People love to toss around the term “startup” for any new business, but not every company that opens its doors is a startup. True startups share three key differentiators: the prospect of exponential growth, an innovative product or service, and a scalable business model. These three components combine to form the identity and heart of the emergent business.

Imagine someone setting out to redefine Cajun cuisine in the heart of Dallas. As a native Louisianan, I have enjoyed Cajun food my entire life. People who travel to the region and eat the spicy, soulful food adore it. Some of those visitors decide to open their own Cajun restaurants back home to share those flavors with a new audience. They dream of restaurant awards, franchise opportunities, and rapid growth.

That sort of venture in Dallas might succeed, but it would be a huge mistake to call it a startup. This restaurant would be little more than the replication of an existing idea in a new market. The founders of this restaurant lack the sort of bold, unparalleled strategy that is a vital ingredient of a true startup.

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