When Is a Tech Startup Not a Tech Startup?

Mark Birch expounds upon the non-tech tech startup.

We frequently face this question here at Betabeat: What makes a tech startup a tech startup? All young businesses are startups, and a vast number of new businesses use technology or the Internet. So as a tech blog, how do we decide who to cover? Is Warby Parker a tech startup? Is Bonobos? Is Rent the Runway? All are lightweight on the tech side but have investment dollars from venture capitalists that specialize in tech.

Is Groupon really a tech startup? Why? Because it uses email? Because it uses an algorithm to trigger a deal’s tipping point?

The lines are especially blurry in New York, where media, ecommerce and fashion are the strongest markets. Angel investor Mark Birch mused on the topic this morning. “Technology is required, but it is certainly not the differentiator,” he wrote. “And do not expect the winners to be based on the best tech. It will come down to execution, closing deals, smart user acquisition strategies, and superior service/community.” Sounds like Silicon Alley’s specialty.

One thing does seem to be held in common across the range of new tech startups: scalability. This may be why some tech VCs are investing in more mixed-blood startups. If the business can scale with the speed of Facebook, Tumblr or Pinterest, it seems to be fair game—whether it’s eyeglasses, custom pants or Internet-enabled grilled cheese. When Is a Tech Startup Not a Tech Startup?