Startup Success Requires Accepting Failure

It’s hard to bring something new into the world. If it were easy, it would have already happened.

Nearly all startups fail. They’re trying to do something new, and the status quo is one hell of a competitor. Doing nothing is easy and most people’s default choice.

Don’t jump into entrepreneurship because you’re lured in by the potential results; start a company if the process, regardless of the result, is something you enjoy or need.

Back in the early 2000s, after my first failed startup, I tried doing the math.

If only 10% of VC-backed startups succeed (the numbers for bootstrapped startups are even worse) and assuming that I could manage to get VC backing for my idea, and further assuming that each failed attempt to start a company could consume five years of time (you have to account for the time you likely need to spend working for established companies between startups to rebuild your finances after years of below-market pay), and finally assuming that at age 30, I would get four more attempts before I’d be 50 and face increasing ageism that would prevent me from raising money, then the math was simple:

There was a 0.9 X 0.9 x 0.9 x 0.9, or 0.66 chance that I’d spend my entire career chasing this dream and never succeed.

I had to get comfortable with this as a default outcome if I wanted to keep going down the entrepreneurship path.

It’s a little better if you’re starting out at age 20, but even then, 0.9 to the 6th power is still 0.53. In other words, the majority outcome for entrepreneurship, even if you persevere for 30 years, is that you never succeed.

Yet it may still be worth doing because A) I’m sure you think your odds are better than average and B) It’s what you really want to do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *