Steve Blank's different kinds of startups

Steve Blank, author of Four Steps to the Epiphany and Not all those who wander are lost, gave a talk at the Jewish Community Center last Wednesday. He had a great point about the four kinds of startups that he sees.

Basically, when people in the Bay Area talk about startups, what they mean are scalable startups, that have the potential to grow into really large companies - and by large companies, he means in terms of revenue, profits, but also head count.

But there are other types of startups.

There are social startups, which could be non-profits, or other kinds of startups whose primary aims is to do social good.

There are startups within large companies, where a large company wants to start a new subdivision to conquer a new market or opportunity.

And there are small business startups, companies that don’t have any ambition to grow into large companies (in terms of head count). It could be a local corner deli, a piece of web software as a service, a store, whatever.

In Silicon Valley, it seems that the only socially acceptable option is to go for the scalable startup. The small business startup is looked down upon, it’s derisively called a “life-style business”.

An important point he made was that all of those in the audience who desired to start a scalable were stupid. The chances of succeeding are so low. You’re much more likely to succeed trying to create a small business.

I think there’s something important here.

I think all of these options are perfectly viable. It depends on who you are, why you are here, what you feel moved to do.

I think it’s sad if you feel forced to do a scalable startup, in order to be socially accpeted, if what you really want to do is to do a small business startup or a social startup.

I think it’s sad if you do a small business startup, because you think you’re more likely to succeed, if what you really feel moved to do is to make an attempt at a scalable startup.

Keep your options open, fuck what others think, and do what you feel moved to do.

I think this speaks to both what David Heinemeier Hansson is always talking about, and what Amy Hoy and Alex Payne were discussing the other day.

Follow your heart, and do what you feel moved to do. Ignore the naysayers, whoever they are.

Or in the immortal words of Lady Gaga:

I think Rebecca Black is a genius, and everyone who tells her she’s cheesy is full of shit!


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