This post was originally published on 2/1/2013.
When I founded Skritter in 2008 with Nick and Scott, we called it a startup. We raised three rounds of funding, hired developers to help scale our team, and attended startup summits, venture capital panels, and meetups filled with aspiring entrepreneurs working on the next big thing. As with all young startups seeking capital, our business plan growth model had us making 30M in profit in 3-5 years as we took the language learning world by storm.
Four and a half years later, Skritter has become a viable, successful, growing company. We have three employees in addition to the founding team, and have provided employment for twice that many along the way. We've proven that our business model generates profit, that it adds value to customer's lives, and that we can achieve product-market fit.
But somewhere along the line, Skritter stopped being a startup and became a business. And while I am deeply proud of our achievements, the change makes me sad.
When you run a startup, you dream big, you think in terms of conquering entire new markets, challenging entrenched competitors, and changing the world in a big way. You work hard, play harder, and forge lifelong relationships with your co-founders.
Businesses, by comparison, are more modest and mundane. Businesses tend to know whom their customers are, they have a good sense of what makes money and what doesn't, and they don't make a habit of re-investing every penny to try and shoot the moon with a new product. Businesses are like middle aged fathers who just want things to run smoothly without too much fuss. Startups are their star-struck sons spouting poetry to their lovers in moonlit gardens.
Startups are just more exciting, vibrant, and entertaining.
But they also have this frustrating tendency to fizzle out, fail, or explode catastrophically. Founders lose their shirts, relationships are ruined, investors are burned, and once stable, gainfully employed founders end up in their parent's basements applying for jobs to cover their credit card debt.
I'm proud of what Nick, Scott, and I have built at Skritter. I'm proud we achieved the dream of building a profitable company. But if you've ever been there for the startup part, the irrational giddiness you get from building something new, you'll know instinctively what I mean when I say it's sad to see your startup turn into a business.