9 out of 10 startups fail. What if I try 10 startup ideas?


Something I've always wondered is: does the risk of a startup failing to make profit decrease as as the individual/team tries more and more startup ideas?

If I had 10 distinct ideas and tried each of them out, would I still have a 9 out of 10 chance of failing?


asked May 11 '10 at 00:24
116 points
  • Pick the best, most interesting, compelling idea you have and work on it. Work on that until you "fail" (whatever you define that to be) - then repeat with your other ideas (most likely you will have new ones each successive time) DO NOT work on 10 at once... – Tim J 14 years ago

9 Answers


In a word, no.

It's not the idea -

  • It's the execution
  • The people
  • The marketing
  • The timing
  • The competitive landscape

They will all remain constant as you jump from idea to idea.

Pick one product and put 10x the effort into that!

answered May 11 '10 at 00:28
Benjamin Wootton
1,667 points
  • Well said. I usually shorthand it to timing, team, idea, in order of importance. Landscape is part of timing, marketing and execution depend on the team. – Joe 14 years ago


The traditional startup approach resembles throwing software against a market and see what sticks. Throwing 10 apps (assuming you can somehow execute) might win the lottery.

However, there's a better approach: Lean Startup. Instead of building and see who buys, do your learning up front, find the right product/market fit for you and your prospective customerbase and take guessing out of the startup equation.

answered May 12 '10 at 23:47
Bob Walsh
2,620 points


I'd suggest you actually would have either a 90% chance or a 1% chance of succeeding.

Either you'd learn so much from each startup that you'd eventually know how to turn one into a success;
You'd spread yourself so thin and wear yourself out so much that you'd give up or just outright fail.

answered May 11 '10 at 00:59
Josh Sam Bob
1,578 points


Yes, you can. You need to win only once although there are some problems :

  • It might take about 11 years or more
  • Since it's probability depending on your execution and luck it might take 20 year or a life time
  • You might not have enough resources and enough motivation for 9 failed startups
  • Even though that's statistically correct you are missing one very important point. Succeeded founders are generally succeed again (I think 45-50%). So that stats might be unbalanced due to succeeded founders.

Finally there is big mental problem about knowing that you can try again and again and again, you might not give you best shot and declare failure prematurely.

answered May 11 '10 at 01:03
The Dictator
2,305 points


If you try sequentially Maybe Yes But if you try all at once No "The wider you spread it, the thinner it gets"

from "The Secrets of Consulting” by Gerald M. Weinberg

answered May 11 '10 at 17:57
Ilker Aksu
113 points


What is the definition of failed? I knew of one millionaire (due to personal patent defenses) who has run a company over 25 years and has yet to make a profit. His employees and customers see it as a success, but for the rest of us, no profit = failure.

The question is, what are the odds a "founder" will fail and what is the impact of multiple attempts on his/her success rate? Can't recall the source, but seems like those that fail are more likely to fail again.

Just think about it. You're not able to identify what's important and how to execute it on a daily basis with startup 'A', but all the sudden, you've learned your lesson. Closed the door on A and applied all this knowledge to B.

Many successful companies started in one product line/industry, made a change and became very successful. Should that transition be considered a new startup? Maybe the odds would improve on the percent of successes if it were.

answered May 11 '10 at 01:28
Jeff O
6,169 points


It might because you'd identify certain points that reiterate across your first three startups, and then you'll be able to apply them to future ones. The problem here is that you'd enter into two situations.

  1. you'll work incredibly hard on each startup to try to make them a success. This might last 1, 2, 3, or more years per startup. the expected number of years until a success, if linear and given 3 years per startup, is (3*10)/2 = 15 years.
  2. you'll slack off and just go idea to idea, switching ideas after less than a year, and you will surely fail this way.

So just pick the best out of your ideas: this is the one that is both currently doable and the most brilliant. A premium blend of the two will increase your chances of succeeding.

answered May 11 '10 at 15:17
Mark Bao
604 points


I will say that 10 mean players do not make 1 chess master. Trying to execute 10 start-up ideas do not raise the chance of success. It is idea+execution that matter, but also location and chance.

answered May 11 '10 at 15:58
2,288 points


If I had 10 ideas that I thought were viable, I would create 10 pre-launch landing pages and start gathering customer data/feedback. Use AdWords (very low budget) to generate the traffic. Have a lead capture process and see what type of conversion rates you get.

Maybe 9 out of 10 fail on this first step and help you get focused.


http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2008/11/using-adwords-to-assess-demand-for-your.html Here is a decent blog post on pre-launch pages:


answered May 13 '10 at 00:41
146 points

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