Are you really a startup?

I’ve always struggled trying to describe when a startup is no longer a startup and I personally like Steve Blank‘s, author of the Startup Owners Manual, definition.

Steve also suggests their are two stages to building a company, Search and Execution but i believe the startup to company transition actually happens over 3 stages.  This additional stage happens after search and just before execution. The time period when you are just starting to execute, raise money and hire as opposed to actually having enough money and the momentum behind your repeatable, scalable, business model to fund operations and growth. I add this level of clarification primarily because in my experience they are operationally different and can also be mapped to employee risk and company structure.

The law of diffusion of innovation is a great way to view the lifecycle of a company and to determine where you as an individual are probably going to find the most happiness and satisfaction on the job.

If you are startup junkie you love the innovator through early adopters stage, and if you’re into minimal structure type you will enjoy when a company reaches its tipping point through the end of the early majority and last if you really enjoy all of the processes and procedures being in place the late majority through laggard stage is probably the best type of company for you.

Knowing the level of risk and structure in a company will help make everyone in the process happier. The tension on the edges is where CEO’s get replaced,  employees turn into jerks and where most people are miserable and complain.

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Two other thoughts:

  1. A later stage company can experience all three stages during periods of innovation. This is important because its the place large companies can get employees excited. Organizations like Google use the 20% of your time concept to keep people passionate.
  2. Some people can move up and down the entire stack Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and  of course <your name here>
  3. If you are thinking about starting a high tech business you should read the Startup Owners Manual, review the course online or take my graduate level class at University of Colorado.
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