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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

What Are The Odds?

And are they really stacked that much against entrepreneurs?<...>

One of the things that I've been very conscience of in the last year (and as a second-time founder) was my perception of how much the odds (of success) were stacked against me.

Depending on who you'd like to believe, failure rates for startups range between 50% and 90%.

Looking exclusively at those statistics are enough to make even the most ignorant, semi-delusional and over-optimistic individual's eyes water about the prospect of being an entrepreneur.

I know; I've been there too on a few occassions.

But there's a couple of caveats that provides greater context to those numbers:

  • These statistics don't necessarily consider various metrics of success. If you're definition of success is selling for $1bn, then yes, the odds of success are tiny.
  • Entrepreneurship (especially within the tech industry) has gone mainstream to the extent that there's individuals who will always be very average entrepreneurs making this their career of choice. The reality is that there is a difference between a good and bad entrepreneur, but statistics on success doesn't differentiate between these two.
  • Most successful stories have (untold) prior failures. The extent of those failures will also vary greatly and ultimately it's only down to the success being bigger than the sum of those failures. Yet the statistics will still say that an entrepreneur failed three times before having one success (at a 75% failure rate).

In all of these cases the truth is within the context and not the emperical failure or success rates.

I've had to remind myself of that as I embark on new journeys pursuing new ideas. Whilst the statistics obviously don't lie (per se), they never tell the full story.

To be successful, you only need one better-than-bad-idea which you work incredibly hard at. Mix in a little bit of luck, good (yet coincidental) timing and a persistence to continue knocking on doors, and you might just have yourself a success (according to your own, well-defined and personal metrics).

Only you get to define and determine those odds.

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