Business vs Startup Debate


I get asked quite often: “What is a startup?” and ‘’When do you stop being a startup and become a business?”

A standard definition of a business is: an organization which sells goods or services for a profit.  

A standard definition of a startup is: a temporary organization in search of a repeatable and scalable business model (i.e. way to make money).

A slight difference, perhaps, but a mightily important one. The keywords here are temporary and repeatable & scalable.

By opening another photography studio in London you are just opening another photography studio and not creating a startup. You are not searching for new business models. You are not testing any new hypotheses. Everything has already been proven before you. Yes, it’s still ridiculously hard to build a successful photography studio, but it’s impossible to build 10,000 photo studios around the world, because your unit economics won’t stack up.

The same reason why we never saw a minicab company with worldwide coverage. You needed a different business model and Uber, Lyft and others found it and scaled it.   

Once you find a way to make money in a repeatable and scalable way – then you become a business, but truly successful businesses never lose their startup mojo – whilst focusing on the execution of things that works, in parallel they continue to look for new opportunities.

For me, a startup is a state of mind that organisations adopt in order to build products that solve specific needs for clearly defined target audiences which they know how to find.


by Roman Grigoriev