This misnomer actively misleads both big company employees working in such teams as well as people toiling in actual startups.
Despite all best efforts to create megacorp “startups”, they can never exist. Here's why:
We had a cool name. We were small, lean, and agile and dreaming about the future and had a $50,000 3D printer. This was not a startup. I was wrong.)
The company literally lives & dies on the work every employee does every day.
The physics dictate that it is impossible. (It is also why some people prefer the stability of big company jobs, and that’s ok!)
People understand what an accomplishment it is to have built a startup and are eager to hire people for a next gig. Failure is a badge of honor and is seen as eventually leading to success.
Teams are set up in a “garage” or “innovation lab” decked out with modern amenities, cool showcase design elements, and state-of-the-art hardware and workspaces.
This can actually be a fun part of startup life; it teaches you to take less for granted and creates a tangible sense of ownership in the company.
I bought the cable bulk from Home Depot and tried to pick a subtle color so we wouldn’t get caught.
Emulating the startup “garage” atmosphere inside of a big company is all of the glamour without all of the garbage.
Even if you are a “just” a 30-person team, when you do Fast Company to show the cool thing you incubated, it’s with the implicit megaphone of a Google or Facebook behind you.
These are all incalculably valuable, and often forgotten or taken for granted.
No such luck. In the startup world, you have to hustle for every story.
Teams can quickly ramp to 30, 50, 100+ people, with plenty of money to pay them and loads of readily-available talent.
When I read megacorp resumes that say they work “in a startup,” I try not to judge. They don’t know how it sounds.
These teams might well be fun, with smart people and great perks. They may produce interesting products.
But they are certainly not a startup.