A serious need of defining popular words from startup sector

As I am pretentiously linked with student community as a part-time academician, I have a rare luxury of having a social media profile full of “friends” who describe themselves using next-gen adjectives like sapiosexual, futurist, bibliophile, cat-person and a lot more.

The idea of youth is to be different, special and unique, and I really like it. But, lately, I have started noticing another even more popular set of self-describing adjectives that has got me a bit worried.

As practically every third kid is a startup founder, I am forced to make a serious suggestion, i.e. let us regularise the use of self-proclaimed titles, as a startup is a serious idea that we hope to use to transform the nation.

Please note that I see a real regulatory need and hence I don’t plan to use sarcasm to define common jargon like pitch, FMA, disruptive technology, cliff, burn/churn rate, low hanging fruit and another lingo commonly heard in cafes of Bangalore or Hyderabad.

With all earnestness, I propose the following definitions for popular titles for those into policy making for startup sector to consider and evolve:

Startup: A business entity with at least a three-month-old current bank account with thirty business transaction entries.

Founder or Cofounder: An owner or partner of a startup with at least one financial year of accounting existence with income tax department.

CEO or CMD: An owner or partner or the senior-most executive of a startup that has employed and paid at least ten people, who are not management trainees, for twelve continuous months.

CTO: An owner or partner or employee of a startup with one Proof of Concept of a technology-driven product/service.

CFO: An owner or partner or employee of a startup with at least 1 crore of financial transaction on its books.

PoC or Proof of Concept: A product/service sample that is ready to be handed over to the user for actual use within one working week after a demonstration.

Startup incubator or Incubator or Startup accelerator: An real estate establishment having a ready-to-use physical infrastructure capable of hosting at least 50 people.

VC or Venture Capitalist: An investor with exposure of at least 50 lakhs of lending to startups without any collateral security other than equity. The lending may be provided on a firm commitment of return on investment.

Angel Investor: An investor with exposure of at least 50 lakhs of lending to startups without collateral security other than equity. The lending must be without the firm commitment of return on investment.

And, last but The Most important one.

Mentor: A person providing guidance to startups with or without monetary interest with basic prequalification of having created at least one successful business in India operated for at least three profitable years and has a personal net worth of not less than ten crores generated from self-run business ventures.

Startup lingo is a popular theme with humourists, especially stand-up comedians, a lot of these words have been defined for fun, but now is the need to get a bit serious.

A startup is just a glossy new name for doing business, but the bottom line is, it is all about money, debt, financial liabilities and other seriously real things. If money is lost or debt is incurred, it has a life-changing impact for a young person. Unfortunately, a lot of people are lacing up this serious risk-acting activity with a honey of inspiration and mentorship and other big words.

Life, unfortunately, is not a LinkedIn page. Reading a story of success, in most cases, is just a waste of time if you want to find out how to set up a real business. No amount of inspiration will pay interest incurred on a loan. By referring to a business as a startup and drinking coffee while waiting for an innovative idea to strike provides no protection from the brute forces of commerce.

It is a real world out there. As money doesn’t understand aspirations and inspirations, dreams and hopes; from founders to mentors, each player from startup sector need a pecuniary or at least reality-linked definition.

If we don’t do that we will have young people wasting time feeling busy doing nothing just because what they are doing can be given an imaginary meaning using loosely defined words. It can get even worse if they get caught in the web created by financial liabilities early in their lives.

In addition to this, let us accept that startup promotion itself has become a big business. We have mentors, VCs, Angels and even incubators mushrooming all over India, without any statutory backbone to regulate their activities. As startup promotion is now a big business, it needs legally recognised definitions to ensure responsible behaviour from the stakeholders.

Today, a young man or woman of every good academy of India is living under the peer pressure of the grand words that are used carelessly by people with decent communication skills and desire to make money while pretending to help the youth.

Reality is, doing business in India is a difficult job and only those with real experience can actually guide others, that too if they have time and inclination.

As mentoring is a free-for-all business, any Tom, Dick and Harry who has picked up the lingo are getting to stand on the podium and “inspire” hopeful youth by selling often impossible dreams to them as part of startup support work that is getting lucrative as a vocation.

Startup scene of India needs to move out of the hype created around it and into serious business. If this fad continues, many kids can actually mess up with their lives if they are misled by incompetent mentors.

As the state is trying hard to help using policies linked with financial incentives, it is even more important that we develop robust definition system for startup sector, or a lot of hard earned tax money will go down the drain of imaginary business ideas.

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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