Can you really own a term? Defining our new business scene.

- April 9, 2013 2 MIN READ

Back nearly two years ago now, when I first started this blog about “startups” the scene was a lot different than it is today. 18 months ago the scene was a lot of people with ideas, that did not have anywhere to meet, pitch or discuss them in an open community environment and it was quite disjointed trying to find out who was who in the zoo. Today [especially across Sydney] the scene is flourishing, growing everyday – A new space targeting startup residents is opening every other day, we have a movement that is growing strong – the future looks good.

Over the last couple of months, I have been involved in a few discussions, some private, some in a group environment, some in a government capacity – all revolving around the term “startup” and who in fact it actually belongs to. I must admit, I have been fence sitting when it comes to this particular topic, and part of me get’s really annoyed about the conversation, as I don’t feel comfortable excluding a group from using a term because it doesn’t fit the definition another is giving it.

So is a startup?

  1. Exactly that, an idea that is being implemented to turn into a business. Someone getting off their butt and starting something.
  2. Specific to the Tech Industry, innovative, disruptive and usually online with the purpose of being built for an exit.
  3. An innovative new way of doing something across any industry, online or offline, possibly being disrupting or causing that industry to evolve.
  4. Anyone who is starting up a business.

My fear is that when leaders in a community start defining what is included and excluded when talking about a single word that SO many people identify with, we start to create a separation as people naturally form “factions” for lack of a better word and we miss out on many cross collaborative  opportunities.

As an example [a real one] I know someone who has started a cafe recently, doing things a little different [you are a hipster and you know it] and we met through a startup / entrepreneurial event on the scene a couple of years ago. I have interviewed at least three people that person introduced me to because they were customers of hers. I have also had another of her customers purchase advertising on the website.

Whether you truly believe there is a real difference between the terms “startup” and “small business” or not, surely we can not be that blind to realise that many “startups” will pivot and become a “small business” without the exit, and that “small business” is also capable of inventing new and innovative tech and non tech solutions that may cause them to be the target of an acquisition.

Are we guilty of tech startup snobbery by wanting the term all to ourselves?

Hell am I even included in the circle as a media startup?

Keen to hear some thoughts.