Startups vs Small businesses: relevance to ministry?

I’ve been doing a bit of lazy thinking and web surfing (do people still say ‘surf the web’?!) around startups. I guess I’m thinking how the ‘startup’ framework might provide a fresh approach to launching new ministries (and parachurch ministries) to the way I’ve normally thought about it.

I wonder if the risk of starting things slow, and only staffing and building in proportion to growth, is that often the founder becomes completely entangles in the new ministry - like the owner/manager of a small business. And sometimes the new ministry gets stuck at a fairly small scale because that’s how it was started.

Here’s some interesting stuff about startups from Paul Graham:

Millions of companies are started every year in the US. Only a tiny fraction are startups. Most are service businesses—restaurants, barbershops, plumbers, and so on. These are not startups, except in a few unusual cases. A barbershop isn’t designed to grow fast. Whereas a search engine, for example, is….

That difference is why there’s a distinct word, “startup,” for companies designed to grow fast. If all companies were essentially similar, but some through luck or the efforts of their founders ended up growing very fast, we wouldn’t need a separate word. We could just talk about super-successful companies and less successful ones. But in fact startups do have a different sort of DNA from other businesses. Google is not just a barbershop whose founders were unusually lucky and hard-working. Google was different from the beginning.

Risk vs Growth

One of the big risks about a startup approach to ministry (or ministry!) is that if you invest a lot of money into something before you can know for certain that it will work. So it feels safer to just slowly grow something.

But there is an inverse ‘risk’ to not investing a lot up front: that is the risk of slow or no growth. The slower model brings the risk of investing a lot of time and energy - generally a lot of the founder’s time and energy - in slow growth.

Anyways, just thinking…

Startup Guys

This blog post wouldn’t be complete without a link to this video.

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