October 26, 2022Startup

Imagined vs actual startup journey

90% of startups fail. That's the statistic.

It feels true to me. Judging by startup Twitter it seems most startups disappear before the 2 year mark. Some, much sooner.

Most people imagine the startup journey to be like this:

People think you can go from idea to a shipped product fast. After launch it's all happy times and success. We fool ourselves into believing this because we must. Otherwise, it's hard to start.

In reality, it's something like this:

50% quit at the idea stage. I'm making rough calls, not an exact science.

Ideas are easy, but acting is hard. Most people will just stop at the idea. Some may look into it, register a domain (you know who you are 👀) and stop there.

Those who undertake the journey will build for 3-5 days and see some other "better" idea. This is called the shiny object syndrome. Sixty percent of people will quit at the shiny object and start working on something else. Of course, they'll register a domain first!

Ignored the shiny object? Good for you! This is where it starts getting tough.

80% will quit before the "project" is finished. The last 20% of the project feels so close, yet so far away that you wonder if you've made the wrong decision all along. Doubt creeps in. You start thinking - "why bother?" and "this is not going to work out, it was a dumb idea".

The heroic few will get through the grind stage and finish their project. This is where they will call themselves a startup - but they are still a project.

In a great anticipating to the "launch", many founders will fall from the pedestal soon after. Launches are a non-event for most projects. Lucky few gain customers and traction, but the vast majority will disappear in the coming weeks.

That leaves us with the 20% crusaders. The tough bastards who will not give up immediately after the launch. They'll keep pushing. And pushing... and pushing. Until they meet a wall of despair.

The wall of despair makes everything seem hopeless. You've tried. You keep trying. But, nothing happens.

This idea has no legs. This was all a giant mistake! Shut it all down. Go back to your regular job. This was never meant to be.

Sadly, this is just the point where things start getting interesting. But, our hero (or actually 90% of them) give up for good.

For most, this will be around the year 1 mark. For some year 2 or even 3 if they pivoted a few times. It's really hard to keep going at this point.

The glorious few - the supposed 10% (I actually think it's about 2%) start seeing traction. All the pain and the agony of getting to this point is finally worth it.

From here, things can take as long as 1 year, all the way up to 5 years+ to see meaningful growth that pays all the bills and then some.

Startups are a helluva ride. Only the toughest survive. But, it doesn't end there.

Even 50% of successful startups will seize to exist just before year 5. The remain half may make it to year 9, but even the vast majority of those will disappear before the decade's end. Only about 30% of the 10% successful startups make it past one decade.

But none of this matters! If you are a new founder reading this, you know you're the exception. You will succeed! You were chosen.

I joke, but, don't give up. I believe in you. What's the downside in doing so?

Share post: