Lifestyle Company


A few years ago Noam Wasserman came up with the Rich vs King Concept:

https://hbr.org/2008/02/the-founders-dilemma

The simple version is: if you start a company, you need to know if you care about monetary rewards or power to control the company. In almost every case you can't have both.

Around the same time, the popularization of a “lifestyle business” appeared, in contrast to the cult of massive growth startup. The 4 hour work week is the spirit guide to those who are inclined to the lifestyle business.

Within the VC/Growth startup world calling a company a “Lifestyle business” is usually done dismissively, inferring that whatever the company and it's founder are doing is trivial or not worth considering as serious.

Having been around a lot of startups and founders over the past 7 years in many different places, these two ways of thinking about business: Rich vs King and Lifestyle vs Growth highlight the major difference in how people who go into business see the world. So I came up with a new set of categories:

True Believers These people start a company to promote an Ideology. They are ideally Kings of Growth Companies

Hedonists These people start start a company to take control of their wealth. They are ideally Rich and Work as little as possible

True Believers either get huge and start massive movements, or they implode, often in a spectacular fashion. They are flashy and draw a crowd. They care more about “changing the world” than getting rich. These are the home run champs like Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds.

Hedonists typically can build something that has good numbers consistently, and their failure mode is pretty low impact. They are steady and usually considered more predictable. They care more about growing their pie than long term social impact. These are consistent base hitters like Cal Ripken Jr or Craig Biggio.

Obviously these are broad generalizations, but it seems like the majority of business people fall into the Hedonist category, while the majority of “startup” people fall into the True Believer category.

I think though, business might be the wrong place for true believers. I'm not sure where they do fit – and I'm trying to work that out cause I am one – but it might not be as a company founder. At the end of the day, making money is only in service to the ideology, not an end itself so there is a conflict there.