When many people decide they want to start their own Internet company or startup, they are mostly talking about commercial startups. They want to put up a website that is focused around a specific business plan and generate revenue. I have been this type of entrepreneur many, many times. Often, this type of person is looking to get away from their 9-to-5 job, live the 4-hour work week, so on and so forth.
Quick side note: If you think you have what it takes, I actually recommend going forward and trying to start your own business. It's not easy in the least bit. It takes an awful lot of sacrifice just like any new business does. As a matter fact, there are many of us who are not the entrepreneur type for one reason or another but this is a topic for another time.
The second type of startup is what I like to refer to as a web treasure. Now I did not coin the idea of a web treasure nor did I come up with the term. I first read about this idea in another blog post, but I googled it and I cannot find the term or the author. If you do happen to find it, please feel free to comment to below so I can credit the person.
A web treasure is a site that is extremely valuable to the Internet as a whole. Pandora.com is a web treasure. eBay is a web treasure. Pinterest is a web treasure. Even though these types of sites don't initially start out as revenue-generating or even commercially viable, their use on the Internet separates them from the rest of the shopping carts selling any type of good or product. These are sites that endeavor to be more than just simple websites.
I've worked with a couple of projects that endeavored to be web treasures, although they are rare. One of my favorite clients wanted to start a bartering site for vegetables grown in home gardens. Each of the members on the site could trade their extra produce (I know I always get extra tomatoes every year...) for items that they could not grow.
Another my favorite clients want to start a site that would enable teachers to trade each other's private classroom libraries. Since each teacher accumulates a series of books for their library for a specific range of reading level, his site word be a tremendous resource for teachers looking to get more books for their students.
The question today is this; for your startup, do you want to build the web treasure or a commercial startup? Identifying which of these your startup falls under will help you identify your short-term goals and draw your roadmap for success.