Start-ups vs End-ups (2013)

Three key takeaways on the difference between startups and successfully launched companies, or “endups” (startups that ended up becoming successful).

  1. Start-ups have little, but also little to lose.
    By definition, customers aren’t drawn to start-ups because of a trusted legacy or brand. So they must prove their worth to each and every new customer and get their name out without a well-resourced marketing machine behind them.
         End-ups with strong brands that draw customers in, however, can become hesitant to act for fear of tarnishing or altering that brand. Start-ups have no choice but to act, and act fully – it’s the only way they’ll survive.
  2. Change comes naturally to a start-up.
    A start-up is like a baby growing up: It needs to change and grow to become itself. Start-ups often dream of having the strong internal cultures, passed-down stories, and shared history that you commonly find in end-ups and that guide their decisions.
         But change is awkward to an end-up, much like it can be for a grown adult trying to reimagine him/herself. It’s often necessary for end-ups, but it’s never easy.
  3. End-ups have resources; start-ups have commitment.
    At end-ups, employees have well-defined roles and responsibilities. In the best case, that ensures that things are done efficiently. In the worst case, though, it can inhibit people from taking on new responsibilities with agility.  At a start-up, it’s all-hands-on-deck to make sure things get out the door, even if it’s sometimes unclear whose hands are doing what and chaos ensues.
         And it’s important to note that it’s the stories and legends of the great end-ups that inspire most great start-ups – think of HP, Apple, IBM. Rather than assume that all end-ups are decaying dinosaurs, we must acknowledge that each is the envy of the other in some respects.

Listed out as an easy-to-use chart:

Start-ups End-ups
Want to be something Already are something
Agile Stable
Culture is forming Culture has formed
Have little Have lots
Have little to lose Have lots to lose
Try something for the first time Tried everything and know what works
Unproven Proven
Do what needs to get done Clear roles and responsibilities
Flat structure with empowerment Hierarchical structure with rules
May come and go Stand the test of time
Heterarchy Hierarchy

Original post for GigaOm is here. —JM