The Armchair Theorist has an awesome post outlining the various stages of startups. Here’s a quick sample:
Tier 2 – Local Sensations
Your Local Sensation startup has survived the first six months to a year, and is beginning to build up a loyal community of users. Some people recognize the value of the service you are providing, but you either still have a ways to go to unseat the leader in your space, or your startup concept is so niche or so new that many people have been slow to sign up. Most of your users are either part of the Silicon Valley echo chamber or are geographically located in the country in which you are based.
Reputation: For the particular service you provide, you are recognized as a player in this space, but not the leader. Your startup may only be well known only in the country in which it is based. Your startup’s name is recognizable by roughly half of the Web 2.0 evangelists and early adopters, but almost none of your friends outside of the IT industry. Your friend’s mom has never heard of your service before.
Adoption: You may have anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 active registered users, most of which are based in your home country. Some Web 2.0 evangelists and early adopters may use your service for a bit to see if you are bringing anything new to the table.
Buzz: Your startup may be mentioned once or twice on either FriendFeed, Twitter, Techmeme, Digg, Reddit, or Slashdot. You are likely to have been mentioned on TechCrunch or other Silicon Valley evangelist blogs like Robert Scoble’s or Louis Gray’s.
Monetization: You may or may not have a business plan in place to make money. However, it’s still waaaaay too early to talk about monetization now. Let’s get even more users first!
Mulligans: If your startup is unstable and shows scalability or usability problems at this stage, it’s game over. Most early adopters will not bother giving you a second chance and will jump ship to your competitor instead.
Where does your startup land?