Starting a small business is hard. Just ask a small business owner, they will tell you how the economy is not in their favor or that it is hard to find good loyal employees. The cost of business is becoming ever more expensive. The owner of a small business is likely to have saved up some money for years, quit his job, then started a restaurant, hardware store, auto repair shop, grocery store, etc. Startups however are the hip new thing young people do. The stories from "founders" start with sleeping in a van for 3 months. Then against all odds, they make a big demo with scraped resources. Finally the jackpot when the round of funding arrives.
This sounds like two different stories. The old and the new. The hard worker and the smart worker. The slow and painful growth and the rocket ship to the top.
At the end of the day it is the same one thing. startups are small businesses.
Search results for small business on Google. Note how most have a physical product.
You will never read of the tricks the grocery store owner employed to persuade her investors into pouring more money into the construction of a second store. We get it, it's not sexy. Maybe if the title was "Mother of two teaches Wall street how the economy really works", it will attract more people but we all know that this story is not going to deliver. Most people do not want to open a grocery store. At least thinking about what it takes to run it is a turn off. It is harder.
You will read the story of the cool new startup, if you haven't already, that just emerged and received millions in funding. You get a little jealous when you see the pictures of the owners. Young, sexy, elegant, smart, no fear. They are not afraid to create a small app that will make the big banks tremble. Then you look at what their product is, you think you can do it too. It's so simple, I thought about this idea too. If only I wasn't too busy to build it. That's what we tell ourselves.
Searching for startups owners on Google. Mostly people with ideas, not products.
The startup has 4 employees and that includes a CEO, a CFO, a CTO, and that other guy. Only rock star developers are hired there. Everything about it is dreamy, even its failures. When a startup fails the CEO sends a letter to the customers saying how much he regrets but made the right choice to shut down. He says how much he learned and grew from this experience and promise a comeback with a bigger bang. (And queue cheers from HackerNews)
So a startup is a small business that is easier to handle. In some sort it is. Think about what it takes to start a brick and mortar store (yes most small businesses are). Good. Now think about what it takes to create bufferapp. Yes I said bufferapp. It is not to say that one is more important than the other but it is easy to see how most people will seek to do something like bufferapp and get a nice CEO sticker on their forehead.
The term startup is not new. You can find documents from the 60s that used it commonly. But today it is the media's favorite word. You don't have to work hard to become a millionaire in a startup, you just have to work smart. At least that's the promise hanging on the name.
Working 18 hours in a row to create a Flappy bird clone does not qualify as productive work. You may learn a lot from it but real work takes time. If you want more than ego satisfaction, you will have to throw away the fancy CEO, CFO, GMO titles and call your company a small business. Not for the sake of being different, but because the connotation of the term small business is "hard work pays".