Mike Tyson: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”? Would you go along with the boxer?
  • Comment on the statement “the customer is the true reality”.
  • Do you agree that a a start-up organization is one of the greatest forms to make the world a better place?


You get them to achieve unbelievable results.

Construction: to get somebody to do something – to make, persuade, etc. someone to do something = to get somebody doing something:

  1. He got his sister to help him with his homework.
  2. You’ll never get him to understand.
  3. It’s not hard to get him talking—the problem is stopping him!

Answer the questions:

  1. What is difficult to get you doing?
  2. How difficult is it to get employees to achieve the results their boss wants them to?
  3. How difficult is it to get a start-up to grow?

Lesson closure:

Answer the questions:

  1. What information from the lesson do you find useful for your work? Why?
  2. Are any of the TED speaker’s findings rather surprising to you?
  3. Do you find the video inspiring? Why / why not?
  4. What is main message the speaker is trying to put across in his video?
These aha moments…

Answer key:

Synonyms: equity – fairness; to worship – to love; revenue – income; dimension – aspect; to come in – to finish a race (in a certain position); definitive – absolute; cost-effective – economical; to push sth. forward – to make progress with sth.

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