What exactly is a startup?

Business 2.0 is running a “25 startups to watch” feature and one of the companies is Rearden Commerce, which is a company that I am a legitimate fan of from their founding (what was the stealth name? “Just like TV”?).

Having said that, is a company with $100 million in funding that’s been around for 7 years a startup? I really don’t think so.

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Do you want to be Google or Microsoft?

The inspiration for this post was the observation that the rate of innovation around Google services is much higher than Microsoft, and very little of it appears to be done by Google. Here’s the list of Top 10 Gmail Hacks and Tips and the Gmail Smart Vacation Responder and the Complete Collection of Gmail and Google Earth Hacks and Google Base Javascript Hacks and the list goes on. Most of the Microsoft tips and hacks I see are pretty boring by comparison and ultimately are things that Microsoft should doing better anyway, like synchronizing calendars from Outlook.

The little appreciated fact about web-based solutions is that by moving integration and extension out of a proprietary and closed platform to the browser you experience a higher rate of innovation. Who could not look at Greasemonkey and the proliferation of scripts and not come to this conclusion?

The flip side of the coin is that Microsoft has, by any measure, an impressive array of assets, both application and platform, that give them mass. This reminded me of the comment I made the other day about getting the flywheel spinning and how that phrase can be used to argue either point, that it’s better to be Microsoft or Google.

A flywheel uses mass as a storage unit for kinetic energy. In the automotive world flywheels are made from steel, aluminum alloy, or in some of the most exotic applications, carbon fiber. The key question that drives, no pun intended, what material you select is what do you want to do, go fast or go strong. A steel flywheel has heavy mass, which means it robs more energy to get going but continues to spin long after your foot leaves the gas pedal, while an aluminum flywheel has less mass and is therefore quicker to rev and takes less power to do so, but has less torque as a result.

Microsoft Office has a steel flywheel, Google Office has an aluminum one. It’s really that simple.

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