Where Did We Get The Term “Scrappy” Entrepreneur?

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There needs to be a prize awarded each year for the scrappiest group of prize fighters in Startupland. A $100 gift card to Applebee’s, perhaps?

Jokes aside, scrappiness is one of the most vital attributes a company can possess in today’s startup environment. Founding teams who share a studio apartment/global HQ, find ways to live on near-zero income, and who squeeze dollars so tightly the eagle screams, are the lifeblood of the startup movement. Looking past the rough edges aside, and scrappy founders are miracle makers who turn an idea and some pocket change into job-creating, world-changing companies.

You are heroes.

But where did the term “scrappy” come from?

Scrappy is an adjective that literally means, “Made up of scraps, or odds and ends.” The term was first used in 1837, according to Dictionary.com. Piecing together prototypes from unloved remnants is a known and loved trick among startup disciples.

Scrappy also means, “Fond of fighting, arguing or competing,” which entered into usage starting in 1895, according to the Online Etymological Dictionary.

Ask yourself the last time you met an entrepreneur who wasn’t jumping at the chance to step into the ring with a Fortune 500.

This battle-readiness comes with the territory, which leads me to my favorite definition of scrappy:  ”Someone who is little, but can really kick some ass,” courtesy of Urban Dictionary.

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Scrappiness is about low-cost problem solving, creativity and never backing down from a big challenge. If you don’t love a fight, this isn’t the game for you.

Legendary among scrappy entrepreneurs is Claco founder Eric Simons. After he exhausted the $20,000 he received from ImagineK12, the edtech incubator, he had no choice but to squat.

“I couldn’t afford to live anywhere,” Simons told CNET writer Daniel Terdiman. “I started living out of AOL’s headquarters.”  Not a bad choice, as it turns out.

For someone with neither money nor an aversion to sleeping on others’ couches, the AOL building had plenty of allure. “They had a gym there with showers,” Simons said. “I’d take a shower after work. I was like, ‘I could totally work here…They have food upstairs, they have every drink on tap. This would be a sweet place to live.’”

Two months passed before Simons was detected. The notoriety he earned from his penchant for scrappines helped Simons land followup investment which extended his runway long enough to relaunch Claco in an invite-only beta.

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And when the clouds break, the temporary discomfort of scrappy living gives way to fancy lunches with high-powered VCs and fancy spreads at conferences, or so we all hope. There’s an equal chance your dreams will go up in smoke. But at least you allowed yourself a chance to win. That’s more than a lot of people can say.

So the next time you’re at a networking event and see someone stealthily shoving pizza slices into a messenger bag, tip your hat to a scrappy entrepreneur who’s working every angle in his quest to change the world.

Are you punching above your weight? Making it work on a shoestring budget? And living on ramen noodles? We want to hear some of your best scrappy startup survival tactics. Bless us with your scrappy secrets in the comments section below!

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