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    I can tell it’s awards season when my Internet speed is excruciatingly slow (seriously, I could make Boyhood twice over while waiting for Youtube videos to buffer) thanks to the list of movie downloads I’ve have stacked up. For start-up watchers this time of year, there’s the Crunchies – the annual awards given out by TechCrunch for, among other categories, start-up of the year. No shortage of code-red-Kanye-threat-level controversy at these awards either, especially when the host pulls a Ricky Gervais on a female member of the audience.
    I’m more interested, though, in another questionable decision from the night. When I saw that transportation network Uber had been awarded the top prize for start-ups, I knew there’d be the wave of disagreement that follows all awards ceremonies, whether it’s the Grammys or your kid’s annual school prize day.
    I brought this result up with senior tech writer Abhimanyu Ghoshal, best man at my wedding, band mate, and by virtue of those appellations, long-suffering sounding board for my half-baked ideas. He made a rather pertinent point: tossing Uber in with a bunch of other start-ups makes no taxonomical sense. Uber is four years old now, has scaled up its operations to 250 cities, is valued at $40 billion and owned by celebrity entrepreneur Travis Kalanick.
    This point steered our conversation towards the following tangents: when does a start-up graduate into the big leagues? And why do some companies that punch in higher weight categories still choose to be identified with the greenhorns? Abhimanyu reckons that once a company develops a clear business path and begins to scale up globally, they’ve outlived the start-up tag. He explained that some companies like to play safe and retain the image of being fresh/exciting new businesses. Associate with the start-up ecosystem and milk that early buzz for as long as you can. Like that college friend who still hung out near his high school where he was star athlete, because he was simply too afraid to hack it in the new environment he graduated into.
    Back to Uber’s terrible safety record last year. From the hit-and-run in San Francisco to the deplorable rape of female passenger in New Delhi, these shocking incidents are exacerbated when their executive going scot-free after suggesting the company “dig up dirt” on journalists who criticise it. It’s hardly the sort of behaviour that behooves “start-up of the year”.
    — pauldharamraj@gmail.com

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