What is a Startup?
I’ve just watched the recently launched “That Startup Show” Episode 1. I highly recommend you make a pot of T and settle in for an entertaining and instructive hour dedicated to Australian Startups.
The first episode focuses on “what the bleep is a startup?”. I have to admit I had “no idea” – truly I had “No Idea” – there was such debate and disparity about who is “in” and who is “out” when it comes to the Startup space.
The show starts with panelists Bronwen Clune (Editor of StartupSmart), Alan Noble (Head of Engineering at Google Australia) and Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin (Founder of BlueChilli) discussing host Dan Ilic’s opening question: “What the bleep is a Start Up?”
My interpretation, of their definitions, is that Startup must use/include technology. As Sebastien says “every business should be embracing technology …. Technology is an enabler of business…” and Bronwen Clune was quite clear: “Gotta be using tech to be scalable…. Gotta have a product, not a serviced based business … it can take a service and make it a product, like Uber did …”
Scale is another critical factor. Monetisation and scale tied together with technology is fundamental. Bronwen again “Looking for the hockey curve growth” suggests speed of growth.
Alan Noble was keen that “disrupting a market” is a key aspect.
What becomes apparent during the discussion is the importance that Startup remain the term used only for a particular sector of businesses. The term “Start Up” first appeared in the dot-com boom in the mid 1990s. According to the panelists of “That Startup Show” this is where it belongs. “Startup” belongs in the tech space, for reasons relating to government policy, funding and support.
This all had me thinking about the people I have worked with over the past 5 years. I thought I was working with “Start Ups” and now I am not so sure.
For years people have sought to “start a business” and they may have referred to themselves as a “Startup business”. Over time they have become known as SMEs (Small to Medium Enterprises), sometimes as Soloists and more recently as Entrepreneurs.
If we take a literal meaning of “start up” many of these people are in fact “starting up” businesses. They have a great idea for a business that solves a problem and they take that idea and work out how to start or create a business.
These are often people who:
- make things: candles, scarves, cupcakes, Chai T, bespoke furniture, musical instruments, a variety of types of clothing, or
- provide a service: physio, chiro, surf lessons, teach pilates or yoga, coaching, lawyer, consultants,
and then there are the florists, café owners, wine bars and organic farmers who provide both a service as well as products.
In many cases these businesses are established by people who “want to make a difference”, they are driven by creativity and passion for what they love, and/or by a sense of service to their customers and their community.
These businesses mostly start from scratch, some of these businesses do achieve scale, there are examples where these businesses are sold or taken over for profitable margins and they all use technology.
These businesses create employment both directly and indirectly.
They make a difference to the economy and in the community.
What shall we call these businesses if they are not “Start Ups”?
If you want to join our Start Up community