It’s tough to say what’s a tech start-up anymore as the web becomes so integrated in every sector. Perhaps inspired by recent attention on the problem of patent trolling, Stack Exchange founder Joel Spolsky took to Google+ late last night to write up a grand theory to get at the essence of the phrase “internet start-up.”
“Let me see if I can explain how ‘Internet Startups’ work,” he writes. “They make these apparati that draw a box on somebody’s computer screen. That person then types words into that box on their screen. Then, the Internet Startup uses some computer codes to copy those words onto somebody else’s computer screen, so that other person can then read them.”
Some founders took issue with this description. “We’re a telecom startup that happens to use the internet,” founder John Sheehan said. ”I think you’re mocking the internet,” writes Ben West. “Also, I know an internet startup that copies words from 3 little boxes onto paper, and delivers them to other users, who aren’t on the internet.
But others were quick to play along. “And then, Steve Jobs, the father of all Internet Startups put a camera in his devices, allowing people to photograph and videograph themselves, and copy those into that box on their screen,” Dharmash Shah writes. “This begat about half of all new Internet Startups.”
“You could go a step further and say that all Internet companies modify the voltage in a series of memory units in someone else’s computer,” says Doug Jones in another comment.
And our favorite: “You forget about the internet startups that aggregate all the little things people type into boxes and sell them to other companies.”
Mr. Spolsky was careful to point out that another aspect of internet start-ups is the backlight that turns your phone into a flashlight.