Funny how the labels work: The lean startup tends to be called that because of a trendy and fast strategy, a lot of flexibility, and a high-powered startup mentality. Emphasize the phrase “high-powered.” But ultralight startups? That sounds to me like an extremely small and economical startup. I like the image it conjures. I think of ultralight as backpacking stoves, tents, sleeping bags, plus sporting equipment. It all sounds good to me.

I saw that phrase first in Ultralight startups: little capital, just computer published earlier this month. It starts with:

From his apartment in Berkeley’s student ghetto, 19-year-old Raymond Lei runs an online T-shirt printing business that grossed more than $60,000 in August, putting him on track to post more than $700,000 in sales this year.

It turns out that he started the company–ooshirts.com–in high school and has spent $2,200 on it so far. It’s a good story. And perhaps a trend:

“We have no firm data on the frequency of such events, but there’s no doubt that the new online model makes it very easy to start a business,” says Steve King of Emergent Research, an East Bay consultancy that has tracked “ultralight” startups.

I’m happy to credit Steve King with inventing the phrase, since his company is already tracking the ultralight startups. I think it’s something that’s always been there, but is, as Steve suggests, easier now than it used to be.

(Image credit: Chad Zemendorf/The Chronicle. You can click here, or click the image, for the original)

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.