What Makes a Company?

by francine Hardaway on July 30, 2008

I’m gearing up for our fall FastTrac Growth Venture programs, so I’m thinking consecutive thoughts again about the issues confronting entrepreneurs and startups.

When I get back to Phoenix in a month I know I will be asked to sit down with people who have great ideas, and some who have products. However, few of them will actually have a viable business, much less a company.

So it’s time to go over those differences again, this time using a Phoenix company, Cartfly, as an example. Cartfly is going through some big changes (most of which are still in stealth mode and can’t yet be talked about), so I will probably have to roll around to them again in a month or so to give an update. But it has been around for two years, so let’s just "use" them.

The company started as UStrive, which was (and is) an application development lab. It quickly developed one application it really liked, a simple online store for merchants.

So the guys, Josh and Bob, had an idea. And the idea became a product. The product is easy to use and free, so a lot of small merchants have adopted it. And because there’s also a business model, which means a way to get paid and make money, Cartfly.com is a business.

Social networking is getting bigger, so Cartfly developed a "widget" that allows its merchants to share their stores on MySpace and Facebook. This is good for bands, and many bands use it.  But social shopping is a quickly-changing space. People are trying to decide how to monetize social networks, and how to sell to all the people on them. Going forward, Cartfly will change.

That’s the part now in stealth mode. Cartfly has had a new idea, which they  have developed into a new product, that has the potential of taking the company into a bigger (much bigger) business.

And this is how they become a real company. A company doesn’t have just one idea or one product, or even one business if it wants to compete and survive. It’s the old example of the railroads, who didn’t realize they were in the transportation business.

To grow, a company also takes on people beyond the founders. In fact, for a company to have long-term potential, it has to grow past the founders, as Intel has, or Microsoft. And as Apple and Yahoo are on the way to either doing or not doing:-)

Cartfly, in the next couple of months, will morph in one fell swoop from a small business into a bigger company. Stay tuned. ??I will let you know when I can talk about it in more detail. :-)

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