Paul Graham published an essay this past weekend titled “Startup = Growth” and while I recommend it to all, I couldn’t help but find myself disagreeing with his main point. Heresy I know, as I can only dream of having the amount of startup knowledge PG possesses, but I’m not gonna give him a free pass just because of who he is. I decided I should write a post about my issues, but before I was able to finish, Mark Suster beat me to it. His response, “Is going for rapid growth always good? Aren’t startups so much more?” highlighted many of the same issues I had with PG’s essay, but far more eloquently than I could have hoped to. That being said, I felt compelled to finish what I started and add my two cents on the topic.
PG’s overarching theme is that a company is only truly a startup if it achieves massive, rapid growth, and as such, growth should be their only focus. I found this statement tough to swallow. While I agree that the term “startup” might be thrown around a bit too cavalier these days, this definition seems overly restrictive. I think a more fair statement would be if you want to be an ultra-disruptive and hugely successful startup, (AKA one that PG wants to invest in) you need rapid growth. Without it you probably won’t ever be a $500+ million company, but that doesn’t mean your company is not a startup or that it can’t be successful.