The goal of a startup is to cease existing

In startup land, the life cycle of birth, growth and the inevitable leap of faith happens at a breakneck pace. Still, we occasionally fall into the trap of grieving the demise of these companies. My opinion? That’s a poor move.

The whole point of a startup is to build something enduring. A corporate Mount Rushmore, if you will. Yes, but: Dive a bit deeper, and you’ll realize that the very model of startups is dependent on drama — whether that’s dramatic ascent or a rapid crash into the nearest mountainside. There’s no in-between. And in that dynamic we can understand why we shouldn’t mourn failure.

A startup, in all its ephemeral glory, is essentially a group of people in a glorified garage, trying to prove that their big idea isn’t just a bunch of hot air. Their raison d’être? To carve out a niche, to be the answer to a question nobody thought to ask. A science experiment with more caffeine and pull requests and fewer safety goggles and awkward conversations beside posters at a science fair. Or, in the words of Steve Blank: “A startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”

The keyword is “temporary.” Startups are on a crusade, seeking the holy grail of a business model that doesn’t just work but scales up like a beanstalk. (And these days, an AI-accelerated beanstalk.) Should they strike gold, they then embark on a metamorphosis, going from scrappy underdogs into full-blown corporate beasts. From hairy, sweaty, swearing caterpillars to proud, IPO-bound butterflies fluttering to riches beyond their wildest dreams.

In this grand scheme, a startup’s endgame is to grow up and leave home. The moment it becomes a bona fide, repeatable business, it’s not a startup anymore. Everything changes overnight — and quite a few startups seem to forget that. Once you find that business model, it becomes a game of acceleration and execution.

On the darker side of this moon, if our brave little startup can’t make the magic happen, it’s curtains. Time to pack up the Ping-Pong table and turn off the lights. It’s a tough cookie to crumble: all those dreams, all that pizza-fueled late-night labor, poof! But, hey, failure is the tech world’s favorite teacher.

In fact, the startup might hawk its brainy bits to some bigger fish or get “aqui-hired,” which is a corporate way of saying, “We like your brains, we’ll take them.” And so, the startup vanishes, either gobbled up or just gone.

That’s the script: You succeed and grow, or you burn out and fade away. There is no in-between.

Startups are designed to be shooting stars: brief, bright, and destined to either blaze a trail or fizzle out. This relentless turnover is the lifeblood of the tech ecosystem.

I think it’s a good thing. Yes, startups should stop being startups, but that’s not a downer; it’s a high-five to human ingenuity and the tireless quest for answers. Win or lose, every startup is a chapter in the epic saga of progress in tech land, paving the way for the next batch of dreamers, doers and perhaps the odd delusional weirdo.

But regardless, we should stop being so mopy about the demise of startups. It’s a good thing. We dust ourselves off, learn the lessons, get some therapy, and try again.