There are many definitions for startups, some quite philosophical; we chose the following: startups are businesses that are financed by specialized investors to achieve the biggest scale in the shortest time possible. Startups are conventional businesses in many respects, the most important one being the career aspect. Although the conventional concept of a career is being challenged especially in the Silicon Valley (see the Alliance by Reid Hoffman), the fundamentals haven’t changed, so there are more similarities than differences.
A startup is visibly different from a global food & beverage company for example, since it’s setup to accommodate almost exclusively kids (and with time kids with kids), and they maybe more efficient at “shipping stuff”, at least until they reach a certain size, otherwise the differences are quantitative only. The deal is still to deliver on KPIs in exchange for a paycheck and perks.
Even being a founder has become a career; it’s interesting to observe that founders, similarly to other career people tend to view the world the same way and with time even their behavior seem to be less and less differentiated, exhibiting strong cult-think – something we’ll talk about a little later.
Both startups and global corporations need to grow to satisfy shareholders whose only interest is their interest.
While global corporations simply resort to throwing money on the growth problem (marketing, M&A, geographical expansions), to ease this pressure, startups set out to “solve problems” (e.g. airbnb) or to find “problems” (e.g. facebook) or “improve people’s lives” (all of them claims to do so) which in the majority of cases works like pills producing more side effects than the symptoms they wanted to patch up – and we are not referring to the cat or food pictures on facebook although they too are symptoms of serious social problems (there are of course startups that set out to solve pressing environmental, energy, health and other problems, as well; whether or not these problems are technical in nature is another question which we’ll address later).
“Improving people’s lives” that drives among other things google’s acquisitions is the most ingenious one while it’s so absurd, it’s beyond funny.