27 Reasons Why Startups Fail and How Yours Can Succeed

Reasons Why Startups Fail and How Yours Can Succeed
At a glance, starting and building a business might seem like an easy and simple thing to do. Unfortunately, new businesses are still vulnerable and they usually fail before they even soar high. Most startups and new businesses fail. At Growth Hackers, we want to change this and this is why today I am going to give you the main reasons why startups fail and how yours can succeed.

In fact, statistics revealed that small businesses grow only to disappear as quick as mushrooms do. 50 percent of small businesses are said to fail during the first year and 95% in the first 5 years. Those which still exist are the result of the natural selection process as they were able to successfully apply the right business principles.
If you have plans to build your own startup or business soon, it is always recommended to learn from the failures of those who went for it before you and avoid getting yourself stuck in the rut. There are many mistakes to avoid, pitfalls to not fall into and warnings for first-time or long-time entrepreneurs and this is what I am going to show you in order to succeed.

So, here are the top 27 reasons why startups fail and how yours can succeed:

#1 Building Something Nobody Wants


Problem: The foremost reason why many startups faced death before they even start is because they decided to build a product that nobody wants or needs. They only decide to give it a go and create something without really putting the concept or idea to test in the actual world.

Solution: To keep failure at bay right from the get go, the best thing to do is apply lean startup methods together with the growth hacking process. It lets you test the product prior to its launch for you to determine if it suits the needs of the people or if a pivot is already necessary. Validating your concept and proving your idea is key to avoid failure.

#2 Hiring Poorly / Not the Right Team


Problem: Many startups today fight to have the right team so they end up hiring the smartest applicants who don’t really complement each other in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

Solution: Finding a properly balanced team is the key for startup success. Startups need diversity in the business. Manpower and resources for various skill sets are important to build a thriving startup. The right team is not composed of perfect and intelligent people and instead, it is all about people who share strengths with one another and mitigate each other’s shortcomings and weaknesses.

#3 Lack of Focus


Problem: Startups that weren’t able to last long in the industry are those that got sidetracked by personal issues, distracting projects and suffered general loss of focus.

Solution: Start your business with market research so that you don’t lose track of what you are doing. Through proper research in advance and with the right strategy put in place, you wouldn’t lose focus on what should be done next and instead, you will focus on the most important things and stop doing stuff that is to keep your business moving forward.

Lack of focus startup go to work motivation

#4 Failure to Execute Marketing


Problem: Business owners assume that the moment you create something, it’s bound to be successful, the people will come to you on their own and buy your product.

Solution: You need to define a marketing strategy for your startup, either it’s a full inbound marketing strategy, the implementation of content marketing tactics, or just a simple social media strategy. Marketing strategies are of utmost importance to make sure that your target audience will know about your existence and understand your product better. As marketing is the heart of every business, doing it properly makes it easier to generate higher sales. If you don't have the capabilities or skills to execute your marketing, your startup can also decide to outsource digital marketing to agencies or freelancers.

Also, to help you with marketing, you've got a lot of digital marketing tips at your disposal and free or paid marketing and growth hackings tools to choose from: don't do everything manually when you can automate so many tasks!

#5 Failure to Execute Sales


Problem: Most startups only market their products and stop right there. They forget about sales execution or take it for granted in general.

Solution: Sales execution is a vital aspect of any business of any type. Make sure that all members of the team will focus on selling, starting from finding leads, converting these leads and closing the deal. You can close deals via phone calls, video calls or by implementing great email marketing campaigns. Indeed, email marketing is the top channel to convert leads into sales!

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#6 Not Having Co-founders / Not Having the Right Co-founder(s)


Problem: In the startup world, it’s well known that you have better chance to success with a co-founder rather than starting alone. But, be careful, this is actually a myth. Data have shown that you don't actually need a co-founder to succeed. There are many success stories of solo founders.
A lot of people assume that they can launch their business without a co-founder or starting it with the first co-founder they find.

Solution: A team will always be stronger than a single person and looking for the right co-founders who share the same ideas and aspirations as you will ensure guarantee a smooth sailing for your startup. You might not have entrepreneurial DNA or you miss some skills. A co-founder can help you fill the gap. Having a co-founder will also bring a counter balance to your thoughts and should bring you complementary skills.
However, don’t rush while looking for a co-founder. If you don’t find one, don’t worry, you can succeed by hiring employees, agencies or freelancers. It’s better to not have a co-founder than having the wrong one.

#7 Chasing Investors Not Users


Problem: Startups faced their demise as they are too intent in searching for investors while neglecting their users.

