A startup is something that's just getting started and needs plenty of help to go further. It’s a torch waving around a cave in the darkness pretty sure that there’s a glint of gold in that deposit somewhere, it just has to land the light on it. But does the term mean anything anymore? In the same way that people evangelised the idea of The Entrepreneur, The Startup is somehow automatically seen as something better, sexier, more and more interesting than something that’s just describes itself as a new company or a new business. What’s most interesting, is that if someone describes themselves as a new business, they probably have their head screwed on a bit more than that torch waving around in the cave. What’s a more valuable startup to you? An app without a revenue model screaming infinite growth? Or, a quality fishmonger. I know which one is more sustainable (global over-fishing issues notwithstanding).
The 90s dot-com bubble was indeed based on a vast number of startup companies selling their technology, ideas and domains to each other. Now, we have swapped those startups for apps and social media platforms. Few have any solid plans to make revenue. The few that do, funnily enough, base their revenue models on that revolutionary money-maker called advertising. Somehow, we’re meant to be excited just by the term “startup”, and get giddy about these cool disruptive dudes squeezing VCs in a new game of billionaire Darwinism.
Good ideas work.
Solid plans work.
You can get those two things across just by telling them, you don’t need pizazz.
There is a huge correlation between the current dot com bubble inflating and Ireland's previous property bubble. The idea that SnapChat is valued $10billion is fine. Sure it is. And terraced cottages in the midlands of Ireland were valued at over half a million. That’s just what they were priced at. But it’s not what either is actually worth. In the Wall Street Journal last month, Bill Gurley said that the risk Silicon Valley was now taking on was excessive, and that more people were working at money-losing companies there than there had been in 15 years.
The property bubble correlation with startups doesn't end with the bonkers economics nor belligerence. There’s the terminology. Anyone who has ever looked at an apartment or house advertisement knows that the language that surrounds shifting property is some of the most dishonest and hackneyed sources of terminology around. Startup language isn’t too different, replacing the stuffy, corporate, suit BS, with a vague, shiny, new BS.
Disruptive, tech, leverage, space, innovation, content, gamify, pivot, big data, hack, cloud, “we’re X for Y!”, curate, lean, mobile, scalable, anything that could also be used as a description for a Skrillex show (crushing it, killing it, rockstar, blowing up). These don’t mean anything. They are terms masking the truth. Like a musician running out of ideas in a studio searching for technological tricks to make the notes sound better, buzzwords cover over the cracks. If an idea is good, it’s clear and simple. The words that I think people should should use more often? Idea. Revenue model. The most common mistake people seem to make when pitching casually, rapidly, or formally, is that they don’t actually talk about what their company is, they don’t mention what idea is behind it, and they don’t explain how it’s sustainable in terms of making some money. Startup culture has a tendency to talk around these things, in vague terms that pretty much leave you feeling like the person, product, and plan, is a load of hot air. And oftentimes, that’s probably the case.
Pics credit: jaymantri.com