How To Cope With the Usual “Be Like This Startup” Comment

So lately I got laid off from my latest startup.  As you can guess, I’m kinda getting over the startup thing.  As I look back on my startup experiences and those of friends, one thing comes to mind repeatedly.


You cannot easily measure how tired I am of hearing the stories about “what Facebook does.”  I’m only slightly more tired of that all the other “we should be like X startup” comments I’ve tolerated over the years.  You can imagine how tired I am; you probably are yourself.

We’re tired of “be like X.”

Let’s be brutally honest here: these comparisons are usually ridiculous.  The startup or company you’re at is not Facebook.  These little “be like X” invocations are tossed around casually and they’re ridiculous and dangerous because they ignore harsh realities and serious differences.

So, when confronted with them?  Here’s my checklist to see if the comparison is actually relevant – and how i respond.

Is the startup being invoked in the same business as your company?  If not then the comparison is already suspect.  If the company being admired isn’t in a business yours can relate to, the comparison may be of no value.  Of course there may be another valuable comparison.

Is the startup being invoked using any similar technologies?  If the much-admired startup you’re being harassed about isn’t using any similar technologies, then really, there’s not much to say.  If there’s no solid underpinnings you share in common, what’s similar?  Well, OK there may be one thing . . .

Is the startup being invoked using any similar business processes?  This can actually be relevant because business processes like SCRUM, Kanban, etc. can be remapped more easily than technical ones.  However, people still have to demonstrate that the processes can be imported because . . .

Is the startup being invoked one that has any similarities to your business at all?  If not, then why the hell is anyone comparing it?  Similar supply chains?  Something?  Really?  If there isn’t anything, then there’s no comparison.  But finally . . .

Is the startup being invoked one that’s gonna be around and have the future you want?  Even if it’s actually good advice in the short term, in the long term is the latest popular startup someone you’re going to want to be like in the next year or two?  If not, then the comparison isn’t really a valid one.

Personally and professionally, I’m very tired of the “be like the latest startup” trend.  I’m sure you are too.  So here’s a bit of ammo next time you have to wade into the war of ideas.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at