August 23, 2010
I was back in Michigan a few weeks ago visiting family. These trips always involve a “what do you do?” question at some point. I’m never sure how to answer.
Honestly, I don’t think of Scout as a startup. Scout is a business built the old-fashion way—by charging money for a service our customers find valuable.
The term “startup” carries a lot of baggage. Too many so-called startups are building technology instead of a customer base, or traffic instead of revenue. So I don’t feel comfortably sharing the startup label.
Plus, we’ve been building this business for nearly two years. At this point, we’re no longer “starting up.” We’re doing this thing.
I think the term entrepreneur has been diluted quite a bit in the last decade. There are lots of folks calling themselves entrepreneurs who are, frankly, not working on anything viable in a business sense. Or who are actually taking hail-Mary shots at investment money. If there were a variation on “entrepreneur” that included the notion of “actually making money,” that’s what we’d be.
Also, if I say I’m an entrepreneur, I always feel the need to explain that we’re not running on venture capital, or really any investment outside our own. We’re bootstrapped and proud.
I feel like we’re running a small business here at Scout. But “small business” tends to connote mom-and-pop video stores, independent cafes, or plumbers. These are great businesses, but it’s not what we do. Our sole product is bits on a server arranged in a certain way. Most people’s mental image of “small business” skews to brick and mortar.
The truth is, we’re a profitable small business that exists solely on the Internet. We grow every month through hard work, diligence, and making our customers happy.
Other profitable, bootstrapped internet businesses—how do you answer the “what do you do” question?