A startup is a company with a limited operating history. These companies, generally newly created, are in a phase of development and research for markets. Startups keep changing their models, structure and how they operate until a desired outcome has been attained. Even when a startup becomes a complete company, it keeps evolving. As revenues grow from millions to hundreds of millions, the infrastructure expands, geography expands, and bureaucracy expands. You need more than the founders to manage the growth.
Innovation and change keeps companies alive. Remain stagnate and your competition will make sure you stay out of business. Successful startups are typically more scalable than an established business, in the sense that they can potentially grow rapidly with limited investment of capital. Startups in their first few years are more agile and can change to meet demands of customers or even the industry within which they operate.
A startup can be bootstrapped with founders resources which is often the case and contributions from friends and family. At the bootstrapped stage, the startup can be transformed into a giant company overtime with or without external cash infusion. 37signals, SurveyMonkey, SmugMug, BuySellAds.com, GitHub, Campaign Monitor, WooThemes were all bootstrapped and have grown to be successful at it. Mozilla Firefox has reached over 450 million users without investors.
A start can also be nurtured from startup Incubators and seed Programs or with minimal cash infusion from an angel investor. Techstars, Y Combinator, 500 Startups, Dream Venutures and Seedcamp have together graduated hundreds of startups that are doing well by all standards. These startups receive venture capital funds for expansion as they grow. Others naturally grow without VC investment.
A startup can be successful with or without external funds. Starups do not necessarily require angel or VC investment to be successful. It takes more than funds to grow a startup. Management of resources, startup culture, external assistance from mentors or board of directors, partnerships, customers care and smart hiring are some of the key things to consider when your startup is evolving.
A company may cease to be a startup as it passes various milestones, such as becoming profitable, or becoming publicly traded in an IPO, or ceasing to exist as an independent entity via a merger or acquisition.