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Startup Secret 41: Young at heart

Who says you can't be a startup forever? Jimdo co-founder says you can by being honest and making decisions with a startup perspective.

"Being a startup is a state of mind, not a company size."

-- Christian Springub, co-founder, Jimdo

Every time I hear some big-company exec say they run their company "like a startup," I am convinced I am listening to delusion. I have worked on startup teams and at several big companies. The difference is huge.

Maybe I'm not working at the right company. Christian Springub, co-founder of the Web site creation and hosting platform Jimdo, which I reviewed in 2007, reached out to tell me that his company just turned 5. It's got 5 million users, he says, and about 100 employees.

He says it's possible to keep the startup love going. Here's how.

You decide if your company is a startup or not. That's the first step to keep your company in startup mode, even after 5 years, even with 100 people, because you decide.

Being a startup for us meant a lot of different things: Fun at work; no politics but honesty; the best idea winning; trusting in people (not PowerPoints); being value-driven, not numbers-driven; learning every day; and more.

For us the biggest challenge to staying in startup mode is always making decisions with that perspective; even if they are hard, mean a lot of work, or are wildly unpopular and contrary to the stuff you read in books.

We love our job and we love coming to work every morning. It's not about earning a lot of money for ourselves. It's about enjoying our work and building a company that embodies our values.

Don't become a different company because you think that someone expects you to change. As you grow, people tend to approach you differently, you do big deals, you spend big bucks, you hire senior people. It doesn't mean that you can't hold your job interviews at a taco truck for lunch. It doesn't mean that your customers need to think you're someone else. Be honest, act authentically, and if people don't get it, they're not the right customers or employees.

Don't try to control everything. If you have hired the right people, give them the same opportunity to work in startup mode like you did as a founder in a small team.

Keep things you like. Back when we were fewer than 10 people, we went to a small Italian restaurant every day with the whole team. We really enjoyed it. We ate healthy food and had good chats. Now we've hired a chef and have our own restaurant-like kitchen in the office. So now in fact, we still go for lunch with the whole team together, and we still have good conversations and good food.

What do you think? Is it possible to run a 100-person company "like a startup?" And more importantly, is it a good idea to do so if you can?

Startup Secrets is based on personal interviews with people building companies and from their blog posts and news stories. Subscribe to Startup Secrets on Twitter or come back to Rafe's Radar every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a new one. See all the Startup Secrets.