Do 8 out of 10 start-ups really fail? And how do I know if I am failing too?

(My response below, to the above question on Quora)

Failure has many dimensions in the context of a startup and the founder of the startup.

For example: Failure could mean that you have not been able to achieve the numbers (revenues, or customers/users). However, it can still be a fairly profitable business at a lower scale than what you had estimated. If you have raised capital from investors, they may see a venture that does not scale as a failure. The founder may not.

Failed Stamp Showing Reject Or Failure

Likewise, failure could mean that while the concept was good, the team was not able to execute well, or they ran out of money because they were not able to raise capital. In this case, the startup SHOULD NOT have failed, but it did not work out because of inexperience or lack of execution capabilities.

So, when people generalise that 8 out of 10 startups fail, it generally means that 8 out of 10 startups are not able to go to the scale or in the direction they assumed it would. It MAY or MAY NOT be a failure for the founders.

Also, it is important to recognize that very few startups fail because their product was bad. They usually flounder because of issues on areas like execution, processes, capital, etc. I have seen many, many founders start off without even talking to potential customers. This is usually a recipe for a disaster as your own views may or may not hold good in the market.

My belief is that while the number of unsuccessful attempts are quite high from among the ones that started off, the percentage of failures comes down significantly among those who had put good thought into their concept and business around the concept BEFORE starting off.

If your question was out of fear of failure, I would urge you to think again. Plan your venture well, understand the market and then take the leap of faith. Check the LinkedIn status of failed entrepreneurs. They either get started again (and investors like to back them) or they get good jobs (corporates like failed entrepreneurs because of the enterprising spirit and the learnings they bring with them). So, while your venture may not succeed, you are unlikely to fail if you pursue the path of entrepreneurship.

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Guest Post – Team, the most important ingredient in a startup

Ask any investor or successful entrepreneur, and they will reiterate that the most important factor in a start-up is the quality of its founding team. A team is more important than the idea or the size of the market or the technology or the business case, or indeed any other factor that investors will review to check the investment-worthiness of a venture.

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Even if  – the product is great; the technology is cutting-edge; the market is large and the company has a strong chance to be a dominant player in that large market – investors will hesitate to invest in the venture if they do not get the confidence that the founding team can deliver in the market.

What investors seek is a team that is passionate about the subject, is enthusiastic about the opportunity, has a good grasp on the dynamics of ‘business’ and not just the product/service, and who can demonstrate commitment to fight it out in the market.

While it is good to have experience in the domain, that is not a must, as that will exclude a number of bright people who either do not have work experience or are from a different domain than the concept they are pursuing. However, what is important is that even without experience in the sector, the team should have studied the sector enough to understand it very well. In fact, that is also why passion and interest in the sector is critical, because that makes it easier for a person to study the sector well.

Continue reading “Guest Post – Team, the most important ingredient in a startup”

My advice to students aspiring to be entrepreneurs

During my talks at engineering colleges and business schools I often come across students who are clear that they want to be entrepreneurs, but they cannot do so immediately because they have student loans or other financial commitments to take care of. And that is a perfectly understandable reason for deferring your entrepreneurial ambition.

My advice to such aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep their entrepreneurial ambition as the key focus on their lives. Sure, go ahead and take up a job because you need to. BUT NO MATTER HOW MUCH SALARY YOU GET, KEEP YOUR EXPENSES AND LIFESTYLE WITHIN RS.25000 – RS.30,000 (USD 500). Continue reading “My advice to students aspiring to be entrepreneurs”

Startup Next, the global and top pre-accelerator program comes to Delhi.

Startup Next, the global and top pre-accelerator program – backed by the likes of Techstars, Google for Entrepreneurs, Global Accelerator Network and Startup Weekend – is coming to New Delhi !

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The Startup Next program is designed for startups who plan to apply to accelerators or are pitching to investors for funding.

Startup Next is an intense mentorship program consisting of weekly sessions (one session in a week lasting three hours) for five weeks. The program has a structured curriculum and in-depth engagement with one-on-one mentoring, designed to help startups build the foundation of scalable ventures.

Continue reading “Startup Next, the global and top pre-accelerator program comes to Delhi.”

The 4 P’s of Entrepreneurship – Patience, Persistence, Perseverance, and Passion

Entrepreneurship teaches you a number of things about life, in general. It is an immensely satisfying journey, even if you do not reach your intended destination. However, the journey is often very challenging and it takes a lot of patience, persistence and perseverance to succeed. And unless you have the passion for what you are doing, finding the other 3 Ps within you becomes challenging.

Patience1I advice aspiring entrepreneurs to not get taken up by stories of instant success. Those are rare. Instead look at the 1000s of others whose ventures did not succeed. Or did not succeed as aspired.

Even those who succeed, often a lot longer than they had planned for, and it is often tougher than they had imagined. What sets the successful apart from the ones that gave up are the 3 Ps that I outlined above.

Continue reading “The 4 P’s of Entrepreneurship – Patience, Persistence, Perseverance, and Passion”

Why Startups should assess opportunities in the renewables energy sector

Apart from the global macro factors and a drive towards renewables, the Indian government is making some solid statements that indicate their thrust and seriousness about the renewable energy space. In fact, the Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has declared in a statement in The Economic Times India’s intent to be a world leader in this space in 4 years. That’s huge.

Given these statements, it appears that the government will create policies that create a more conducive environment for entrepreneurs to create ventures in this sector.

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While several opportunities exist, one has not seen too many entrepreneurs considering it. Especially at early-stage, there are very few entrepreneurs creating startups addressing this segment. Continue reading “Why Startups should assess opportunities in the renewables energy sector”

Learning Time Management is Critical for an Entrepreneur

The founders and teams of any startup are most likely to have more things to do than they can manage in a day. There is always likely to be more activity, primarily because in a startup, things are constantly evolving and changing, than there are people to execute those activities.

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In such a scenario, time management becomes a critical skill that entrepreneurs have to learn and implement in their day-to-day life.

But fret not! All it needs is a little organising and prioritising and some serious time management. I came across this article written by to Alex Cavoulacos, “One founder’s best productivity trick: Save time and do less”.

I agree with Alex’s opinion. She hits the nail on the head when she says that – knowing what not to do, and what to stop doing, can make a huge difference in your happiness and productivity. Here’s what I would like to add… Continue reading “Learning Time Management is Critical for an Entrepreneur”