I’ve worked or consulted for start-ups since 1984. Back in ’84 we called a new company a “new company”. That’s because it was “a company”. It had a product, personnel, funding, sales, a market and people operated it. It was kind of like IBM, AT&T or any other company, but new and smaller.
Fast forward to 2015 and it’s not exciting enough to work for a company. If you want excitement and challenge, work for a start-up. But when does a start-up become a company?
I spent six years working for a SaaS provider that called itself a start-up. When I joined, the company had already been in business for eight years. Start-up? At 14 years old. If it was a Jewish boy he would have already been Bar Mitzvah. In 1984 we would have called it a failed company with some really uninformed investors. Not a start-up.
A lot of people in the start-up community believe that a company that relies on VC money for operating and growth capital is a start-up. And they behave that way.
Many start-ups that think like start-ups, rather than companies, forego spending time on the basics. Things like sales strategies and process, marketing strategies and plans are secondary to building a culture to attract the required technical talent.
A start-up IS a company. Start-up CEOs must give equal time to sales, marketing and other functions of their company. Concentrating on providing a fun culture of challenging coding problems is only part of the responsibility of a company’s CEO and Exec Team.
If you think and act like you’re running a company instead of a start-up, especially at 14, you’ll find the road to being self-sufficient somewhat smoother to navigate. And perhaps sometime before deciding you don’t need the VCs any longer, you’ll call yourself a company rather than a start-up.