Graduation
  By Debbie Cline

Virtual high school and college graduations are happening this year in lieu of walking across the stage for the class of 2020. As parents watch their kids, whether they are 18 or 28 they are still their babies, and always will be. 

There are some parallels with startups. Many entrepreneurs view the company as their baby. One one hand, they make personal sacrifices, the first two years are crushing, it costs more than they thought it would, the responsibility is enormous and there is a huge amount of thankless work. On the other hand, it can be the most rewarding experience that can be imagined. So do startups graduate?

Some say that when a startup has found a business model and a product that is right for the market, and has a certain level of success it stops being a startup and graduates to an enterprise. Some apply metrics such as number of employees, funding, revenue, or profitability.

TechCrunch writer Alex Wilhelm created the 50, 100 or 500 rule, which says that if a company meets or exceeds any of the following criteria, it is not a startup:

  • $50 million revenue run rate (forward 12 months)
  • 100 or more employees
  • Worth more than $500 million

Is Uber still a startup? Most say no because they:

  • Are listed on the stock exchange
  • Have diversified (UberEats and they have made multiple acquisitions)
  • Employ over 20,000 people
  • Have revenues over $11M
  • Are profitable

Airbnb, Dropbox and Snapchat are generally not considered startups today for similar reasons. So why do some people continue to call them startups? Partly because it can be said that they still have a startup mentality. 

In addition to energy and passion, the startup mentality prizes innovative and even disruptive thinking, agility, and emphasizes rapidly adapting to customer preferences and changes in the market. Today’s startup mentality doesn’t mean that you have to act as if your company is based out of the garage, and both new and established companies can benefit from a startup mentality.

You don’t need to have a ping-pong table at the office to make it happen. Here are some elements that any organization can strive for in order to create a startup mentality:

  • Open, collaborative environment
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Work-life balance
  • Unique culture
  • Fast execution
  • Risk (and even failure) tolerance
  • Investment in employees
  • Philanthropy and community involvement

So if you are a startup when do you graduate? When do you stop starting up? Many startups are eager to graduate from having to think about making payroll, the next round of funding and all the daily stresses of the early days. These same entrepreneurs however don’t necessarily want to give up the startup mentality. And you know what? They don’t have to.

Debbie is co-founder, chief of customer success at Buzzy Rocket and yellow lab lover. From LA to London, she is well known as an expert in creating that certain elusive magic that drives explosive growth at the intersection of companies, customers and mobile. She has proven strategic vision, and isn’t afraid to get in the trenches. In fact, she’s been doing this at companies big and small for 25+ years. Her background includes executive level positions at both public companies and startups where she has proven over and over again that her passion, drive and results oriented perspective get it done. She is tenacious, loves the game changer and loves to win.


Debbie is co-founder, chief of customer success at Buzzy Rocket and yellow lab lover. From LA to London, she is well known as an expert in creating that certain elusive magic that drives explosive growth at the intersection of companies, customers and mobile. She has proven strategic vision, and isn’t afraid to get in the trenches. In fact, she’s been doing this at companies big and small for 25+ years. Her background includes executive level positions at both public companies and startups where she has proven over and over again that her passion, drive and results oriented perspective get it done. She is tenacious, loves the game changer and loves to win.

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