Startup: Business by Different Rules

Before I got involved with a startup I figured the basics were pretty much the same as what I knew; I’d been to business school and worked in big companies like EY and Scotiabank. Sure the numbers would be smaller, especially the number of coworkers, and it’d be more casual. But ultimately business is business.

In some ways I was right, but I was also very wrong. My past experience gave me the tools I needed, but I didn’t know how to use them properly in this new environment. A startup is still a type of business, but it operates under an entirely different philosophy, a different way of thinking. Not better or worse, but customized to the unique situation under which it operates. It’s developed a completely new language to communicate in, and impacts every part of a business (sometimes slightly, sometimes greatly).

Steve Blank, a well-respected startup thought leader, defines a startup as “an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” Implicit in this definition is something very important: A startup is a temporary organization. It either prospers and turns into an established business (rarely), or it goes bust (usually). As Blank says, its formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. If it finds that model, it becomes a company.

Of course, this is a huge simplification. Facebook and Google are not startups in the purest form anymore, but they have still clung on to some of the philosophy. A lot of it is just no longer workable at their stage, but there is still a ton to learn from this different way of thinking about a business. The spectrum from early-stage startup in a basement to Google (or GE) is a wide one, but there are valuable aspects of the startup philosophy at every stage.

And quite frankly, this philosophy is just fascinating. Startups operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty, and learning how people have adapted to this environment has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.

With the help of some amazingly talented and generous leaders in the tech finance community, #FinInTech has developed a set of learning modules designed to help you adapt your CPA skill set to this unique environment and philosophy. Much of our passion for this project is due to the challenges we faced adapting to this environment ourselves.

So if you’re considering a career in a startup, or if you’re just interested in learning about this philosophy and how you might be able to adapt pieces of it to your career, please join us for the first module Venture Foundations (information, dates, and registration here). Bonus: Each module is 2 verifiable CPD hours!

#FinInTech proudly supported by Xero and ConnectCPA!


PS: If you want a perfect introduction to startup philosophy, I always recommend picking up “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.

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