What is a startup, anyway? I went to business behemoth Forbes for a concrete description. As Natalie Robehmed aptly describes, “the term ‘startup’ has been bandied around with increasing frequency over the past few years to describe scrappy young ventures, hip San Francisco apps, and huge tech companies. A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed,” says Neil Blumenthal, cofounder and co-CEO of Warby Parker.
I think that most companies, startup or otherwise, would describe themselves as working to solve a problem in a setting where success isn’t guaranteed: In today’s capitalistic market, success is almost never guaranteed for a variety of reasons. So I would add that startups must be babies, fledgling companies without the chronology of business experience in a specific area or region to help them pave the path. I’m not sure where the line is between which companies who are and aren’t startups can be delineated, but I do think that time and history, or lack thereof, are important to the idea of the startup.
“Startup is a state of mind,” says Adora Cheung, co-founder and CEO of Homejoy, to Forbes. “It’s when people join your company and are still making the explicit decision to forgo stability in exchange for the promise of tremendous growth and the excitement of making an immediate impact. Robehmed says that after about three years in business, most startups cease being startups, for a variety of reasons: “Somewhat ironically, when a startup becomes profitable it is likely moving away from startuphood.”
There’s many different ways to define what “startuphood” even is, but I think the main idea that most of these definitions are getting at is the one that startups are inherently, vociferously dynamic. Part of their allure is that they have no definition, because they’re adaptive and quick on their feet in a way that bureaucratic companies are no longer able to be (for whatever reason). They’re founded on cool ideas, innovative concepts, and the excitement of bringing something brand new to the marketplace.
It’s interesting, describing a startup almost sounds like describing social media: dynamic, consistently new and innovative, founded on ideas and thoughts. The two go hand in hand, really, and if you’re thinking about starting a startup, a budget focused on social media should be the first line item you cross off. Social media has the power to tell a story in a very unique way, and startups are uniquely positioned to take advantage of that. Experimenting with new and wild platforms (can you build your customer base with Snapchat? Absolutely, you can.) Writing unique posts, sharing behind-the-scenes peeks at what exactly it is you do, funneling traffic to your website, connecting with potential investors, and most of all, startups can and should use social media.
Image credit: CC by MKH Marketing