While Amazon functions in "perpetual start-up" mode, attacking growth opportunities with a focus on revenue and reinvestment, Ford runs largely traditional, bringing more of a start-up feel to divisions such as Sync.
Number of years since founding, private or public -- none of these things play much of a role in designating status. It's about attitude, mentality and culture.
You pretty much have to succumb to some regular corporate structure -- relatively stodgy human resources and payroll departments for example -- but, where the magic happens -- in programming, products, services, development, content, whatever you do -- there's no reason to ever lose the fire.In my admittedly narrow view, the best companies remain in start-up mode forever. But this doesn't prohibit them from being profitable. Losing money is certainly not a prerequisite for start-up status. It's almost certain to happen early, often and quite possibly as you mature and hit growth spurts and growing pains. It's all about how you manage the process. Because a great management team runs an equally as awesome business, Amazon will never need to find a buyer. Not like Zipcar (ZIP). By all accounts, Zipcar had no choice but to sell out. That makes cries that you'll never patronize them again well-intentioned, but just as asinine as vowing to stop listening to Greenday because they traded Bay Area clubs for international arenas and stadiums. Hating on big corporations like Sarah Lacy did over at PandoDaily is not even so 2012. It's very 1990 let's go protest the Gulf War in front of the Chevron Building. So Zip went down. And, to a certain extent, that does suck. But who cares who signs the checks? Zipcar will be Zipcar. Just like my favorite bank -- ING Direct -- will remain better than the alternative even after getting taken out by Capital One (COF). It's cold hard reality. Some companies will just never be able to persist on their own. If you want the concept of car sharing to exist, at least as Zipcar organized it, you better hope a company with cash steps up.