When Startups Hit Traction: Becoming a Tech Scaleup

 
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Doug: I have enjoyed writing this tech scaleup book with you, Roland! It takes place in the land of technology startups.

Roland: Yes, our story will be about startups that "take off". From the first sales, through several growth phases, up to a corporate incumbent.

In other words, it is about the scaling journey that successful startups go through. And why they need to change and learn to remain successful through all these stages.

Doug: That covers a different territory than the usual startup manual...

Roland:  It does. In fact, consider this book the sequel to Lean Startup. The generally accepted playbook for startups beforeproduct-market-fit. Early-stage founders reach initial market success with Lean Startup. Mid-stage founders can use this book to up their game and keep banking success after success.

Doug:  Traditional startup manuals only bring founders so far?

Roland:  Traditional startup manuals concentrate on the first stage of the entrepreneurial journey. On bringing founders from an initial idea to a successful product with market traction.

Doug:  The famous milestone of product-market-fit.

Roland:  Yes, indeed. All traditional startup manuals, entrepreneurial university courses or incubators do the same. They help founders turn their ideas into product-market-fit.

With this book, our mission is different. We start from product-market-fit and help entrepreneurs turn that into product-market-dominance. We help turn fledgling startups with initial market response into true disruptors. Scaleups that have massive market impact. That provide major growth opportunities for its employees. And that generate manifold returns to the investors backing them in their early days.

"A scaleup is a former startup looking to turn product-market-fit into product-market-dominance"
—Roland Siebelink

Doug:  Wait, are you trying to square the circle between startup ways and corporate ways?

Roland:  Not at all. We are showing a third way: the scaleup way. Too many scaleup teams battle over remaining "startuppy" versus acting "professional" (read "corporate"). Our book is showing that neither is right. The most appropriate prescriptions are specific to the scaleup stage. Neither startup ways nor corporate ways would help scaleups succeed here.

Doug:  Then how exactly do you define a scaleup company?

Roland:  A scaleup is a growth company beyond product-market-fit, looking for product-market-dominance. As such it is not a startup, a growth company before product-market-fit. Nor is it an incumbent (also known as a a steady corporation, a mature business, a going concern company or a "stay-up").

Doug:  So it is an in-between kind of company?

Roland:  Exactly. It is a different animal from a startup, and also a different animal from an incumbent. In striving towards product-market-dominance, it has its own unique purpose. It also has its own typical challenges and its own management prescriptions. Its own best practices, if you will. All these are different from both a startup and an incumbent.


Roland Siebelink regularly speaks and writes about leadership in fast-growing tech startups. You can find more of his insights, including free chapters of his book “Scaling Silicon Valley Style.”