Solution: While there is nothing wrong with attracting investors, this must never distract your focus away from the more important and the sole source of funds which truly matter for your business, none other than the users or customers. Keeping your users satisfied and willing to pay for your product means that you are in business.
Focus on meeting your users’ needs as you implement your ideas. If your users are happy and you can show traction and/or a growth curve, investors will be pleased. If you just talk to investors without focusing on your product and users, nobody will invest in you – no matter how many investors you meet.

Chasing investors money and not focusing on users

#8 Not Anymore Money


Problem: Business owners find it hard to raise money or they don’t have enough money or worse, they go into spending spree only to find that their money is gone.

Solution: Finances and investments must all be carefully managed, tracked and put into control using a viable business model. As money is finite, it must be allocated as judiciously as possible to avoid running out of cash. Even if you got funding, you should still think like a bootstrapped startup. You can also try to raise sufficient additional funding coming from other channels.

#9 Failing to Ask for Help


Problem: Owners of startups often make the mistake of thinking that they can do things on their own and they don’t need the help of anybody or anyone. They tend to be stubborn and refuse to ask for help even when they know that they need it. Even worse, some founders ask for help but actually don’t listen to their coaches or mentors.

Solution: There is no way that you can fly to the moon alone and you can never make your startup grow without any form of assistance. As you cannot simply handle everything physically and mentally when you are alone, seek for help not only for the sake of the business but also for the sake of your health and personal relationships.
Having mentors is key to make your startup succeeds. Mentors should not be overlooked: they have the experience and can guide you to take the right path. They can also prevent you to make the mistakes they might have done.

Note: when having a mentor, be sure that this mentor is relevant. Lately, I was talking with a startup founder who told me he had a great mentor with proven track records of success: this mentor had 3 great successful companies in the 1980s and 1990s. Such a mentor can definitely bring you great value about general management, hiring processes and general marketing but I am not sure he can give you great insights about digital marketing, growth hacking, mobile marketing or data analysis. Having a mentor who had recent successes is probably more adequate.

#10 No Partnerships/Alliances


Problem: Many of today’s startups wait far too long before they start to discuss about securing partnerships and alliances which can benefit the business. This is again one of the top reasons why startups fail: they believe they can do it alone. Partnering will help you be more competitive and grow faster.

Solution: For your startup to be successful, you will need partners and allies. Aside from finding partners, the process must also be started at the soonest time possible. Your partners will help you create quality products, add services or features to your product, gain better market visibility, streamline operations and make sales. They offer exponential and endless benefits.

#11 Wrong Target


Problem: There are startups that have the wrong target for their products which ultimately make them dissolve before they even leave a significant mark in the industry.

Solution: When coming up with a new product or service, startups should focus on fundamentals like solving a particular issue or addressing a need in a different or new way. It is also at this point when you have to identify the individuals or the businesses who are going to buy your product or known as the target audience.

However, there might be a need for a more granular approach to your target audiences. You need to define your target audience. This is because a product tends to appeal to different buyers who might have varied goals and needs. A one size fits all sales and marketing approach will not work here so better identify the types of buyers first, look at their problems or needs, what they want to achieve, how they will be successful and the budget they are willing to spend. You should really define your buyers’ persona and take time doing it. Without knowing your target, you will not know which channels to use and which message to deliver.

#12 Not Able to Pivot / Not Able to Execute a Pivot


Problem: Startups often neglect the importance of pivoting while some fail to execute a pivot at a critical stage of the business process. Not pivoting quickly enough or away from a bad hire, bad decision or bad product is cited as among the major reasons behind startup failures. A lot of founders hesitate to pivot because they believe it might feel like a failure. Let's break the myth here: pivot is not a failure!

Solution: Don’t dwell or stick to a bad idea to avoid sapping your money and resources or making your employees feel frustrated with the lack of progress. Pivoting for the sake of pivoting will be worthless. It must be a carefully calculated affair in which changes to business model will be made, hypotheses are going to be tested and results will be measured.

You have to understand that having an idea is great but it’s easy: there are new great ideas every day but execution is the key. Also, an idea will evolve and improve. This is why you should not be stubborn and have the ability and mindset to pivot.

Startup pivot pivoting wrong way sign

#13 Raising With the Wrong Investors


Problem: When searching for outside funding, many of today’s startups make the fatal mistake of rushing into partnering up with the investor who was able to offer the highest amount of startup capital.

Solution: It is extremely important to bear in mind that all money will not be equal as far as outside investors are concerned. There are investors who bring money to the table together with useful insights to help your business grow as well as helpful industry relationships.
There are also investors which will only bring lots of headaches by interfering with all aspects of your business, making it a challenge to run your company. Thus, you need to study at the overall value beyond the money that investors will bring to the business. When investment is concerned, the most money is not obviously the better choice.

