Eric Reis, who wrote the excellent book “The Lean Startup”, defines a start-up as
“… a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty”.
He further reduces this down to “Startup = Experiment”. It’s true. No-one knows what’s going to work in a new market, or with a new product or technology. You start out with some hypotheses (posh word for ‘guesses’) and try to find out if they are true. That’s an experiment.
I think this is hugely freeing. It takes away the pressure to succeed at every turn, to show progress in some linear way. Experiments don’t work like that. They often fail. They prove or disprove incremental bits of knowledge. The value is in the experiment itself, and the learning that you derive from it.
If you are creating new products or services that are more than simple ‘me-too’ offerings, this applies to you. You are experimenting. If you’re not, and you want to survive, I recommend you start.