‘Small Variations in Growth Rate Produce Qualitatively Different Outcomes’

by Reihan Salam

Paul Graham has written a fun essay on startups and growth:

If you want to understand startups, understand growth. Growth drives everything in this world. Growth is why startups usually work on technology—because ideas for fast growing companies are so rare that the best way to find new ones is to discover those recently made viable by change, and technology is the best source of rapid change. Growth is why it’s a rational choice economically for so many founders to try starting a startup: growth makes the successful companies so valuable that the expected value is high even though the risk is too. Growth is why VCs want to invest in startups: not just because the returns are high but also because generating returns from capital gains is easier to manage than generating returns from dividends. Growth explains why the most successful startups take VC money even if they don’t need to: it lets them choose their growth rate. And growth explains why successful startups almost invariably get acquisition offers. To acquirers a fast-growing company is not merely valuable but dangerous too. 

I recommend reading Graham’s essay alongside Allison Schrager’s recent article in Quartz on the changing startup ecology.

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.