#14 Raising Too Much Money


Problem: Raising too much money might not sound like a real problem. But, there are startups that raise too much money right from the start only to use everything up faster than necessary. Or, they raise too much money and have unrealistic goals from the investors.

Solution: Startups have to remember that too much funding right from the beginning could mean the death of your business. I’d say this is probably not the main reason startups fail but it happens. The trap here is that funders are going to spend a lot without focusing enough on the income. As you design the amount of money you plan to raise, think of 18 months or two years. Don’t go overboard if you don’t want to risk exploding your financial bladder and using the money faster than lightning.

#15 No Investors


Problem: Some startup owners think that they can survive without the help of investors. But, the truth is, having investors can make difference to reach success.

Solution: No matter what your startup is, it is important (Not compulsory, though) to have investors. They can help you when it comes to capital or investment. Since you are a startup, there are many things you want to improve to reach your goals. If you have investors by your side, it is much easier to take action of your plans and create more products or services to offer.

Although finding investors is not that simple, you can attract some by presenting the whole concept of your startup and your aim. Networking at startup events, contacting or joining incubators and accelerators will help you get in touch with investors. You need to be prepared with an elevator pitch, a pitch deck and if possible a business plan and financial projections.
Once you presented your business plan effectively, expect that you will get some investors who will be interested to work with you.

#16 No Revenue Model


Problem: More often than not, most startups concentrate on creating a business model and ignore the importance of revenue model. This was working before where platforms like Twitter would get as many users as possible with the idea to create a monetization system or revenue model after. A few years ago, this was easier than now. Investors want revenue more than just a large user base. Finding a revenue model later on is not a solution. For instance, Twitter's business model still remains broken nowadays.

So, being able to create and plan a revenue model is without a doubt a characteristic you need to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Solution: A revenue model will help you generate revenues. This also helps you identify which source of revenue to pursue, how to price the value, what value you can offer, and who will pay for the value. It also determines what service or product will be created to generate revenues and ways in which the service or product will be sold.

Without a clear and well-defined revenue model, your startup might struggle because of the costs that you will not be able to sustain. Through having the best revenue model, a startup may concentrate on a target audience, establish marketing plan, fund development plans for products and services, and start to raise capital.

#17 Ignoring Users’ Feedback


Problem: Majority of startups will tell their clients that they are their main priority, yet only some actually focus on what their users really need.

Solution: It is not a good idea to ignore the feedback of your clients, even more if you are a startup. If you want to gain the loyalty and trust of your customers, make sure that you know how to pay importance on their feedback. Whether it is positive or a negative one, assure them that your startup will do its best to improve the service to provide them the highest possible level of satisfaction.
Taking in consideration users’ feedback will not only improve their trust and loyalty but will also allow you to make your product more user-centric and therefore increase your sales and competitiveness.

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#18 Wrong Time To Market


Problem: Regardless of the type of startup you have, timing is everything. So, if you fail to market at the right time, you will surely end up shutting down your startup in the long run.

Solution: Startup owners should remember that timing can make a difference in marketing their products and services. Wrong time to market your services or products might just cause you loss of investment. For example, if your startup is a clothing line and you offer winter clothes on a hot summer season, expect that your target customers will ignore you.

No matter how cheap your winter clothes are, they won’t buy them because people will look for something that would fit in for their summer goals. This can sound like a silly example and you probably wonder: who would do such a thing but I can ensure you this happens. Bad timing will take you nowhere but failure. So, decide on the perfect time to market and you will see the difference.

#19 No Passion


Problem: In my (personal) opinion, this is probably the main reason why startups fail (And by being passionate, this is how you can make your startup succeed). If founders are only interested on the profits they will earn and not because they believe that their idea will work, they can easily lose traction. Passion is crucial and should be part of your 'entrepreneurial anatomy'. Your startup might be successful at first but let’s be honest: startup life is not a flat ride, you will have ups and downs. If you are not passionate about what you do, you will give up when difficulties arise.

Solution: If you really want to see your startup grow and gain more profits in the long run, you have to believe in your idea and you should be passionate in everything you do. In this way, you can be assured that your startup will work and would grow according to your plan. Just don’t focus too much on the money you will earn because this will take away your love for your work as you will only be interested with the profits you will get.

#20 Bad Location


Problem: Some think that establishing startup anywhere can work. Well, for others, it can, yet oftentimes, a startup should avoid choosing a bad location.

