The idea of becoming an entrepreneur can be exciting and scary all at the same time. Some desirable reasons can include pursuing your passion, flexibility and being your own boss. Being an entrepreneur comes with many pros, but good things come to those who work hard. According to statistics, 90 percent of startups fail. That’s right, 90 percent.

There are many reasons why this statistic puts most entrepreneurs in that 90 percent group, but first, let’s focus on the best ways that you can become part of the 10% of entrepreneurs that build successful businesses.


  • “Coffees,” whether that’s with potential partners, investors or acquirers.
  • Networking. Seriously…
  • Recruiting a board of advisors
  • Doing partnerships without proof of extra revenue
  • Spending time on PR and social media before knowing you’ve got the right product for the right customer
  • Going to conferences

These are the silent killers of the potential of your startup.

The solution

Basically, the only two things you need to focus on when you’re in startup phase is:

  1. Users
  2. Product

Tip 1: Understand who you are and who you aren’t.

A crucial reason that businesses fail 90% of the time is because some people have the illusion that their business should be all about “product-market fit.” Your business should fit who you are. A great idea isn’t truly great until it fits not just the market, but you as well.

The “My Fit” Quadrant is a tool Innovazing uses and that I teach in my Entrepreneurship class, adapted from the original created by Guy Kawasaki, to help entrepreneurs organize the traits that they have to build a business that they are passionate about. The 4 traits that make up the quadrant are:

  • Passions
  • Hobbies
  • Experience
  • Skills

It is important for your company to understand the value that your business brings to your market. A successful business knows that it takes more than talking about features and benefits. It’s about enabling your consumer to become emotionally attached so that the brand becomes a part of their lifestyle.

Journal about the following to get to know where your passions, hobbies, experience and skills align to make your startup a successful one.

  • What do you most care about?
  • What are you doing when you are happiest?
  • What do you do on your weekends?
  • What are you an expert at that you could easily teach someone?

Tip 2: Find a space that enables you to feel creative and inspired.

Your physical environment greatly affects positivity and overall well-being. Your workspace has an impact on your productivity, efficiency and creativity. Tailor your space to your specific needs and the kind of work that is being performed.

Here are a few things to consider when creating a workspace that enables you to increase productivity:

    • Plants in your work environment have been shown to improve the comfort of employees as well as improve employee productivity by 15%. It also adds value by providing extra oxygen and overall cleaner indoor air.
    • Fill your space with vibrant color. Our creativity is influenced by colors around us. The color red has been found to be the most effective at enhancing attention to detail. The color blue is most effective at boosting our ability to think creatively.
  • Let sunshine enter the room. In a 2014 study, participants that were exposed to natural light significantly outperformed those who were exposed to electric light. If natural light is unavailable, try to recreate it with a different type of bulb in your lamps. 
  • Take ownership of your space. Tune in with the things that help you work at your best. The simple act of making your own decisions about how to organize your workspace has an empowering effect and has been linked with improved productivity.

Tip 3: Cross the chasm.

“Crossing the chasm” simply means helping a product/service/technology move from the “early adopters” to a larger market segment, sometimes called the “early majority.” This is where many entrepreneurs who start growing their businesses end up hitting their climax and going down, because they have a few clients and some revenue and focus on growing their business based on those early stages.

Leila Janah, Founder and CEO of Samasource and LXMI, says, “the biggest reason for success in entrepreneurship is not brilliance. It’s not creative genius. It’s the simple ability to not quit when things are really bad.”

Here are some things to avoid to help you move past the chasm, scale up, think more strategically and with a long-term vision.

  • Expect to struggle with challenges. A person’s reaction is based on their expectation. Success doesn’t happen overnight. If you are going through a rough time, remember that challenges are a part of growing your business.
  • Ask for help. Connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and talk about your frustration. It’s good to express yourself and it feels great to have the encouragement of someone going through the same thing.
  • Reconnect with why you started. A business won’t survive long if you’re just in it for the money. The greater meaning is what essentially drives a successful business.

Tip 4: Seek the right mentors.

You don’t have to have a mentor to build a business, but it definitely helps to have that outside expertise of a person with knowledge in your industry. After running the @World Bank’s largest and most inclusive mentoring program over the past year, I realized the importance of seeking mentors and not being afraid to invite others to mentor you. What’s the worst that can happen? Often times, people are looking to give back, and it can be as casual as meeting to get feedback on an idea, it doesn’t have to be so formal. Startups that create a strategic network have access to mentors, and potential Advisory Board members, that can help guide them in their decision-making.

Here are some ways to find a good mentor:

  • Choose someone with a different perspective.  Try to find a mentor that will challenge your thinking and show you that there might be different ways of approaching a situation that you might’ve never knew existed. I’ve found that getting out of my comfort zone and seeking mentors outside my industry have provided invaluable perspectives.
  • Seek out more than one.  One person will not have all the answers. Choose a number of different mentors with different backgrounds and experiences to shape your personal goals and outcomes in a more wholesome way. “Mentor” is just a label, you can be mentored informally in a coffee conversation with someone you meet just once. You can also recruit Advisory Board members for your business when you connect organically with mentors that are passionate about helping you build your business.
  • Reciprocate. Mentoring is a relationship that requires effort on both ends, so knowing how to be a good mentee is important since it is a two-way street.

A good mentor is one that leaves you inspired, refreshed, intellectually stimulated, and that can trigger you to get out of your comfort zone. Jot down 3-5 people you would like to mentor you, whether you’ve met them in real life or not. That’s already a first step in getting out of your comfort zone.

Creating and maintaining a successful startup requires hard work and strategic planning. Remember the tips above and you will have valuable tools to stay resilient in the beginning stages of your business. Good luck!

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