Sunday, March 23, 2008

Can You Still Be A Startup At 10 Years Old?

Just thought I'd make note that the company I run today hit it's 10 year mark. I've only been there 3 years mind, which either makes me able to claim 30% of the credit or 30% of the blame - take your pick!

Ten years is a long time to still be considered a start-up, especially with Web 2.0 companies having a half life measured in something more like months. Still, "different strokes for different folks" as they say, especially in Nevada ...

We serve a different kind of customer and with a much more technical, complex and revolutionary set of products than is the case for YAWNS companies (yet another web-based networking- and social-site). Therefore, the way we look at this question is very different from how you'd view things in a market where 24 hours can give you what to us would be a lifetime's worth of customer usage data. This is a huge advantage for Web properties. That ability to get almost instantaneous feedback on how effective a new positioning or sales mechanism is drives a fundamentally different approach to things.

In the same way that there appears to be some sort of natural life expectancy for a land mammal based on the total number of heartbeats experienced (roughly a billion) then perhaps there's a similar metric for companies? Instead of the total number of heartbeats then perhaps it's down to total sales cycles with customers. In the same way a shrew has a heartbeat so fast (the animal almost looks like it's vibrating) that it results in a life-span of only a few years, so too with Web 2.0 startups? Anyway, food for thought for another day, but I will say that what's still very important to us at this point is getting more sales cycles completed with customers a) to increase total sales and b) to up the level of knowledge we have about how and why they are (or even are not) successful.

In all of this, my goal is to try and create something that can embrace the positive qualities of a start-up (constant questioning and self-assessment, highly responsive, customer-driven, cash-conscious and hungry) with what a more mature organisation can bring (maturity of thought, experience, continual process improvement, battle hardened, specialized.) Doable? I think so, but it's a goal that's always going to be challenging, if for no other reason than, in the fog of war, what's right in front of you can sometimes seem way more important than trying to sort out the bigger picture.

Be interesting to see how the VC community reacts when we head out to do our C-round and if we are able to get this across in a slide or two. Indeed, the challenge, as always, is to convey the excitement and opportunity we all see and experience in a set of slides that makes the viewer not only sit up and take notice, but take out their cheque book.

I have no idea what the next 10 years will bring, nor even the next 3, but it will, most definitely, be interesting!

No comments: