A Sustainable Startup Isn’t a Successful Startup

Why both growth and mission matter

Joe Procopio


Have you asked yourself why you started your company?

And don’t repeat the same stock answer that you’d give your investors, your board, your significant other or your friends.

Really think about it. Why are you doing this?

Is it the money? Maybe, but probably not, because there are better and easier ways to make money than building a company from the ground up. I’m guessing it’s almost definitely for other reasons, reasons that have more to do with who you are as a person and what you want out of life.

So why does everything in startup revolve around money? Why are the three most important metrics in any business always revenue, profit, and margins?

The answer to all these questions is because a sustainable startup isn’t a successful startup. If your startup is surviving, it’s actually slowly dying.

Every entrepreneur has a mission

I hate corporate mission statements, and with good reason. It’s because well over 90 percent of the corporate mission statements I see are not only word salad tossed into a marketing tool, but also dishonest.

At some point, almost every business decides that their mission statement is some kind of homework assignment that they have to reshape to look like everyone else’s. It’s the same kind of groupthink that entrepreneurs push back against.

Every entrepreneur has a mission: to solve a problem, to invent something groundbreaking, to change the status quo, to make the world a better place, whatever it may be.

Thus, every startup is built off that entrepreneur’s mission, at least for a little while, and that mission should always take priority over business. Business goals will get your startup to short-term success. Mission goals will get your startup to long-term success.

When sustainable hits a ceiling

I learned that sustainable has its limits when I ran my own technical and product consulting firm for several years. We were better than everyone else — way better — and running the firm also happened to be a…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com