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Why Internet Start-ups Are Failing

Are there mornings when you’ve dragged yourself out of bed, showered, had breakfast, jumped into the car and crawled your way to work held up by lines of vehicles or stood in an overcrowded railway carriage with hundreds of other sour-faced commuters? Don’t you ever think about chucking it all in and starting an internet business working from home?

Simply consult the TV or any technology news site and you can find countless stories about how people straight out of college or who have been in mundane jobs all their lives make their fortunes by developing a new computer game or an app for mobile devices.

Unfortunately, the truth is somewhat different; yes, there are internet start-ups that have gone on to make their founders extremely wealthy, but you only ever get to hear about the successes. In fact, the percentage of start-ups that fail in their first year of trading is 90%, almost exactly the same figure as start-ups across all industries.

The big difference with internet start-ups is that failure is, in some perverse way, unique to the sector, seen as a rite of passage, one step along the road to ultimate success. Indeed, in Silicon Valley the mantra is “fail fast, fail often.” Conferences are held around the world celebrating failure, with speeches being given by entrepreneurs who talk animatedly about their mistakes. What is frequently overlooked, however, is the adverse psychological effect repeated failures have on these individuals. There is a tendency for founders to struggle on when they would be better off pulling the plug on a failing enterprise rather than continuing to work incredibly long hours trying to save it. Many would rather push themselves to the point that they are completely exhausted, both mentally and physically, than admit they have failed. Perhaps this is why, having finally admitted defeat, they feel the need to turn their experience into a positive by claiming they are now one step closer to ultimate success.

There are a couple of side effects to all this talk of failure being an accepted part of internet start-ups. It has the effect of persuading ever more people that anyone can join in and eventually make their fortune, while this is plainly not the case. One result is that individuals who have not taken the time to properly research the public demand for or viability of their chosen product or service are led to believe they are sure to succeed. What’s more, if they are able to convince investors to come on board, often in the form of friends and family, their misplaced beliefs can be reinforced even further.

Next time you are sitting in a traffic jam or stuck on a broken down train trying to get to work, there is no reason why you shouldn’t daydream about sitting in your plush home office planning your new hi-tech production facility. However, perhaps it should stay just a daydream – unless, of course, you really do have a eureka moment that could make you a millionaire overnight.


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