Solution: There is no exact definition for bad location as it depends on what you are going to offer to your target customers. The main benefit to be well located is being able to interact with your audience as well as knowing the environment they are into. If you are a startup in the Silicon Valley or New York City but your target audience is in China or India, you might have a huge problem understanding your target and their needs/problems.

If you want your startup to work, you should do your best to choose the right location for it. Aside from timing and having a revenue model, the right location is also an important factor. Remember, a location can either break or make your startup grow. If you don’t want failure, select a location that would help you reach your potential clients or investors.

#21 No Networking


Problem: Many startups don’t think of networking as an important component of their business model. They believe it’s a waste of time.

Solution: Even for big companies, networking is a crucial part of their marketing strategies. With startups, having no networking will just lead you to the path of failure. Networking is essential in a way that it can help you connect with people whom you can be your potential investors or clients in the end. You can also connect with fellow entrepreneurs who might become partners, co-founders, mentors or friends who will help you when needed.

If you know how to connect with people, it’s easy for you to market your startup, enabling you to reach your target audience easily and without exerting too much effort and money on some marketing tools. Networking is not that hard, even if you are shy: just go to people, introduce yourself, ask them what they do in life, exchange a business card or a LinkedIn profile and done: you’ve networked.

#22 Legal Issues


Problem: It includes getting into an area or an industry, which is legally complicated.

Solution: Some startup owners did not heed the lessons of other failed startups. Without learning mistakes from the legal issues have encountered before, you might lose in the long run. So, before you enter a new venture, know the different legal challenges you might face and think if these are worth the risk or not. If you think you won’t get way with some legal issues, choose another venture that’s less complicated.
If you are not sure where to find such information, just go to startups’ hubs and incubators in your area and they will guide you where to go.

#23 Not Tracking Competitors


Problem: This is one of the top reasons why startups fail and by tracking competitors you can definitely make your business succeed. Business owners don’t think of tracking competitors as long as they believe that their plan and uniqueness will make them set apart from others. It may work at some point, yet it’s a big deal to track competitors for you to determine the things you should or not do. And please: don’t tell people you have no competitors!

Solution: Tracking your competitors will not only help you know the things you should change on your business, but also you will be able to avoid the mistakes that they have done before, giving you an edge over your competition. Also, competitors might become partners in some cases if your solutions complement each other.

#24 Too Much Competition / Overcrowded Market


Problem: Starting a business in a place with too much competition isn’t a good idea, especially if your brand is new.

Solution: Experts recommend avoiding high competition as much as possible. If there is a lot of competition, this probably means the market is huge. For instance, if you go to industries like blockchain, fintech, IoT, biotech, VR, drones, AR, AI or machine learning, you will have a lot of competition. Of course, you can go to these industries but in these industries, choose a niche that is not overloaded.
You need to find a niche and have a clear value proposition to differentiate yourself from the competition. Don’t be one of many but be one of a kind.

Too much competition overcrowded business market

#25 Pricing / The Sale Price


Problem: The sale price can be everything for consumers. As a startup, a product that’s too expensive or too cheap might not be a wise move.

Solution: Your price should not be too low or too high. It should be just right and something that’s reasonable and will be embraced by your customers or clients. But, how to know the right pricing? Experiment and studying the competition. First, you need to check what competitors do. Then, you also need to calculate your costs in order to offer a price that covers your costs and if possible make you some profits. You also need to experiment your pricing until you find the right one.

#26 A Product "User-Unfriendly"


Problem: Not all products are appreciated by every consumer out there. Introducing a product that’s user-unfriendly is a bad move for startups. Having a complicated UX (User Experience) or CX (Customer Experience) will lead your startup to failure.

Solution: Consumers purchase products if these offer some benefits and have a purpose. Also, other consumers check for if the product is user-friendly. Once they find some items user-unfriendly, they don’t think twice of not buying them. Therefore, when creating products for your startup, make sure that these are user-friendly, offer benefits, and resolve their problems.
You need to ensure the user experience is great and simple. To do that, you need to test your products by a few people in your industry: the best is to make your product tested by people you networked with.

#27 Burn-Out


Problem: Founders think that it’s okay to do things simultaneously. However, bad work-life balance can be the reason why startups fail as this can make startup owners burn out, which can lead to losing passion and motivation on their startups.

Solution: Try to maintain a good work-life balance. Have fun sometimes and enjoy your quality with your friends and family without thinking about running a business. This will help you relax and fuel up your body with the energy you need to accomplish your daily activities.

