At a panel held by FF Ventures Sunday afternoon at mega-conference SXSW, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels made a whole crowd of startup people burst into laughter.
He was moderating a panel about scaling a startup with Shane Snow, chief creative officer of Contently, Rami Essaid, CEO Distil Networks, Trevor Coleman, CPO Interaxon, and Jordan Krechmer CEO Livefyre. When he started asking Krechmer about his hiring practices, the fun began:
“How much time do you spent time on hiring?” Vogels asked. “At Amazon, of course, we’re a 20 year-old startup by now — “
“Uh… startup?” Krechmer interrupted.
The crowd burst into laughter. Vogels stuck with his description:
“Ehh, startup,” he said over the crowd, “We’re still a startup!
“Awww, that’s really cute,” Krechmer fired back in a faux-sweet voice.
Vogels paused as the crowd and the panel participants continued to giggle.
“Mmmhh, that threw me off guard a bit,” he said finally, shaking his head.
Krechmer wasn’t done:
“Yeah,” he said with a laugh, “There’s a new class of startup called ‘IPO’d and Worth Billions.'”
“It’s not just about the size!” Vogel’s protested. “It’s.. whatever. Moving on.”
Jokes aside, Vogels and Krechmer highlighted what actually is an interesting question: When do you stop calling a company a startup? When it reaches a certain size? Gets a certain amount of funding? When it goes public?
For example, can we still call Uber, a company now valued at more than $US41 billion, a startup?
Even though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ mantra is “It’s Day One,” a mentality isn’t quite enough to argue startup status. For the record, the company was founded in 1994, went public in 1997, and made $US29.33 billion in revenue last quarter.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.