SPARK BUREAU members are startups. So, what's a startup?



by Zach Johnson

A couple months ago, I wrote a blog post about the differences between startup incubators and accelerators.  Reading it again, I realised that I didn’t address our definition of a startup.   I think it’s largely been asked and answered extensively by others whose experience and opinions I respect but there are still some who may wonder about how we at SPARK BUREAU define startups.  

It’s simple really.  According to Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, Stanford academic and the guy who literally wrote the book on founding a startup: “A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” 1

This includes all of the companies we work with here at SPARK BUREAU.  Helping founders find a repeatable and scalable business model is our business.  Many of the tools and the general approach we teach and advocate are based on Blank’s work and on the others who followed including Osterwalder , Reis and Maurya

While it’s important to understand what defines a startup, it’s similarly important to consider when a startup is no longer a startup?  Blank frequently refers to startups as “temporary organizations”.  In an issue of Harvard Business Review from a few years ago, mostly dedicated to startups, Blank wrote: “One of the critical differences is that while existing companies execute a business model, start-ups look for one.”  

How do you know when to shift from looking to executing?  It's mostly for the market and your customers to decide that you’ve gotten it right.  But if it happens, just because you’ve ‘graduated’ and you’re generating recurring revenue, turning a profit, maybe operating in multiple countries and you’re a full-fledged company doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to follow the startup principles and think like the same founder with the guts and hustle that got you to where you are.