22 May 2012

3 start-up principles that can benefit an established business

Steve Jobs often claimed that Apple – now the world’s biggest company – was also the world’s biggest start-up. From its product development practices to its hierarchy, he believed that Apple successfully used start-up principles to beat its competitors.

The company’s success alone makes the question of what established businesses can learn from start-ups one that’s worth asking.

Here are a few ideas:


Start-ups seek not only to innovate, but to disrupt. There’s no reason that established businesses should aim for anything less.

Creativity in product development is an important ingredient in this regard, and established businesses can do well to ensure that ‘established’ doesn’t mean having too much respect for things established.

Go small

Because bigger businesses have more resources, they tend to use them.

But, as Apple’s engineers would attest, smaller is sometimes better (one person wrote Apple’s iOS Remote application, for example, while only two adapted Safari for the iPad).

Start-ups use small, hard-working teams with very high levels of autonomy to perfect their product offerings. If they’re prepared to, it’s a technique that established businesses can use as well.

Listen to customers

Start-ups often succeed by adapting their products on the fly, responding to customer feedback while using agile development techniques to modify products quickly.

This is an area in which established businesses have an advantage in that they already have what start-ups crave: a customer base. Wary of their reputations, however, what they don’t necessarily have is the same appetite for risk. It can therefore help to find customers who are of a similar, innovative mind, and seek their feedback early when developing new products.

What do you think? Can big businesses benefit by acting more like start-up companies?