If you’ve been in the entrepreneurial world for even a year, you’ve likely realized that startups are fragile and fickle. Many new startups will crumble before they even begin to establish solid foundations. Make it to the two-year mark, and half of those who started out around the same time as you are gone. Three years in, and you’re in the small minority…
It’s all so surprising, given that the majority of your entrepreneurial peers are incredibly intelligent and driven. Yet, according to the Startup Genome Report Extra on Premature Scaling, more than 90 percent of startups fail due primarily to self-destruction rather than competition. And for those that do succeed (less than 10 percent), most are said to encounter several near-death experiences during their lifespan.
So if your competition isn’t knocking you out, it’s your own decisions that are making or breaking you. If you find a way to stick through those first few years, I can almost guarantee that some big opportunity will present itself, whether it’s finding the perfect advisor, getting the national recognition you’ve been after, or any other marker of success that’s vital to your existence.
What keeps startups alive beyond their first birthdays? Take a look at a list I’ve compiled about what it says about you and your company if you’ve made it past year three (this is in no particular order).
You waited until the right time to scale.
Hiring the right people is important but hiring people at the right time is even more important. Startups that grow beyond their means before they’ve built a sustainable business model sink quickly, pulling a whole team of people down in the process.
You used your fundraising time wisely.
Though important, fundraising can be a big time trap. If you’ve used your fundraising time wisely, you’ve had this second objective in mind: absorb tons of intel. When my co-founder and I went through our first round of fundraising, we knew it wasn’t going to happen in a snap so we focused on talking to investors with amazing networks and asked them for introductions to potential prospects. That was one of our strongest strategies for building our business originally.
You found the right co-founder.
Statistically, your startup has a higher likelihood of surviving if your co-founder is on board early on. As stated in the Startup Genome Report Extra mentioned above: “Balanced teams with one technical founder and one business founder raise 30% more money, have 2.9x more user growth, and are 19% less likely to scale prematurely than a technical or business-heavy founding team.”
But finding a co-founder is easier said than done. If you’re an early-stage startup and you don’t have one yet, or can’t find one before it’s go time, act as your co-founder. Speak the language (business or engineering wise), ask prospective co-founders for advice, and learn from their expertise as much as you can to show competency. All of this helps to show that you’re not just looking for a hired gun, but that you want to partner with this individual. You understand and empathize with what they may go through if they join your team, and you’re willing to defer to their expertise and experience when it comes down to the wire and you don’t know what to do.
You didn’t network with the intent of getting something in return.
Instead, you believed (and continue to believe) in helping others because it’s a part of your collaborative nature. If a journalism student reaches out to you on LinkedIn requesting to interview you for their college newspaper, you don’t agree to do it because they could be a big-name reporter someday—you help because you genuinely want others to succeed and appreciate the help mentors gave you as you navigated your entrepreneurial path.
Further, you recognize that whatever market you land in is ultimately a community. And you want to be a meaningful contributor to that community. This helps build your own authority, authenticity, and ultimately, reliability as you’re trying to build a presence.
You were (and continue to be) persistent.
Most people that you meet in the startup space are incredibly smart. They’ve thought about their market and product for a while, and know exactly who the players are. Further, they’ve worked for top companies and gone to great schools. Thinking about it, you begin to realize that intelligence isn’t really a competitive advantage, it’s commoditized. You know what isn’t though? Persistence. Almost every experienced individual in the startup space tells you that luck plays a critical role in your ability to succeed. And, the longer you stay alive, the more chances you have at succeeding. When you take a step back, though, you realize that most startups don’t last long enough to recognize the opportunity in front of them.
Intelligence is commoditized, persistence isn’t. Make sure you can find a way to persist!
There’s no doubt about it; founding a startup is an emotional rollercoaster. You need loads of co-motivation and support from those who are smarter than you in their respective areas of expertise. But regardless of how much expert advice you take into account, you’ll still be the one who is responsible for the flight or fall of your company. You can either look at the cards stacked against you and fold, or you can study the mistakes you’ve seen other players make, figure out smarter moves, and indefinitely stay in the game.
This article was written by Sachin Kamdar from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.