Many people believe you should keep hustling and have 100-hour work weeks when being an entrepreneur. Some weeks you might have that amount of work but you should not work that many hours every week. Your productivity will go lower and stress higher if you don’t sleep enough, you don’t exercise or you don’t socialize. You should do your best to avoid startup stress and burnout. It’s better to work 10 hours at 100% of your productivity level than 20 hours at 20% productivity.

So, what are the main reasons why startups fail and how yours can succeed?

You can save your startup from failure! Today, we saw 27 reasons why startups fail and how yours can succeed. Keeping those reasons in mind will help you determine which things you should prioritize and help you succeed in your chosen industry. Just make sure to start with a good business plan and use the best marketing strategies for your startup.
No matter how big or small your startup is, you probably don’t need a big amount of capital to start with. All you need is dedication, passion and commitment to your startup.

It’s also very important to network, have mentors, have friends, be connected and partnering up. No matter how good, smart and efficient you can be, you need people to surround you and help you.

At Growth Hackers, we help startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed by guiding them along their entrepreneur journey. If you need any help with your business, if you are scared your startup might fail and if you want your startup to succeed, contact Growth Hackers and we will start to help you from today.

Jonathan
Jonathan
I am the co-founder and CEO at Growth Hackers. We help startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs with growth methods. I am passionate about startups, growth hacking, inbound marketing and entrepreneurship. You can follow me on Twitter: @GrowUrStartup

15 Comments

  1. Melany says:

    The causes of the failure can be very diverse. We will be able to avoid some of them if we work according to the chosen strategy.

    • Jonathan says:

      Indeeed, there are many possible causes of failure. The best is to know them well in order to avoid them or be prepared for them.

  2. Mr. Talon says:

    Thanks a lot for this article because I need a little bit of inspiration to keep moving on in this rather difficult life.

    • Jonathan says:

      You’re welcome! I wish you all the best and if I can help you in any way, just let me know.
      Life is not as difficult as it seems when you look at the bright side. 😉

  3. Le Mazur says:

    Love number 9. Ask for help. The old saying closed mouths don’t get fed.

    Loved 17. Don’t ignore the customers /clients. That’s future referals and if you survey them. ASK. For feedback you can make your company better. Number 9 stands out again.

    Loved number 22. Legal issues. People work hard for the business but leave themselves vulnerable to bad partnerships which you named as well. Employees and vendors too. If they asked their legal councul it could be avoided. See Number 9.

    Very nice post very shareworthy. Relatable definitely.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks a lot for your very kind comment. Indeed, these examples are the ones I see happen often and I believe many entrepreneurs can relate.
      I hope that by knowing those upfront, startups will do their best to prevent them to happen.

  4. Elena says:

    we should try something new and we should believe in our self-power and strength!

  5. Hannah says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. You will help to avoid mistakes to those (Startups and Entrepreneurs) who are just going to start a project without knowing what to do or avoid. If they study well your post, they will have a much higher chance to succeed.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Hannah for your kind comment. Indeed, I really hope this post will help startups and entrepreneurs avoid the main pitfalls.

  6. Shannon Morris says:

    I just stopped by to thank you for the shared content! This article is suitable for those who dream about success!

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks a lot Shannon for stopping by. I hope this article will help you avoid the main startup pitfalls!

  7. Alexis says:

    Thanks to the knowledge gained from your article, I can say that it is now easy to understand what should be avoided when starting a startup or being an entrepreneur.

    • Jonathan says:

      Indeed Alexis, this is exactly what the article is for: helping entrepreneurs avoid the usual mistakes when starting a startup.

  8. Connor says:

    You stated: ” 50 percent of small businesses are said to fail during the first year and 95% in the first 5 years. Those which still exist are the result of the natural selection process as they were able to successfully apply the right business principles. ”
    I totally disagree by those statistics. According to 2016 statistics published by the Small Business Administration (SBA), about 78% of small business startups survive the first year and about half of all employer establishments survive at least five years. A third survive ten years or more. This is a far cry from the previous long-held belief that 50 percent of businesses fail in the first year and 95 percent fail within five years. You’re spreading misinformation. Bravo.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Connor,
      Thanks for your message even if it sounds pretty negative to me. I am sorry to inform you but I am not spreading misinformation. The statistics you refer to are venture backed startups; in other words, startups that received funding. But, most startups don’t receive funding and fail before to achieve this. Saying that a third of startups survive 10 years or more is far from the reality of non-backed startups.
      Also, I want to add that a lot of startups are created by young entrepreneurs with little experience. This also increases the chance of failure. One last point: in your message, you talk about startup survival but not success. The goal of a startup is the pursuit of growth, not just surviving.

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