I know. It’s a cool word. Startup. It sounds like adventure, freedom, saying fuck you to the man and about a billion dollars. I work in a startup, and I’m an entrepreneur, but I want to make one thing clear. Not everything has to be a Goddamn startup.
I’ve seen ’em all. I’ve seen folks with T-shirt “startups” and with website design service “startups” and with any business under the sun — most of which could be easily classified as small businesses.
There’s that Blackberry campaign from a year or two back, for their Leap smartphone, proudly proclaiming “YOU are a startup.”
It’s a way to make them sound more exciting, more accessible, and somehow cooler.
But it’s also a sign that you’re not really about it. To quote a solid entrepreneur I’ve gotten to know lately, you’re all hat and no cattle. Because you’re hung up on the terminology more than you are on the hard work, and the actual processes of starting and running a business.
You know what a startup is? No? Me neither. There’s a lot of different ideas. Is it a concept in search of a business model? I’m not entirely sure. It’s like porn — I can’t describe it but I know it when I see it.
It’s something to do with scaleability, growth and technology. But whatever definition you go with, fuck conforming to it.
If there’s just one single thing that I could teach anyone, that I could teach you, right now, it’s that you don’t have to conform to everyone else’ s ideas of what makes a business viable and worth doing. All you have to do is build something that you give a shit about, with an accompanying business model, and then find customers.
I recently had a few drinks with a founder who kept asking me, “What’s your startup?” When I tried to explain that I’ve founded a successful blog and I’m the principle of a niche creative firm and I’m an exec for a tech platform, he told me that I’m not really an entrepreneur.
It wasn’t worth arguing with him about it. I couldn’t see any way that I’d be able to get the business idea across. If you’ve already bought into (and sold out for) the concept of startups as the sole valuation for business or creativity, I’m not wasting my breath.
At the end of the day, startups are great. But they are businesses. They’re businesses, and that’s what you’re really founding when you design that product or come up with that idea.
You can run your business smart, you can run it lean, you can be agile, you can do it however you like, but you don’t have to found a startup to be an entrepreneur. All you have to do is build.