January 20, 2020

A playbook for building a startup to last company

Rick Lindquist @ricklindquist

A few episodes ago, we decided to go all meta and discuss what "startup to last" actually means. Why did we name the podcast this, and what characteristics do "startup to last" companies have in common?

We considered having this conversation privately, but since almost every business should have a conversation like this, we decided to record it in the hopes that the discussion is helpful for others.

As expected, this ended up being a bigger topic than we could cover in a single episode, but we did start narrowing down on some ideas and constraints around the idea of starting up to last:

--Traditional entrepreneurship is already set up well if your goal is to become as rich as possible. Startup to last companies should probably have some other motivation such as enjoying the work, feeling fulfilled by the impact the company has, etc.

--Despite needing to be motivated by something other than money, sustainability is key to survival, and that means that every business needs to at least make enough money to make it worthwhile for the founders. That's the first priority, and then once that "enough" number has been reached, it's time to start focusing on non-monetary goals.

--It's only possible to run a company this way if all shareholders are on board. It's not hard to get founders, employees, and customers aligned. It's harder, but maybe not impossible, to get investors on the same page (venture capitalists specifically are unlikely to want this approach). This is why bootstrapping is common among these types of companies.

--Because the goals of startup to last companies are different so are the rules. We didn't get too deep into how this might impact how you operate the business, but there's a lot to discuss there.

--It's helpful to think about the company as a place you'll work for the rest of your professional life (even if that's not true). That will help you prioritize sustainability, enjoyment and fulfillment. Companies that expect to exit soon can justify burnout-level work environments because they know it doesn't have to last.

We're going to continue this conversation privately via a google doc. Once we make some more progress on the topic, we'll share it for constructive criticism and maybe discuss it on another episode.

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