why startups fail

Top 6 reasons why digital startups fail

A few months ago, I wrote an article on global trends of failed startups, and guess what, last week I stumbled upon one ex-founder of a failed startup company who has now gone back to his full time job and doing quite well in his new role as a business head.

The pace at which new startups are coming up is less bizarre compared to if you see the pace at which they get shut down.

Question is, why?

Since 2011, 70% of the companies having raised less than $5M overall are dead. Statistics like these can scare the hell out of any young, aspiring entrepreneur. We all read those beautifully written PR stories around few people receiving millions of dollars of funding by VC firms or angel investors, what we miss out on is the list of companies who failed after receiving those funding.

Last year, CB Insights shared below list of top 20 reasons for startup failure which were based on the post mortem done with 100 failed startup founders.

Top reasons startups fail
Top reasons startups fail

 

Let me expand some of these and add some more from my side based on my startup consulting experience:

Single Founder Startups

Let me rephrase the above statement, single “active” founder startup. Incidentally, I’ve worked with couple of them in my career, being a single startup founder is one of the most difficult things in life. Does the destiny sympathizes with these heroes or lady luck favors them? Not really, in fact, it is even more harsh for a single founder to take off their dream. Though there are some nice plus in this situation for e.g. decision making is much faster as the startup is almost like a sole proprietor firm, but considering the single founder cannot be an expert in every single aspect of the business, it sometimes takes a lot more than it should. And sometimes, it may lead to business fatal decision making.

Focused on Niche

If your startup business model targeting a very small segment of audience, you might want to re-look at your business strategy. A lot of founders pick up ideas focussed at a niche audience in order to avoid the competition and carve a stronghold in that segment. But this can be suicidal as it will increase your marketing cost of audience acquisition and if your idea is not strong enough and/or your product experience is weak, a bigger player might just gobble up your segment as well despite yours being a unique idea.

If you make anything good, you’re going to have competitors, so you may as well face that. You can only avoid competition by avoiding good ideas. ~ Paul Graham ( Y Combinator )

Bad Hiring

Also read: How to hire for your bootstrap startup?

One of the most obvious and perhaps the most important reason as to why a lot of startups fail is ‘PEOPLE’. Today, every single early stage startup is going through the worst nightmare of hiring the right people for their idea. There is no doubt that startups need people with a different set of skill sets and more importantly attitude. Needless to say, you cannot filter these people using any job portal. At times, startups end up hiring people in a hurry to get the ball rolling, especially when the investor pressure is high to deliver and scale up. This can also happen when startups hire people based on their background and not the skills they are actually looking for. Result is quite obvious, wrong people get on the bus that leads to project delays and eventually, product failure.

Too longer proof of concept

Also read: 6 Stages of a Startup

Call it a personality issue but some startup founders get themselves into a zone when they spend just too much time in building their product prototype for the proof of concept. It could be because the pandora box of ideas within the parent idea becomes just too much to handle and they just don’t know what to test within their MVP, but this causes massive delay to the project launch and at times so much so that it leads to losing the first mover advantage in the market.

Poor Marketing

This is typical to all B2B startups who raise funding based on their unique product idea which looks really fancy on the presentation, but it is equally difficult to engage audience on that concept. More often than not, there is no clear strategy to build brand as B2B companies focus on customer acquisition without thinking about future growth. Net new customer acquisition becomes increasingly difficult and after a point and lack of repeat business or up-sell starts hitting the bottom lines.

In Fighting

With so much of blood and sweat being put into building a startup, they are extremely prone to ego-battles within the founding team. Once that happen, Decision making becomes increasingly difficult on key issues, positive energies starts to disappear and the balance sheet starts reflecting the reality. This reaches a point where founders can’t see eye to eye and the startup failure becomes increasingly imminent.