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Innovation&: Typical startup fails

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Typical Startup Fails

Image: The most common reasons for startup failures are found in the founder/investor teams and the lack of demand

Source: own brief sketch based on data from CBI Insights

Startups are ubiquitous in today's business world and have the potential to revolutionize the way innovations are brought to market. They are the midwives of new technologies, business models, and ideas. However, despite the hype and enthusiasm that often surround them, many startups fail within the first few years of their existence. This article will shed light on some of the typical reasons for startup failures.

Run out of Cash? Cash is king, even for startups!

In the world of startups, cash is crucial. Those who invest too long in unverifiable topics or fail to find demand for unprofitable developments, risk burning through their initial capital before being able to rise new funding. In the early stages, it's essential to control expenses. High personnel costs should be avoided. Founders can take on various roles and tasks themselves during this phase. Cashflow management is indispensable. Monitoring income and expenses as well as liquidity planning help prevent financial bottlenecks. When capital becomes scarce, alternative financing options should be considered or negotiations with creditors should be initiated. Cashflow is a key element for a startup's survival. Therefore, founders should always keep an eye on how to efficiently utilize their capital. In the world of startups, cash is indeed king.

Examine closely who you partner with among Co-Founders and investors

One of the most critical decisions for a startup is choosing co-founders and investors. Often, startups fail due to initial disagreements among founders. It is essential that team members bring diverse skills and perspectives to the table. Diverse expertise can help address various challenges. However, conflicts between founders can hinder collaboration and jeopardize the entire project.

Equally important is the choice of investors. Startups that align themselves with investors early on should ensure that these investors not only contribute financial resources but also possess industry-specific knowledge and a robust network. A lack of synergy between the startup's vision and the investor group can lead to serious problems at a later stage.

Lack of demand meets late realization

One of the most common causes of startup failure is the absence of sufficient demand for their products or services. Founders are often so convinced of their solution (idea) that they neglect or misinterpret user problem clarification and demand assessment. Before investing time and money in development, demand should be validated. Otherwise, the startup risks allocating resources to something that lacks market acceptance.

It's crucial to gather feedback from potential customers early on and be flexible in adapting the idea. Another problem arises when the startup has already launched, and the expected demand doesn't materialize. In such cases, rapid action and willingness to adapt are essential, as a considerable amount of money has already been spent, and the runway is typically very short.

Legal or regulatory issues

Neglecting to address legal and regulatory aspects can seriously jeopardize a startup. Legal frameworks must be adhered to by all companies, regardless of their size. Startups are no exception. Ignoring these aspects exposes them to the risk of lawsuits and penalties. Successful startups often become targets for litigation, especially from competitors or deep-pocketed adversaries.

Wrong timing does not exist

There is often debate about the right timing for market entry. But can there really be such a thing as wrong timing? It's less a question of timing and more about (not yet existing) demand. Either you enter the market too early, which can bring financial challenges to bridge this phase, or there is simply insufficient demand for the product or service, regardless of how optimistic you are.

A startup project is a marathon, not a sprint

The startup world is often characterized by terms like "hustle" and "disruption." However, founders sometimes fall into burnout mode, believing they must work non-stop. The pressure to constantly achieve visible progress can lead to an unrealistic workload. A balanced work-rest ratio is essential for long-term success.

The deliver phase is long-tailed

Even if a startup offers a solution to a relevant problem, implementation is often more protracted than expected. In the "deliver" phase, not only elements of the business model need validation, but attention must also be paid to the fact that customer reactions may be slower than hoped. This is where the realism of your chosen value creation / distribution / capturing (supply chain, partner eco-systems, distribution channels, marketing, pricing, costs ...) becomes apparent.

Conclusion - Typical startup fails

In conclusion, these reasons demonstrate that the path of a startup can be challenging. Success requires not only an innovative idea but also a validated business model, an openness to test various versions of your idea, adapt quickly if validation is negative and a strong team with diverse skills. Only by considering these factors can startups increase their chances of long-term success.


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