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Home > Strategy > The Startup Genome Project- The Patterns of successful Start Ups

The Startup Genome Project- The Patterns of successful Start Ups


One of the first reports that came out from the Start Up Genome Project was listing down of 14 factors influencing the success of Internet startups. In this post I have tried to discuss the findings in a more generic fashion. This means I won’t be concentrating on the details of figures that the project team has brought out but will try to generalize these factors for all startups in general.

One reason for this is the two major constraints that the project team has with its data set.

  • The findings are based on data collected only from 650 startups
  • Almost all the startups were from the Silicon Valley

Putting aside these two constraints, I have tried to generalize the findings for all startups. Some of the important learnings for entrepreneurs that came out of this report are:

  • The founders who are open to learn during the course of execution, have access to mentors and show flexibility are more likely to be successful and raise more money than other founders who are lacking these factors. 

This is one of the biggest lessons for entrepreneurs. I have stressed on this point in my earlier articles and talks. For majority of the ventures, things never go as planned. An entrepreneur should always be on look out for new opportunities and challenges emerging in the ecosystem around the venture. He should try to make the best of the opportunities and try to negate the effects of emerging challenges or convert these challenges into opportunities.

  • Solo founders often take much longer to scale and raise money than founders working in teams. 

Constant feedback and action on that feedback is another important factor for the success of the venture. Founders having access to a mentor and having healthy discussions within the team are much better placed in incrementally improving the operations of their start up. Mentoring and positive criticism brings different perspectives and can analyze the impact of an action in multiple dimensions. This has a major impact on the success of a start up. Thus, start ups having access to mentors and guides tend to outperform others.

  • Business-heavy teams are more likely to outperform Technology-heavy teams. A balanced team of business and technology savvy founders is much more likely to succeed than teams having more focus on technology than business.

Business acumen of the team is an important factor in the success of the venture. Sometimes the teams obsessed with the technology miss the details of the business processes required to drive the venture. A well balanced team should have members taking care of the business as well as the technology side of the startup. It is advisable for the technology heavy teams to have mentors who can advise on the business side of the venture.

  • Most of the founders are driven by the “impact” that their venture will create rather than the monetary factors.

Most entrepreneurs will agree that they are driven more by passion to succeed in the implementation of their ideas rather than from the money that they will earn. Some of the most successful ventures of recent time became successful even though the founders had no idea on how they will make money out of the venture. Twitter and Google are the two biggest examples of this. I also believe that the money you earn is a by-product of the work you do. If the idea is good enough and the team is passionate enough about the idea, money will follow.

  • Most of the founders over value their idea/product and underestimate the time they will take to mature the product/ market.

This is another factor that I have observed in almost all the founders and entrepreneurs that I have interacted with. Most of the entrepreneurs over value their ventures and the impact their ideas will have. This is accompanied by the overestimation of the market size. Thus, when the rubber meets the road, entrepreneurs find out that it takes much more time to achieve the milestones than they actually anticipated.

One reason for this is that the founders would not have imagined all the factors (and it is not even possible) influencing their venture when they set out. The original plans seldom work the way they should. Hence, there is always a disconnect between what the founders anticipated and what they actually encountered.

  • Most of the startups that fail are due to self destruction rather than onslaught by the competition of external forces. Majority of the failures happen due to premature scaling of the startup. The startups try to get ahead of themselves and hence loose to themselves.

I do not fully agree to this point. There can be a number of reasons and factors which might not be in the control of the start up. Many start ups are responsible for their own destruction, but, for some others, they business ecosystem changes when they execute the business idea. They might not have access to resources to tackle the new challenges. Sometimes even if the idea is good, the business environment may sprout up much better alternatives.

I will discuss premature scaling in my next post in detail.

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