Your website is not a project … and your project is not a startup

March 19th, 2011 § 0

It seems like in recent weeks there has been quite a bit of debate on one of my favorite sites (Hacker News) about what comprises a “startup” and what is a “project”.

This topic is increasingly popular as of late because it seems like everyone who has ever built a website in the past few months wants to call it a “startup”

Let’s lay a few things to rest right now. Your website that you threw together in a couple of hours, that is NOT a project, and it certainly is not a startup.

A project is something that is ongoing and takes time and goals to complete. You may launch the project in a short amount of time, but it will be something you continue to work on as time progresses. A project will never be something you simply throw up on the web and rarely tinker with, I am honestly not sure what you should classify that as besides a waste of server space, but it should never be thought of as a project.

In the same sense just because you are working on something on an ongoing basis and trying to release or already have released an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that does not mean you are running a startup, in fact most startups would probably consider that an insult. A startup is a small up-start (hence the startup name) company who’s founders very likely are still working themselves into the ground and are living and breathing their work on a daily basis. They have probably released an MVP already and work on it continually. The founders do not have day jobs typically. They have dedicated their lives for better or worse to this business and are drawing their paychecks (or in many cases, lack thereof) directly out of this new company.

As someone who has worked on all three phases of this spectrum I think I am uniquely qualified to make these comparisons. I have sold one company that I would’ve considered a startup, I have had several websites past and present, and I am almost always working on multiple projects.

If someone asks me what I am doing for a living I typically answer “just playing” although that is much to my Dad’s dismay since I do own a local small business with him as well. If you were to go to my Linkedin you would see that I mostly identify myself as being a tech and/or database consultant. Since I have spent the better part of my adult life in and around databases i will be the first person to tell you there is almost nothing you cannot equate to a database and likewise there is very little you can build without them.

Currently I am working on a “project” which I have slowly began to devote my time to however until I am fully committed and have additional funding secured for it I will still consider it just a project.

Please use caution when throwing around these words in the real world. People get offended. Some even become violent, often times its not because they are onerous so much as they know what it means to dedicate their life to something and when another person compares that level of dedication with something they threw together on a friday night after a few beers, I hope we can all see why that could be a bit frustrating.

So when you are done reading this article I hope you re-consider what it is that you are actually doing the next time you launch a website, start a project, or even build a startup. For your sake and all of ours, please know the difference, because chances are if you don’t then more than likely you will fail to accomplish what you want from that endeavor.

What are you working on? what do you consider it? l’d love to hear your thoughts on this article

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