How do you define a Startup?

An interesting question always pops up when I’m reading books and articles about Startups. What is a startup? What defines a startup and how do you differentiate it from any other business? The best definition I’ve seen is from Eric Ries’ book, The Lean Startup:

startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty

Eric Ries, The Lean Startup

I think any business founder is always starting from some level of uncertainty. Startups in particular typically deal with this huge earnings upside, but also, a complete fog hanging over our ability to quantify what a business could be worth. It’s part of the fun and also, part of the challenge. It can be frustrating, but it also drives the biggest innovators to succeed.

Because of this, one of the challenges I’ve always found is staying even keeled from day to day. Despite personally being a very even keeled person in life, the founder experience just seems to rattle you from time to time. It’s important to find outlets for your frustrations. To me, that should include getting a little inspiration on a daily basis.

Quick aside! If I could provide one good piece of advice to other founders, it would be to get up from the computer or couch, take a walk, and find some inspiration at least once a day. 

Note I just came up with the idea above to use our “Sage” glasses to denote tips, recommendations, and important callouts. Hope you like it. Whenever you see that icon above, pay attention for some “Sage advice”.

A couple weeks ago, the inspiration for me was watching The Social Network again, with Jesse Eisenberg playing the role of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. It’s really a fantastic movie and imminently watchable many times over and over. Each time, you’ll end up grabbing a nugget of wisdom from any one of the fast paced conversations. The nugget for me in this case was the line Justin Timberlake (playing Sean Parker of Napster fame) tells to Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield (playing Eduardo Saverin):

You don’t even know what the thing is yet…how big it can get…how far it can go…

He followed it up with a line about a million dollars isn’t cool, but a billion dollars is. We’re not at that point yet. Check back in a few years! But the point of the quote above is both the promise and the trap that founders face as they move from concept to implementation to reality. It’s the epitome of uncertainty and the essence of what makes founding a startup both one of the more exhilarating and also one of the most frustrating and terrifying things an entrepreneur can experience.

Now that we’ve settled on what a startup actually is, it’s time to dive into how Sage came to be. That’s up next!


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