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Difference Between a Startup and a Small Business

 Are you considering starting your firm but confused about whether to go for a startup or a small business? You’re not alone. Many aspiring entrepreneurs struggle to understand the difference between these two terms.

Starting a business requires much effort, dedication, and knowledge. It takes courage to leave your day job and embark on a journey of entrepreneurship. While the term ‘startup’ and ‘small business’ are often used interchangeably, their goals, strategies, and approaches differ. This blog will explore the key differences between a startup and a small business.

So, whether you’re deciding between starting a small firm or a startup or simply learning more about these terms, keep reading to discover the difference between a small business and a startup!

What is a Startup?

A company in its early stages of development, when it is focused mainly on creating a unique product, a solution, or a service that addresses a specific problem in the market, is called a startup. They are often associated with creating innovative solutions, implementing advanced technologies, business models, and more that can impact the industry.

Startups have a vision of what they want to do in the future and are willing to take risks to achieve their goals. Their business model is focused mainly on growth and scalability. They are open to accepting changes and learning more about the market and their customers.

What is a Small Business?

On the other hand, a small enterprise is more established than a startup; they have more employees than them. Small firms have a steady customer base and revenue, and the owners are involved in the day-to-day operations. They focus more on retaining their existing customers and attracting new ones. Their main focus is stability.

Here is a list of the main difference between a startup and a small business:

1.         Innovations

Innovation is one of the factors that differentiates a startup from a small business. Small businesses often focus on providing traditional solutions or services and may not be as focused on innovation. They often develop products and services with unique aspects and invest in technologies and advancements.

2.         Technology

When it comes to implementing technology, startups focus more on it compared to small businesses. They often focus on developing new technologies and may have a team of engineers or developers working on product development. On the other hand, small companies may require a different level of technological expertise.

3.         Business Model

One of the most significant differences between a startup and a small firm is their business model. A small company typically has a traditional business model that sells products or services to a local market. Its primary goal is to generate a steady stream of revenue and provide a stable income for the owners. In contrast, a startup aims to disrupt an existing market by developing a unique product or service. It generally has a scalable business model that can expand rapidly and generate significant revenue growth. The Subscription model, Freemium model, On-demand model, Marketplace model, Affiliate model, Consulting model, and more are some of the common models businesses use.

4.         Growth Intent

Startups often focus on rapid growth and scaling, while small businesses typically focus on maintaining their current operations. Startups are often willing to take risks and may require significant investments to support their growth. On the other hand, small businesses may be more conservative in their approach to development and may not require as much investment.

5.         Difference in Funding

Startups and small businesses operate differently when it comes to funding. Startups typically require significant capital investment to develop their products or services and scale their operations. They often rely on external funding sources like venture capitalists, angel investors, or crowdfunding platforms. These funding sources offer startups the capital they need to bring their ideas to life. In contrast, small businesses generally rely on internal funding sources, such as personal savings, loans, or credit. Small companies often have lower initial capital requirements than startups.

6.         Length of Operation

A startup is a dynamic and innovative company in the initial stages of developing a product or service. It is characterized by its focus on growth, experimentation, and agility. Startups are driven by the desire to build something new and uniquely solve a problem. Small businesses are often family-owned or operated by individuals passionate about a particular industry or profession. They generally are depicted by their stability, consistency, and loyal customer base. On the other hand, a small business is a company that has been operating for a more extended period, typically several years or decades.

7.         Risks

A startup is a dynamic and challenging business venture that requires significant effort, resources, and creativity to succeed. They face higher uncertainty and risk as they attempt to validate their business model, target market, and revenue streams.

Small businesses are generally considered to have a lower risk level than startups. These businesses are usually established with a clear business plan, a defined customer base, and a proven product or service. They have more control over their operations, and their businesses are less susceptible to external market forces.

8.         Profit

A startup is a newly established company that aims to grow by generating significant revenue growth and capturing a substantial portion of the market share in its industry. Startups typically operate in highly competitive and rapidly evolving industries, and therefore, they must constantly innovate and adapt to remain relevant and competitive.

Small businesses are often family-owned or operated by a small group of individuals and may have different high-growth aspirations than startups. They may work in more stable and less competitive industries and focus on building long-term customer relationships to sustain their revenue streams.

9.         Way of Life

The lifestyles and goals of startup founders and small venture owners are distinct. While both are entrepreneurial ventures, startup founders typically pursue innovative and disruptive ideas with the potential for exponential growth. At the same time, small business owners tend to focus on established markets with a narrower customer base.

Startup founders often take on greater risks and invest significant amounts of time and energy in their ventures, working long hours and sacrificing personal time to ensure success.


There is a significant difference between a startup and a small business. While both aim to generate profit, startups focus on creating and scaling innovative solutions, while small businesses tend to operate within a niche and maintain a steady flow of income.

If you’re wondering how to start your own business or how to create a startup in India, it’s essential to understand the fundamental differences between the two. You can determine which path best fits your vision by identifying your business’s goals and objectives.

However, whether you start a small business or a startup, having the right support and resources to ensure success is essential. That’s where non-profit organizations like Wadhwani Entrepreneur come in. We provide invaluable resources, mentorship, and funding opportunities to help SMEs and startups scale their businesses. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, an early-stage startup, or an established business looking to scale up, Wadhwani Entrepreneur can offer the support and guidance you need to succeed. Our various programs, such as WEN Think Startup, WEN Ignite, and WEN Liftoff, provide entrepreneurs with access to training, mentoring, networking, and funding opportunities.

Apply today:
(For those in later years of the graduate program/ PG students/ working professionals/ pre-incubatees having a validated idea to launch a venture)

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