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14 Interesting Findings From The Startup Genome Project

Silicon Valley technology startup accelerator blackbox earlier this year launched the Startup Genome Project, which seeks to type startups, identify their developmental stage and the metrics that matter, and build a system to integrate the methodologies of many of the Valley’s leading thinkers such as Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Sean Ellis and Dave McClure. This week Blackbox, founded by entrepreneurs Bjoern Lasse Herrmann and Max Marmer, released its first Startup Genome Report — a 67-page in depth analysis on what makes Silicon Valley startups successful based on profiling over 650 startups.

The report was co-authored by Berkeley and Stanford faculty members along with other contributors including Steve Blank, the Sandbox Network and blackbox teams.

Here are 14 of the report’s key findings:

1. Founders that learn are more successful. Startups that have helpful mentors, track metrics effectively, and learn from startup thought leaders raise 7x more money and have 3.5x better user growth.

2. Startups that pivot once or twice times raise 2.5x more money, have 3.6x better user growth, and are 52% less likely to scale prematurely than startups that pivot more than 2 times or not at all.

3. Many investors invest 2-3x more capital than necessary in startups that haven’t reached problem solution fit yet. They also over-invest in solo founders and founding teams without technical cofounders despite indicators that show that these teams have a much lower probability of success.

4. Investors who provide hands-on help have little or no effect on the company’s operational performance. But the right mentors significantly influence a company’s performance and ability to raise money. (However, this does not mean that investors don’t have a significant effect on valuations and M&A)

5. Solo founders take 3.6x longer to reach scale stage compared to a founding team of 2 and they are 2.3x less likely to pivot.

6. Business-heavy founding teams are 6.2x more likely to successfully scale with sales driven startups than with product centric startups.

7. Technical-heavy founding teams are 3.3x more likely to successfully scale with product-centric startups with no network effects than with product-centric startups that have network effects.

8. Balanced teams with one technical founder and one business founder raise 30% more money, have 2.9x more user growth and are 19% less likely to scale prematurely than technical or business-heavy founding teams.

9. Most successful founders are driven by impact rather than experience or money.

10. Founders overestimate the value of IP before product market fit by 255%.

11. Startups need 2-3 times longer to validate their market than most founders expect. This underestimation creates the pressure to scale prematurely.

12. Startups that haven’t raised money over-estimate their market size by 100x and often misinterpret their market as new.

13. Premature scaling is the most common reason for startups to perform worse. They tend to lose the battle early on by getting ahead of themselves.

14. B2C vs. B2B is not a meaningful segmentation of Internet startups anymore because the Internet has changed the rules of business. We found 4 different major groups of startups that all have very different behavior regarding customer acquisition, time, product, market and team.


You can get more findings from the report.

blackbox has also announced its Startup Genome benchmark – entrepreneurs who fill out the test will be given their “startup personality type”, with personalized advice for what to focus on based on aggregate data from the Startup Genome Project. You can benchmark your startup and contribute to the Startup Genome Project by taking the Startup Genome benchmark test.

Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.

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