Startup culture is becoming a big thing in the wider community. It’s seemingly graduated from a high tech nerdy subculture into a mainstream pop culture giant overnight. But is it really anything new? Or is it just a rebranding of small business as we knew it with some terrific superlatives and rockstar billionaire game winners to give us that Bruce Springsteen stadium rock ethic? Certainly the technology revolution we are all living through is significant. Significant enough to make it easier than it has ever been in history to start a business.
Net result is that startup culture hot. Just like grunge music was in the early 1990’s. Anyone with a pair of ripped jeans in a dive bar was in a band. And now anyone with a wifi connection and a laptop is launching a startup. The simplest way to remind ourselves that everything is a remix is to kick it old school and see how our new startup words stack up:
- Pivot – used to be called adapting to the market.
- Iteration – used to be called a product improvement.
- MVP – used to be a prototype or a test market.
- Growth Hackers – used to be what marketers and sales people were called.
- Truth North -used to be known as the single minded proposition.
- Runway – used to be known as the bank balance and how long we had left before going bust.
- Burn Rate – used to be a sign that this new business venture wasn’t going so well.
- Lean – used to be called doing things on a budget. (Oh, The pyramids were the first lean startup….. those pyramids were meant to be big square blocks but they ran out of materials, and just went with the pyramids instead – turned out to be a killer feature.)
And if you’re still in doubt here’s my favourite culture remix right here: The original version of Nirvana song Come as you are, was actually this song called Eighties by Killing Joke.
All forms of study and industry have their own theories and jargon. They mostly exist to provide knowledge shortcuts and play books, but part of their function is to exclude. If someone knows the industry jargon, we can be sure they value what we value. We can be sure they read what we read, and mostly there is a chance they believe what we believe.
As time goes by theories and jargon fall out of favour. They become old hat and not cool to reference. That’s also part of the game of being in touch with a community. It show’s whose invested in what we do and who is a fly by nighter. It’s important though that we don’t think this makes the old descriptor less true. Especially when it comes to business. Sure, new theories and knowledge emerge in science which render the old ideas incorrect. But many business philosophies are thousands of years old and aren’t about to change any time soon. I like to say that the Ancient Egyptians invented ‘lean’ methodology…. I can’t possibly imagine the pyramids being built any other way, surely they would have ran out of capital!
Last night the super Ben Rowe delivered a talk at PauseFest (A nerd web festival in Melbourne) using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. An older theory that doesn’t get much coverage these days. It doesn’t make it any less compelling and real though. It was one of the most insightful presentations I’ve seen in recent times and I loved that he mashed up the new world with an old theory.
The thing it pointed out to me was that it doesn’t matter so much which tool we use to do things, but how we apply it to create new meaning with our audience.
Today I tweeted a little thought that we are all becoming entrepreneurs:
and then Jason asked me this:
… and here is what I think.
I think it’s great that we are entering an age where everyone can play. The richness of human life comes from the social fabric and the variety in personality and experience. When people enter a commercial world it’s impossible for their experiences, views and values not to emanate into their business. So the net result is a wider array of rich ideas and systems which can benefit real people rather than demographic aggregates. Smaller cohorts can be nimble and focus on pleasing the few. Some may even end up pleasing the many. The net result of the new low barrier world is a richer place to live in, both socially and economically.
We live in a wordy world. It seems there’s a new acronym, piece of business jargon, or self defining adjective emerging every minute of the day. It’s easy to get caught up in the language, the jargon and forget what business and startups are all about:
Building stuff. Buying something for $1 and selling it for $2. Having a laugh along the way.
Keep it simple. Don’t try and be everything to everyone.
With all this in mind I’ll hand over to George Carlin – and yes, this video is worth every second of the 3.56 minutes it takes to watch.