The chance success of startups in a wildly volatile marketplace

There is an illusion of science in the success of tech companies, and those who have made large exits wear the white coats. Most people believe in luck when it comes to failure, as in, “I was unlucky to have failed”, but believe that success is the product of strategy; of science. But give a successful entrepreneur enough time to launch his next product, and you’ll see that even he will choke on the baffling currents of fashion and time. It is no coincidence that some of the most successful startups have come from nobodies – naive teens tinkering ignorantly with the tools they have before them. If the success of a product were diagnosable and predictable, then business analysts would be rich beyond measure.

Your first successful product is always by luck. Baffled by your chance success, you attempt to study and recreate every retrospectively ingenious move that was made during your first launch. Armed with the elixir of product success, you spend countless months perfecting your next product. If you’re a developer yourself, you’re lucky – you won’t spend much money on hiring engineers. If you’re a business man, you will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars crafting your dream recipe.

In either case, you launch your second product, and without fail, you fail. You are completely bewildered. I thought I did everything right, you question yourself. Everything I did for product #1 I did for product #2. If you’re a developer, you shrug off the failure as a failed project, and move on after a week. If you’re a business man, you shrug of the failure as a failed investment, and move on after a couple bottles.

Product #3 time comes around, and you are not really sure what to bake in this time. You are still convinced that there must have been something you did right with baby #1, and are convinced that you now see what you did wrong with baby #2. Foolishly, you still believe there is a science with your successes and failures. So, you attempt to craft now a balanced product, that takes the lessons learned from the previous two, and even mix in some bold new spices. In terms of craftsmanship and utility, your new product is more mature than any you’ve ever built. A fine piece of work, you don’t mind admitting yourself.

You launch ecstatically, yet you fail again.

It is safe to assume that the lighthearted will not dare risk their time or money at yet another project. They defeatedly tell themselves, there is a science to success, and I do not possess the knowledge. I ought to go to school, get a degree in business, or marketing, or strategy, or design. And that’s the last we’ll see from them.

But there are a few that continue past this point. These few don’t believe in the science of success. Nay, they believe in experimentation. After one success and two failed products, they notice a pattern: there is no pattern. Therefore, they continue on, knowing that yes, the next four products might fail miserably, but maybe the fifth one won’t?

If you create a product hoping to succeed, odds are, you will fail. If you create a product expecting that you will fail, and it fails, then you’ve, in a sense, succeeded. And if it succeeds, well, you’ve still succeeded. A heart can tolerate only so many let downs, and in this age of wildly fierce startup competition, in an industry that has become so mainstream that there now exists a comedy TV show about it, if you keep expecting success, you will cry and feel little and dumb every time you release a failing product. Rather, you should feel solace in the fact that perhaps no one really knows what they’re doing. Carry on, work with and expect failure, and continue evolving yourself and your products till one day they succeed. Or maybe they don’t, and you’ll die without a successful product? Well, by that point you’ll be too dead to care. It’s a win-win.

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Mo
All posts