Don’t plan to be a start-up. Plan to be an upstart.

By Mark Di Somma

Rock the boat

You should never start a business unless you are deliberately planning for others in the industry to be dismayed, surprised, outraged or alarmed by what you are doing.

“Start-up” has become a synonym for starting-out. It implies not just being at the beginning, but needing to catch up to someone more established in order to prove oneself.

Launching an upstart on the other hand is all about putting a business in play that really challenges what everyone else has accepted as the rules.

That’s because a start-up focuses on getting a product or an idea to market, whereas an upstart focuses on an “enemy” (be it an attitude or a standardised approach) and looks to a product or service to change that.

Without a business model trained on defying and disrupting the status quo, you are destined to be another player trying to get a footing in another overplayed market. A feature, no matter how beneficial, is not a disruption. If all that stands between you and your competitors is a product improvement, a customer service change, a change in your distribution plan or a new pricing model, you can bank on it being copied, commoditised or counter-attacked at the first sign of sustained success. Then what?

The equation is stark. Rock the boat, and keep rocking the boat – or risk ending up in the same boat as everyone else.

Acknowledgements
Photo of “Row boat” taken by PAVDW (Paul VanDerWerf), sourced from Flickr

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