Startups are great, but we can learn a lot from “end-ups,” too

February 3rd, 2013 / No Comments »

By John Maeda, Guest Contributor

At last week’s DLD Conference in Munich, I had the opportunity to sit onstage with the co-founder and CPO of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia. We started by discussing the unique creative culture at Rhode Island School of Design, where Joe went to college, and where I currently serve as president. Joe shared some of his secrets of being a successful designer-founder, and then turned the tables and asked me what it’s like to run a 136-year-old institution like RISD.

As often happens these days, the Twitter summary of my answer was perhaps more articulate than my answer itself:

@johnmaeda: “Today end-ups — old companies and institutions — want to be become more like start-ups. Yet they are classic and important.” via @AnnePascual

@johnmaeda: “Start-ups want to end up successful. Both want to be great.” via @Sloane

I sit on the board of a couple of start-ups (like Sonos and Quirky), but I spend my days running RISD – what I call an “end-up” in contrast with a start-up. I also used to be at the academic equivalent of a start-up,  the MIT Media Lab, which was founded in the 1980s (30 years is young in academic terms). Now, the term end-up may sound pejorative, but in fact I mean the opposite: If you think about it, the end goal for most start-ups is to eventually become an end-up, which is to say successful and long lasting……..