The number one reason tech startups fail – a lack of energy


I had a genius idea in the middle of the night, or at least I think I did. I decided I’d deal with it in the morning but when I woke up it was gone. You might be thinking that I’m about to say that procrastination is the number one reason that startups fail, but I’m not.

Procrastination is not an ailment of itself, it is derived from a lack of energy and it is that absence of energy that kills most startups. It’s not money, it’s not that you haven’t got a wise angel investor with deep pockets and more ambition than common sense, it’s not that you have a bad idea, it’s that you simply run out of energy. This is why even though startups require investment, most startups are run by young people with little money but boundless energy. There are of course exceptions, and energy is only one factor, but I would say without doubt that it is the most important.

In that bible of the startup generation, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries talks about the Pivot, the point in time at which a startup business changes direction. This happens at the point when the business isn’t getting enough (or any) traction or revenue from what it currently does. The question is when do you pivot? All too often the answer is too late and the reason is simple: it takes a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial energy to pivot.

I refer to the need to pivot because it is one way to distinguish whether an entrepreneur has enough energy left to carry a business forward, or they have reached the inflection point where the time taken to recharge their enthusiasm exceeds the amount of time through which they can sustain it. I call that inflection point the ‘sliding point’ because from then on the only way is down.

Success is the only restorative for the type of mental energy I’m talking about, which is one good reason to have a VC or Angel investor on board with your startup. When entrepreneurs run out of enthusiastic steam these advisors often provide the impetus to carry on, to abandon what doesn’t work and start again; which is what a pivot often means.

Tonight I’ll put a notepad and pen next to the bed and hope that the next time I have a genius idea I’ll find the energy to write it down. It’s that or I’d better get myself an Angel investor with deep pockets and more ambition than common sense.

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