This is something we think about as founders, but our definition changes over time.
If you look at Elon Musk, it seems like when he Zip2, driving fast cars and making money was “success”:
Today, it’s going to Mars and perhaps saving the human race as part of that.
For me, having thought about this, success is building a company that (x) is enduring and (y) has a positive impact on the world.
Perhaps that is too high of a bar. Most companies don’t live forever. Many of the Kings of Web 1.0 are just a shadow of the past (Yahoo!, AOL, MySpace, eBay, Netscape/Firefox, etc.). Will Google even be here in 30 years? What about Twitter? Or Facebook? Or Google?
And an enduring company without a positive impact on the world to me is successful, but not a success.
It’s hard to think in decades. But think at least as far forward as you’ve been doing it. Then, once 5 years comes along, you can think in terms of one decade. After 10 years, you can start thinking about enduring.