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Why do some startups succeed and others fail?

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Startups almost always start as a staggering journey into the unknown, one in which entrepreneurs need to make sacrifices, accept ambiguity, deal with challenges, emotions and pressure.

Bill Gross, founder of Idealab, a business incubator dedicated to finding new inventions and ideas, makes a valiant attempt at shedding new light on the factors that influence some startups to succeed and others to fail. He collected data from hundreds of organizations, his own and other entrepreneurs’, and ranked each of them on five key elements. The results were astonishing.

Here are the five key factors analyzed across 200 companies:

  1. Timing
  2. Team/Execution
  3. Idea
  4. Business Model
  5. Funding

He concluded that timing is the most essential element of all, accounting for 42%. Team execution came in second, with 32%, and the idea, the startup uniqueness actually came in third, mustering up only 28%. The business model does not seem to be critical for a company’s success, as it can be shaped after the business runs on the market. This is why the business model accounted for 24% of a startup’s prosperity.

Funding seems to matter the least (14%) and should not be an impediment to the startup’s success as long as there’s a need and interest on the market for a particular product or service. Especially in today’s age, funding is up for grabs anywhere you look.

Bill Gross reveals the story of successful business companies like Airbnb, Uber, Citysearch, Adobe Flash and YouTube, stressing the fact that these companies rose exactly when the time was right.

“The best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them” says Bill Gross.

Watch this inspiring TED Talk, and learn more about best practices and insights that drive business success.


Bill Gross is an American business, founder of numerous start-ups, such as Idealab, Knowledge Adventure, Energy Innovations, Yahoo! Search Marketing, SNAP and Compete Inc.

Video source: B. Gross (2015), The single biggest reason why startups succeed, TED Talks

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