Startup vs Small Business

  why do I feel like I’m pitching snake oil?

So I totally get why people want to be involved with “startups”.  They want to work for one, learn the ropes, maybe get a big payout.  Perhaps their eventual goal is to get involved at the ground floor and then land an executive position When Things Get Big.  They probably even hope – perhaps secretly – to make enough connections to start Their Big Thing.

Here’s the thing for me: I’m working to start my own tiny software company.  You might even derisively refer to it as a “lifestyle business”.  Something up that can give me enough side income to pay to organize my life such that I can eventually just work for myself… you know, working on my company, maybe branching out into other lines of business.

It doesn’t feel like a “startup” to me.  Saying I’m working on a startup sounds like I’m getting ready to bottle a cure-all elixir. Startups scream “venture capital” and “angel investors” and “big acquisition by Google”.  They scream “multi-million (billion?) dollar valuation” and “market domination”.

Soon I will be bottling the most amazing elixir. Step right up…

My goal is to make a product (and eventual suite of products) that people like, use, enjoy, and pay for… on which I can make a good living and eventually set myself up for total self-employment and retirement.  Something that might eventually allow me to hire a few folks and who are equally passionate about Making Great Stuff.

It’s funny… I’ve known lots of people who have started brick-and-mortar businesses.  Restaurants, landscaping, retail… even some less traditional things like haircare product manufacturing or dog daycare.  You don’t hear them running around talking about their “startup”.  They don’t strategize how to get multiple rounds of VC – they talk to friends and third-party investors, who are presumably in it for the long-haul.  They don’t worry about “getting there first and getting there big” in order to get acquired.  They worry about setting up their business to be profitable.

Likewise, I’ve never heard anyone dismiss someone’s idea by saying, “A restaurant?! You’re doing a place that prepares and sells food and drink?! It will never work because there are already two restaurants on the same street, and tons of other ones in the neighborhood.”  Sure, they might have an opinion about how you’re different or will differentiate yourself.  Yet spring your software idea on anyone and they’ll be sure to respond, “someone already did that.” In the immortal words of Jason Cohen, “Your idea sucks, now go do it anyway.”

The business world is littered with lots of examples of multiple good products sharing a market space.  Even better?  There are tons of examples of companies doing it poorly.

So here’s my salute to working on – and launching – my new small business.  It just happens to be a software business.  And I don’t consider it a startup.

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