Sunday Evening Thought #2
When is a project “officially” a startup? When can someone legitimately call themselves a founder? Is the line between app, project, startup, business, or “side hustle” becoming increasingly blurred?
The fact that I just asked those questions means I’m probably already out of touch. Younger Millennials and Generation Z seem to be living with a much more liquid idea of what it means to be founder than I can wrap my head around.
In 2009 I wrote an essay about how the ubiquity of free “everything” was changing the world of entrepreneurship. How the barriers to entry just six years ago were already shrinking to pennies. Now in 2016 the phenomenon has only increased. Now it’s fractions of pennies.
Free coding classes. Free MBA level business classes. An encyclopedia of free open source software and libraries. Free website publishing tools and writing platforms with massive built in audiences. A myriad of social media platforms for free advertising. Professional premade websites, explainer videos, and graphics that make you look like a real business for $8. Even the paid world of SaaS products almost universally offers free entry level packages for one user with one product.
What I imagined in 2009 has more than come true. Not putting a dollar amount on your hour-by-hour time, you can launch a project that looks and behaves like a real startup for under $50. If it gets any amount of traction and you need to incorporate and get your operating agreement together, maybe another $600-$850 because of the insane drop in prices that on-demand legal service startups have caused.
In 2000 that was practically unimaginable. In 2008 it was imaginable, but still tough in practice. In 2016 it’s imaginable, simple in practice, and cheaper than previously thought. Does that mean that entrepreneurs in 2024 will even realize there was ever a cost to launch a startup? Will launching a startup be as big a deal as picking out a new microwave?
Sarah — “Hey, Jennifer, what are you up to this weekend?”
Jennifer — “Well, I am going to the zoo with the kids, going to clean the pool out, launch a couple startups, and get an oil change.”
Sarah — “Oh wow, cleaning the pool is going to be a real pain.”
When do you end up having to redefine what it means to be an entrepreneur/founder when it becomes that simple?
It seems like the words “startup” and “entrepreneur” have been abused to the point where I’ve heard of 3rd, 5th, 10th employees to be hired at a startup referring to themselves entrepreneurs. I come across dozens of projects a month (just locally) where I realize 10 minutes in that all they have is an idea and a Keynote deck and nothing else, but love to tell me how they are surviving the grind of being an entrepreneur while building their own startup. Crushing it! Crushing it!!!
In 2016 the toilet to traction time is now months. Meaning, “aha!” moment on the toilet to launching and generating real revenues (or other traction metric). That’s the fastest it’s ever been. Some day in the next decade, it will be measured in weeks. For some app developers, it’s already measured in days.
The financial risks of early startup life have been slashed. The ability to stand on the shoulders of decades of other’s hard work is ubiquitous. Millions of pages of free advice and know-how from today’s top founders is at their fingertips.
The risks in general have been lowered so much I have a strong feeling that this idea I have always carried around for what it means to be a startup is more and more antiquated by the day.
Maybe, I’m the old geezer sitting on the porch of my “Real Founders Only” house yelling to them to get off my lawn? Maybe this means the resurrection of the word “business”? You can lie to yourself about having a startup and being an entrepreneur all day long. It’s much harder to lie to yourself or others about being a real business. Maybe that’s the new dividing line that gets rid of any blur between the others.
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This article was written from scratch and published the same day as part of a 31 day writing challenge. To follow me on Medium through this writing challenge, go here:https://medium.com/the-writing-challenge