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What is a startist?

My own experience of the startup life has been about much more than the joy of bringing an idea into being, or the freedom to choose for myself which 22 hours of the day I will work.

I see startups as an evolutionary mutation, a paradigm shift in conventional capitalism, that could (but may, or may not) effect desirable changes in our overall conduct as a species.

I have chosen the word "startist," * rather than "entrepreneur," to identify one segment of my intended audience for this blog. An entrepreneur can start a mining company, or a paper-clip factory. A startist is much less likely to launch these kinds of enterprises. Here are, in no particular order, the salient characteristics of the startist that distinguish them from others with entrepreneurial ambitions:

  • Equal consideration given to the creation of a business and the creation of a community.  The community may have vague, shifting or porous boundaries: it could be just the members of the core team, or a larger social network of contributors, or even include customers & users of a product or service. But the stewardship of that community is, for the startist, an end in itself and not just a means to improve business performance.
  • An explicit moral stance. Many startups are launched by bright, energetic people who want to create a new-new thing, get acquired by some larger company, and move on. I wish them well but I have little to say to them. They are, in my view, intellectual serial monogamists, moving from one entrepreneurial dalliance to the next with no aspiration to serve a greater good. The audience I hope to find, and reach, consider the broader social impact of their business and factor those consequences into their planning, right down to product development.
  • An esthetic. A startup will perforce make its offer “pretty” or “cool” to improve its chances in the marketplace. But startists (just like their brethren, artists) are compelled by an inner voice toward elegance, usability and beauty. In a company run by startists, attention is paid to feedback from customers, usage metrics and the like. But these inputs merely inform the outcome, they do not decide it. A company of startists listens to its audience, but it also speaks to it.

I will use the word "startist" throughout my posts to underline the distinction I've made here, and to clearly identify the audience I wish to reach.

If you are a startup entrepreneur, but do not identify with the characteristics I've described above, I wish you well, truly. But I believe your interests are already well-served by existing online content, and I suspect my writings & activities will be of little use to you. I have no wish to proselytize; indeed, it is my intention to preach only to the choir.


* I use the term "startist" with all due respect and deference to Startist, a New York-based startup with a very interesting business model, and which uses the same word to express a very different idea. back

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