People often ask me what a startup should aim to do. I have one answer for them: GROW. Because otherwise, you’re just a lifestyle business.
And not just grow 10 or 20% — I mean grow big, and grow fast. Wonderlabs.io has grown 50% month-on-month since we started, and that excites us, but also makes me hungry for more growth.
Compare this to the dismal growth we experienced at Start Now (our previous startup).Why this attitude towards growth? Because I don’t see a startup as an ordinary business. A start-up to me is a baby. It’s supposed to grow, and grow fast. You’re not setting up a cafe in Tiong Bahru— that’s expected to stay small and comfortable. You’re launching something like a search engine, which thrives on exponential growth. So you have to make sure you’re getting exponential growth — if you’re not, give up and move on to something else
Because when it grows, everything else falls into place. A high-growth start-up is the only way you can be admitted into that sweet ecosystem of founders, investors and acquirers. If you don’t grow, you’re going to be relegated to the group of D-List companies that started up in 2017.
So look at your P&L right now — are you growing? Or are you just a cafe?
It is debatable what a startup should be.
Some think a startup is a business - a startup is merely a business in its infancy, under 5 years old. At this infant stage of a startup, the chances of failure are high. But it is a business. And a business makes profit. So, a startup should sell a product or a service, that it can produce at a cost less (hopefully than 30%) than its selling price. The difference is profit. And that is the bottomline of why a business exists.
Some think a startup is a mission - a startup is not a business to create profit but a mission-driven organization to achieve some larger vision. The vision may be eradicating taxis, or eradicating drivers, or eradicating cars, or eradicating humans. Whatever the vision may be, the startup exists to fulfil that mission. As Mark Zuckerberg famously said, “We don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services”.
I think of it as a baby. We the founders are its parents. And a baby's only job in the world is to GROW. We don't expect the baby to start running the day it is born. We accept the mistakes a baby makes. We even humor it. And to get a baby to grow into a child, we feed the baby. All day, 5 times a day. The milk this baby needs, is cash. The cash keeps it growing. Do we expect a baby, a child or a teenager to take care of its parents? Absolutely not.
So, the only job of a founder is to nurture the exponential growth of your startup - and make sure your baby learns to walk, learns to run, and grows taller than you. Growth is the paramount, the Goddess at whose alter you worship. Because that exponential growth is what differentiates you from cafe owners, or people who start their own photography studio, or anyone who runs a small businesses that stays small. So don't stay small. Grow. Grow fast, grow big.
PS: This is an opinion piece by Keith Tan, Group CEO of Wonderlabs. Wonderlabs is the leading service provider helping companies build and manage software development teams in Indonesia and Vietnam. Across our various shared and dedicated centers, we have over 350+ active software developers. Since our founding in 2015, we have grown rapidly through innovation and our relentless mission focus - Connecting you to success and productivity. Alumni of Wonderlabs have gone on to work at some of the biggest companies in Southeast Asia.
"I started Wonderlabs because I experienced the problems of building and managing a distributed software development team in Indonesia from 2011 to 2015. I wanted to make it seamless and frictionless for companies to build and manage teams. On the other hand, I found that there are so many amazing software engineers in Indonesia and Vietnam and wanted to connect them to employers in Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta" - Ivan Chang, Executive Chairman, Wonderlabs Group