Sunday, December 2, 2007

Why startups fail

A fascinating read by venture capitalist Fred Wilson: Why Early Stage Venture Investments Fail

But, where you really see the value of being nimble is in the failures. All but one failed to transform their business and all but one were unable to do that because of the large unsustainable burn rates they had built up. Even the one business that did transform itself, it went from a low cost business model to a high cost business model and they put themselves in a pickle when the transformation didn’t pan out.

To go back to Dick’s analogy, you can go down lots of blind alleys if the cost of doing so is low. But if you are spending a million dollars on each blind alley, you’ll be out of business in no time.

So it’s pretty clear to me that most venture backed investments don’t fail because the business plan was flawed. In my experience at least 2/3 of all business plans we back are flawed.

Most venture backed investments fail because the venture capital is used to scale the business before the correct business plan is discovered. That scale/burn rate becomes the cancer that kills the business.

So the bottom-line, your business plan is almost always flawed. If you put all your eggs in that business plan, only to find out you can't pull-it-off, you have no agility to change directions and still survive.

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