Y Combinator founder Paul Graham’s essays are invaluable if you want to be a part of the startup ecosystem. His latest, Startup = Growth, is required reading, and defines, once and for all, the difference between a “startup” and a “new business”:
A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.
[...] Starting a startup is thus very much like deciding to be research scientist: you’re not committing to solve any specific problem; you don’t know for sure which problems are soluble; but you’re committing to try to discover something no one knew before. A startup founder is in effect an economic research scientist. Most don’t discover anything that remarkable, but some discover relativity.
What’s important to remember is that this is one model – you don’t have to go the Y Combinator / venture capital route if you don’t want to. If there’s one thing I learned at XOXO, it’s that a lot of people are earning a living in a lot of ways: there’s many routes to covering your costs, living a sustainable life and doing what you love. Patrick McKenzie and Amy Hoy are worth paying attention to here – as is virtually every successful technology project on Kickstarter.