What 5 Studies Say About Why Start-Ups Fail


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The journey of entrepreneurship concerning start-ups has promising moments and failures. While the success of many start-ups is fascinating, there are daunting stories you may never know. 

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From financial challenges to product-market fit to nuances in hiring the best team, new companies are bound to fail rather than thrive. 

In this article, we discuss 5 studies and their results on why start-ups fail and the key factors contributing to these failures. 

Start-ups are small businesses focused on solving societal problems with innovations, growing as a business, and changing how things are done traditionally. 

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Insights from 5 Studies on Why Start-Ups Fail

Lack of Product Market Fit

This research conducted by CBInsights on The Top 12 Reasons Start-ups Fail in 2021 highlights their failure is due to a lack of product fit, financial constraints, and disharmony within the team. The researchers analyzed more than 110 startups in the US and found other patterns of failure, such as mismanagement and a lack of competitive power. 

Lack of Opportunities

Although this study doesn’t directly explore why start-ups fail, its focus directly affects start-ups. The study explores how venture capitalists (VCs) make decisions concerning start-up funding, pre-screening, and overall support to make sure the startups succeed.   

It’s estimated in the research most of the contracts with start-ups come from the networks of VCs in some form or another. Also, over 30% of deals are generated through professional networks. 

Furthermore, 20% of the contracts come from other investors, while 8% come from existing portfolio companies. In 30% of cases, CVs generate deals with start-ups proactively themselves, while only 10% of inbound leads come from company management. 

It’s clear from these results there’s no opportunity for start-ups outside the network of VCs to receive financial support, which is one of the reasons startups fail.

Premature Scaling

In the research Startup Genome – Why Startups Fail – Premature Scaling, the researchers attribute the major reason start-ups fail to premature scaling. The study concludes most start-ups end up scaling prematurely by focusing on one or a few parts of operations to the detriment of other operations.

This brings about inconsistency, leading to mismanagement of funds, overspending on customer acquisition, and hiring more than enough employees without focusing on customer development. 

These issues affect customer growth and the company’s finances.    

Strategic Planning Issues

What 5 Studies Say About Why Start-Ups Fail
A team planning for success. Image source: Freepik

Moreover, in Startup’s critical failure factors dynamic modeling using FCM study, the authors established five categories for failure factors based on the opinions of survey participants: 

  • Personal
  • Strategic
  • Financial
  • Environmental
  • And business factors

The research shows the average consequence of financial issues is the most influential factor why start-ups fail. Meanwhile, strategic factors play a crucial role in the different stages of the life cycle of a start-up, connoting new companies fail if they fail to plan effectively.

Wrong Market Positioning

This research on Critical Analysis of Startups and Reasons for Failure analyzes various problems encountered by start-ups including 

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  • wrong market positioning
  • terrible hiring processes
  • poor resource management
  • unbalanced partnerships
  •  and over-promising. 

It proposes that the success of a startup doesn’t only depend on its resources but on the skills, abilities, and knowledge of an entrepreneur.  Based on a scrutinized analysis of startups, it’s clear that successful companies succeed through careful planning, organization, learning, and being creative and innovative.

Key Factors Contributing to Start-Up Failures

Studies show that 10% of start-ups fail in their first year of operations. The failure rate increases annually, with 90% failing in the long term according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Five significant factors affecting start-up failure are:

Lack of Market Demand 

It’s not uncommon to find many start-ups with poor product-market fit.  These startups have brilliant ideas and solutions geared towards the wrong market. 

If people don’t want or need a product or service, no amount of advertising can persuade them to take action. Sometimes, the timing of introducing new products and services may also be wrong.

Inadequate Financial Planning 

A significant percentage of startups that fail are a product of financial issues. From failing to plan financially to mismanagement of funds, new companies can go down the drain easily. 

Founders are better off separating business funds from personal finances and hiring financial managers to develop long-term financial plans and auditors to periodically audit funds. 

Ineffective Marketing 

It’s said that marketing targeting new customers is harder than managing existing customers. As long as you give customers what they want consistently, they’ll remain loyal to you and sign up their friends and family through word-of-mouth and social proof such as reviews and testimonials. 

To sign up new prospects and customers, companies engage in various forms of advertising and marketing that sometimes fail. Ineffective marketing over time results in the closure of new companies because there’s no opportunity to sign new prospects. 

Weak Team Dynamics and Leadership Issues

What 5 Studies Say About Why Start-Ups Fail
A United team makes start-ups succeed. Image source: Freepik licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Leaders or founders who are disconnected from their team fail to communicate the why of the business or the vision of the start-up. This means the team has no concrete direction to follow to achieve the success and growth of the business.

It also means team members will find it challenging to work together for the company’s growth.

Failure to Adapt to Changing Market Trends and Competition

Various industries on which start-ups are based continue to evolve with the rise of technology, market trends and customer preferences.  When new companies fail to adapt to the changing landscape due to circumstances and lack of insight, they fail or become stuck.

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Many factors contribute to why most start-ups fail. Some of the common patterns from the 5 studies include lack of financial support, product-market fit, mismanagement, disunity, effective communication, and strategic planning. 

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Sedi Djentuh
Sedi Djentuh
Hey, Sedi here, a content writer. She's fascinated by the interplay between people, lifestyle, relationships, tech and communication dedicated to empowering and spreading positive messages about humanity. She's an avid reader and a student of personal weekly workouts. When she's not writing, Sedi is busy advocating for plastic-free earth with her local NGO.


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