“That’s not a business.” Duh.

This regularly makes me laugh.

I often read stupid comments about a new company not really being a “company” but being a “feature”. They say things like “This company could never be large. Their product is so small. This is just a feature.

These silly pundits like to write a company off as irrelevant just because they launched a product that will seemingly have a small impact or small early revenues.

When I started my first company, I had no clue what we were going to do and neither did my two co-founders. But I thought I did. I thought we were going to support somebody elses DOS-based public safety dispatch software and maybe sell a few for them. We even did a little bit of that, at first. See how little this sounds? This could never be big, you might naturally say. It’s a tiny software services company, and it can’t scale. But it turns out that never is a really long time.

One fine day, we woke up and realized that we had learned quite a bit about this world of public safety dispatch. Maybe, just maybe, we could build our own public safety software system. Fast forward a few years – It’s a five million dollar a year company.

Then… what do you know? Another fine day came along. We woke up and realized that gosh, we knew quite a bit about public safety in general. We could build a whole suite of software products for this market. Fast forward a few years – It’s a twenty five million dollar a year company. Now it’s part of a $300M/year public safety company that is pretty darn relevant.

Just because a company starts off with a product or service that doesn’t appear to be substantial, doesn’t mean you should write them off. Many companies that start out in this world never even release a product.

I notice that the great ones often start out with a baby step. They do something, and they do it very well. They quickly become the best in the world at something specific, and not necessarily something HUGE.

The baby analogy is a strong one through and through. “That baby could never run a marathon. Look how small his steps are.” But then it grows up to run a ton of marathons. Maybe even one in every state some day.

A strong team of entrepreneurs will find the right “big” idea one day. Probably sooner than you think. So don’t measure a young company exclusively by the scope of their early vision. Look at the quality of what they create, and how efficiently they create it. Study the team.

Baby steps. Baby steps.

file under: Blog, Startups