Quo Vadis Populi Startups ?

As I once sat inside Innovyz meeting room, and pounded by these words of @PhilipVafiadis “When you label yourself, you become the label. Loose startup label and think as a business”.

I was starting to raise my inner questions about startup, and what the heck am I doing in it. In my best possible way, I’d like to avoid triggering any etymology debate surrounding the word “startup”. In the whole context of this post, “startup” is a label, not a word, not a movement, not a holy word or ultimate mantra.

Where should startup people go next ? IMHO, nearing end of 2016, startup should go to its final destination, to pull the lever of full-stop and be done with it. We should stop to do things while labeled as a startup, and start to do business.

Because the moment we loose the startup label, its euphoria, its ecstasy of hype and trends, and then begin to establish business, we’ll do things differently, talk differently, address partners and recruit employees differently. Heck for what its worth we may dress differently. Of course, let’s not kid ourselves, there are people out there who’s leaning towards the money game rather than the business game of sparking a startup. To be honest, that thought crossed my mind more than once, setup a startup, get seed, raise fund, series A,B, exit, sipping pina colada in a tropical island, early retirement. And I’m not saying this in a cynical way, it’s a valid dream! But I don’t want to exit by “selling” a startup, I want grow a business by and in its nature, not business in its numbers of GMV, EBITDA, etc.

Business by and in its nature
Not everything is about App, Website, AR, VR, MR. You wouldn’t want to sell a Ride-Sharing App worth thousands of dollar, you would want to sell a transportation business worth billions of dollar. Netflix was never in the business of streaming or making videos and movies. Netflix is the business of mood boosting, inspiration triggering, making people feel good and enjoy their time. And their users even pivot the business by themselves, in making illegitimate pre-martial sexual intercourse less awkward, because they can “chill”, watch Netflix and be done with it.

I wish we as startups will stop go to meeting wearing jeans and t-shirt (we are not yet Zuckerberg or Jobs), and then casually say, “I’m in a startup now”, “I’m starting up my own business now”. These are vague and embarrassing (pardon the harshness). Instead, we should respect other people by dressing properly and approach them by saying things like, “I make dreams come true by providing micro loans to street-food-stalls owner”, “I make opportunity presents itself to people with limited access of information”. Then we hustle more detail of that business nature of our enterprises, where are the starship captains of them, we should act like one. Every pain that we take away from our customer, everything that we make possible because our platform and the all-nighters in building it, those are our values that we must present. Not just numbers of downloads, GMVs, orders, etc. The latter can get you rich in the most ambivalent currency of all, “money”. And there’s actually nothing wrong with that, it will pay the bill, impress your lover (or attract one to be), your family, even yourself. But if everything is about money, life is too valuable to be valued by it.

Thus we take comfort in the more stable currency, in sharing ideas, passions, joy and happiness. We work so hard to eradicate others’ pain points, we work so smart, so others can enjoy their life through our labour. The real values of who we are as business people, as entrepreneur is not labeled by our startups. They should be constantly generated by our enterprises, and more importantly by our good faith and sincerity in doing business.

No, I’m not a startup guru, not a serial entrepreneur, not part of any unicorn. At the very least, I’m trying to be academical in sharing this post as my thesis on current startup labelling. Excuse the “smart-ass” wannabe impression that you may get, appreciate you even get to his point of my post.

And I conclude by paraphrasing one of my favourite friend and mentor:

“Your product is not what you build or develop, your product is the problem that you solve” — Ralf Muhlberger