Top 5 reasons why start-ups fail

December 09, 2019

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Startups are born every day, yet most of them die at the same pace as well. In the last 10 years, Pakistan's entrepreneurial ecosystem has improved considerably and is now ranked 108 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings.

But as a report on Pakistan’s Digital Entrepreneurship Ecosystem tells us, fewer than five of about 300 digital start-ups launched in the country each year are in fact sustainable.

So, while Pakistan has the potential to become the next start-up hotspot in Asia, there is a host of reasons why that success has so far not been fully realised.

1. Half-baked ideas

Most ideas fail being the fact is that they are half-baked.

Is it a table without legs, why not? A camera that flies, why not? If you think you have a great idea, it’s already half-baked and half-dead on arrival, but if it has potential you might actually have a chance, because an important factor is to bake it at the right temperature in the right season and for the right market.

So while all ideas may be good, what is in fact needed is immense thinking and reflection; not about more funding and money, but thinking deep and hard on the product that you wish to create, from its prototyping to scaling to globalisation.

We have seen that in recent years there has been quite a lot of impulsiveness and passion when it comes to starting something new, and overly rushed working styles to a point where a lot of the thinking gets missed, and blind charging towards misunderstood goals in a panicky manner. These are all signs of danger. So one needs to think deeply about ones ideas, because sometimes all you may need are all of the things and sometimes the situation may vary and you'd have to think and manage accordingly.

The entire process requires a whole lot of thinking and you will also have to carefully define your business model, your strategic goals, and deliver the product that you have promised, if not better.

Ultimately, entrepreneurialism is all about entrepreneurial wisdom; you may have an out-of-the-box idea but it will amount to nothing if you don't perfect it by finding intelligent pathways and take it from A to Z — in the shortest time though not in a rushed manner, with minimal but correct resources and hence reach maximum impact.

At the end of the day, it is not going to be the size of the bread that will matter, but about how well you can butter it.


2. Using the wrong language

Another issue that we come across is the incorrect use of language. If you have to explain something 10 times, you automatically drop the possibility of success by 10 times. And if your language, message, communication strategy, and/or brand identity is in one language with an aim to target an audience that speaks and understands another, then the more you push your message the more damage you do. You are confusing the buyer. Millions in the advertising and marketing industry around the world are wasting precious resources on this.

A marketer who doesn't understand the market is in fact creating a communication disaster recipe through uninformed nonsensical text, thoughtless pushing out of websites, brochures, business names, and domain names all combined. As a result, most ideas fail in their messaging, because they fail to see that creative advertising copy is not an end in itself when the market remains misunderstood.

Intelligent application of language is essential. A strategic plan with the right language and nomenclature can transform ideas to get the market's attention and make it look up.

Also remember that the more unique the idea, the more challenging the messaging can get.


3. Making excuses

Being a startup can be exciting, like competing in an international tournament, but of commerce. You have to master the game, like any other game. But we have noticed that when things don't go according to plan, blame games are routinely employed to avoid difficult conversations about ones own incompetence and lack of research, understanding and foresight.

We have seen entrepreneurs blaming their failures on lack of cash, on not having the right partners, on lack of teams, customers, and a hundred other factors. But the fact is that all of these are features that are to be sufficiently factored into the game well before beginning as opposed to blaming them when things do not according to plan. Failure should also be seen as part of the learning process, from which one should take lessons, incorporate them into the routine, and move on.

Ultimately, in this game, the key question is how skilled are the players, and how deep are they on the road to self-discovery and self-optimisation?

Employing the blame game strategy is bad leadership, also because it ignores the elephant in the room, incompetency. So strong leadership through self-discovery and self-optimisation is the key.


4. Jacks and Kings

Jack of all trades and master of none is a very positive and great entrepreneurial start.

Entrepreneurs must understand that there are certain chains that must not break; prices to match customers, customer to match needs, needs to match production, production to match quality, quality to match design, design to match Intellectual Property, and all of these to match with the protection and globalisation of the master brand name's identity as a rock-solid digital asset.

Today, we observe that having the mastery of a few things while being a Jack of all trades may be a rock-solid combination but the real gold is in allowing other masters and other Jacks to join in on the playing field. This is also because most ideas sink when competencies are challenged.


5. Understanding friends and foes

Here's a given: Emotionally-starved startups who seek approval at each fold have no future.

Emotional stamina and mental endurance of any start-up's leadership are the roots, their entrepreneurialism is the trunk, their the capabilities to deploy and mobilise are the branches, and the realisation of their ideas are the fruits.

We must also remember that while ideas are always a dime a dozen, it is only the really healthy and well-nurtured start-ups that turn ideas into realities and that’s where the real challenge lies. And in this journey of realising one's idea, one in the early years come across friends and foes who may become a stumbling block or put up a barrier. In the case of friends, this could be out of concern, and in the case of one's foes, it could be on account of attempting to prevent more competition.

But this is a situation that can be navigated through. Good entrepreneurs are above emotional-bondages when comes to executing their ideas. Study the last 100 successful entrepreneurs and we see that they hugged their ideas firmly and did not fall prey to emotional roller-coasters, or with the likes and dislikes from social media or even initial market feedback.

Often ideas seeking quick popularity can sink into oblivion very quickly. Hence, seeking purpose, cause and solutions is important. Entrepreneurs should also understand why leadership can be an extremely lonely experience but it can be made all-the-richer through self-optimisation as a going-forward commitment.

With all these factors of a fully baked idea, the right message, a strong core, mastery of performance, and strong and independent leadership can a start-up become a real game-changer. The rest is simple.


Naseem Javed is Chairman Expothon Worldwide and author of Alpha Dreamers. He can be reached at nj@expothon.com.