This series will examine the five key characteristics that define startups and explore how new and established businesses can take advantage of Startup Thinking to define or refresh their position in the market and build new lines of business that will sustain the company through an ever-shifting business climate.
So what is Startup Thinking? For the purposes of illustration I’ll start with an explanation of what it isn’t.
Startup Thinking is not an excuse for the bro-mentality that has come to define so many fast-growing startups. Though you will commonly find the ‘Brozo’ in startup culture this mindset actually runs counter to the spirit of Startup Thinking.
Nor is Startup Thinking a culture of entitlement and excess, as celebrated in the first dot-com bubble. Blowing investor cash on lavish parties, unearned bonuses and exotic trips is definitely not on then or now.
If you’ve seen the movie about a couple of old school sales guys that get a shot to intern at Google called The Internship then you might remember the scene where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s antics are lauded by Josh Gad as demonstrating the ultimate ‘Googliness’ because they worked with their team to solve a problem in an indirect way. It’s not a perfect analogy for what makes Startup Thinking different but the idea that of finding a unique way of solving a problem hints at where I’m going.
Thinking like a startup means seeing opportunity where often none exists. You see how things could be and you are curious enough to investigate how one might get there. In contrast to established businesses, startups live on the fringe of a market and identify ways to radically improve an element in that market. If successful the startup is positioned to reap the rewards of radically disrupting that market and changing the status quo.
Take Apple for instance. It didn’t invent the personal computer but its founders understood that an intimidating box that required specialized knowledge to use made it difficult to entice consumers to purchase a computer for home use. Apple’s computers were much more friendly and approachable, most notably the Macintosh, and that’s one reason why its Think Different campaign was so successful.
Arguably, it took Apple many years to establish its vision, but the company’s commitment to its founding principles has created one of the most successful corporations on the planet.
So what principles set startups apart from established businesses? Five letters, BCDFV, sum up the differentiating factors of a startup. It stands for: Bold; Curious; Disruptive; Fast and Visionary.
Startups are bold, courageously fighting what might seem like an impossible fight. They are definitely curious, and ask a lot of questions such as why, what if, and how about this? By nature, startups are disruptive because their founders are usually change-agents. They move fast, which is perhaps the greatest asset of a startup–if something doesn’t work then figure out a way to iterate and improve the outcome. Finally, startups are visionary because they are thinking about ways to make things better.
How could your business benefit by thinking like a startup?