For years, you had to explain to people that you ran a startup, not a small business. It's not a mom-and-pop shop! Today, it is the opposite challenge: You have to explain if you run a small business that isn't a startup. In fact, you may have to explain that to yourself!

Billion-dollar valuations, Hollywood movies and Silicon Valley coolness made "startup" the default definition we use for businesses we create. But it's not true. For me, running my former startup Cuddlr felt distinctly different than running my journalism business. As it should.

Kapor Capital's Mandela Schumacher-Hodge has a classic post on the difference between startups and small businesses. It's worth checking out, but here are three questions to ask yourself:

1) Are you doing something different? "As a startup, you'll be creating something new and/or something better than what currently exists."

Opening up a grocery store doesn't turn you into a startup founder, but creating a new way for people to get groceries would.

2) How quickly are you trying to grow? "You're interested in growing as fast as possible, and creating a repeatable business model."

There are many great companies that purposely maintain the same classic business, products and even customers, but they are small businesses. Startups want to evolve rapidly, if only to reach escape velocity.

3) How much does technology make your business possible? "[E]ven in cases where [technology is not the core product], startups will still likely depend on technology to help them achieve their goals of rapid growth and massive scale."

Think about taxi cabs operators who spent years not accepting credit cards, but suddenly updated when Uber and Lyft came into play. Often tied to innovation, technology is an integral part of most startups, but not most small businesses.

You likely know what you already have, but which one do you want to build next time?

 

Published on: Apr 25, 2016