Everywhere you turn these days, startups are in the news.
American Express plans to invest $100-million into startups, while OMERS is investing $180-million in startups at a time when Canadian pension and institutional investors are still leary of startups. And last night, Accelerate TO hosted a large cocktail party to celebrate and promote startups.
As someone who makes a living from serving the marketing and communication needs of startups, the more startups, the better. Every new seed fund launched, every new startup funded and every entrepreneur who decides to make the leap into a startup is a good thing for Canada’s high-tech landscape and my goal to build a startup-fuelled business.
But I do wonder whether we’re too taken with startups. Startups are sexy, glamorous, hip and seemingly within anyone’s grasp given the barriers to entry have dropped so significantly. All you need now is a great idea, some good developers, a healthy dash of design and some angel financing, and you’re good to go. Or so it seems.
In many respects, I think startups are the belle of the ball because they symbolize the idea of independence and self-sustainability at a time of troubling economic volatility, uncertain job prospects and little corporate loyalty.
In contrast, startups are about building something new, making your breaks and being in control of your destiny, even if they do involve lots of risk. Like a lottery ticket, startups hold the promise of an exciting, if unknown, future.
When I bounced the idea of startups here, there and everyone off someone who just launched a startup incubator, he suggested we’re in the midst of a major “paradigm shift” in which small high-tech startups would continue to flourish.
As much as I love being the midst of a fertile, enthusiastic and buoyant market, the pragmatist in me suggests we’re getting carried away. The startup market seems too good, too high and too the sky-is-the-limit. I’m not even talking about the wave of venture capital flowing into startups; I’m just reacting to the prevailing bullishness about startups.
That said, I think there is little downside other than disappointed entrepreneurs and investors. A more important consideration is how a new entrepreneurial culture is being created. There will be successes and failures but that’s how life works. Startups are leading us in a new economic direction that puts the focus on new ideas and entrepreneurial energy.