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This Business English ESL lesson plan on startups and new businesses has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Starting a new business is no easy task. Yet startups are possibly the single biggest factor that drives economic growth, and forward-thinking governments will do what they can to assist startups. Unfortunately, most startups are doomed to fail. Perhaps they couldn’t secure sufficient funding for their ambitious plans, maybe they couldn’t hire the right people, or maybe the market just wasn’t ready for their idea. In this Business English lesson plan on startups and new businesses, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the challenges of starting a new business and what they need to do to succeed.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

CB Insights | The Top 12 Reasons Startups Fail

The article looks at the most common reasons why startups fail, including running out of capital, flawed business models, and being outmuscled by competitors. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they can add to the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TED Talk called “The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed” which analyses successful and unsuccessful startups to see which factor determines this success the most.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including famous startups, identifying niche markets, and which startups are most likely to succeed or fail.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with startups such as business model, angel investor and crowdfunding. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about startups. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the most profitable businesses to start, government assistance to startups, and raising capital.


After the class, students will write business model for a startup idea. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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