Defining the Word Startup

February 14, 2014

in Starting Up

Our current stance: “A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model.” (ala @sgblank)
-Keith McGreggor

Some people like to debate the definition of the word “startup.” I find the debate interesting; it’s interesting to hear people pitch the lines that separate various aspects of new businesses. Personally, I’m happy for the word to be used liberally.

I think companies that still have their founders at the helm are always going to refer to their companies as startups. Much like parents always view their kids as their kids.

But it is very true that there are different stages of startups with some especially sensitive and delicate stages at the beginning: Starting from scratch, searching to build different vital pieces (especially paying customers under a repeatable business model), passing $1,000,000.00 in annual revenue–then doing it another year in a row :p And so on.

I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg views Facebook as his startup. In our market, I’m sure Jen-Hsun Huang views NVIDIA as his startup, and they like to talk about their internal “startup” business units. There is something nice about BigCos that are still run by their founders. They tend to be stronger. Maybe that observation is flawed by survivorship bias, but there’s something in that statement I think.

What do you think about defining the word “startup”?


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  • lance

    Seems to me that big companies being run by founders is much more the exception than the rule. They are much lauded but nonetheless exceptions.

    • melonakos

      Definitely the exception… and maybe the reason those really stand out is that the founders are so dynamically good that they were able to both be a startup founder as well as survive all the years of growth and potential for being replaced. So the very fact they run a BigCo while also being its founder means they are top-notch leaders.

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