When is a start-up not a start-up?

Somewhere along the way the moniker “start-up” shifted from meaning a new business in its first years of growth to merely “pre-exit for its investors.” With liquidity paths clogged more companies are entering the adolescent phase of their existence where start-up doesn’t really resonate for me as a description.

A company like Linden Lab has been around since 2000 and is very profitable. Are you a start-up? No, you’re an ongoing concern, or actually technically just a small-medium business.

And most SMBs don’t have exit events so what does this mean for early venture investors looking to return their fund? Are we going to see more conflicts between company and investors where the latter push for a growth acceleration strategy or roll-up in order to get public or find liquidity? Will more CEOs just buy out their investors at reasonable prices in order to take control of their business? Will we see CEOs cease saying they are start-up entrepenuers and recognize that they are, gulp, small business owners (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it seems the tech execs i know equate that moniker with the guy who owns their dry cleaner. Not sexy enough for them).