Learn the top 5 reasons why startups fail and how to avoid them. Get practical tips and examples to increase your chances of startup success.

Why Startups Fail and How to Avoid It: A Beginner's Guide

Learn the top 5 reasons why startups fail and how to avoid them. Get practical tips and examples to increase your chances of startup success.

Starting a new business is exciting, challenging, and rewarding. But it also comes with a lot of risks. According to a study by Harvard Business School, about 75% of startups fail within the first 10 years. That means only one in four startups make it to the long term.

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So why do so many startups fail? And more importantly, how can you prevent your startup from becoming another statistic? In this article, we will explore the top 5 reasons why startups fail, based on research and analysis by experts and entrepreneurs. We will also share some tips and best practices on how to overcome these common pitfalls and increase your chances of success.

Reason #1: No Market Need

The most common reason why startups fail is that they create a product or service that the market doesn't want or need. This is also known as the product-market fit (PMF) problem. According to a report by CB Insights, 42% of startups fail because of no market need.

This can happen for various reasons, such as:

  • The startup solves a problem that is not big or urgent enough for customers to pay for it.
  • The startup targets the wrong customer segment or niche, or fails to understand their needs and preferences.
  • The startup faces too much competition from existing or substitute products or services that offer better value or quality.
  • The startup launches too early or too late, missing the optimal window of opportunity in the market.

To avoid this problem, you need to validate your idea before investing too much time and money into it. You can do this by:

  • Conducting market research and customer interviews to identify the pain points and needs of your target audience.
  • Creating a minimum viable/valuable product (MVP) that delivers the core value proposition of your solution and testing it with real users.
  • Collecting feedback and data from your MVP users and iterating on your product based on their insights.
  • Finding a unique selling proposition (USP) that differentiates your product from competitors and communicates it clearly to your customers.

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Reason #2: Running Out of Cash

Another common reason why startups fail is that they run out of cash before they can generate enough revenue or raise more funding. This is also known as the runway problem. According to CB Insights, 29% of startups fail because they run out of cash.

This can happen for various reasons, such as:

  • The startup spends too much money on unnecessary expenses, such as fancy offices, equipment, marketing, or hiring.
  • The startup underestimates the cost of developing, launching, and scaling their product or service.
  • The startup overestimates the demand for their product or service and fails to achieve their sales or growth goals.
  • The startup faces unexpected challenges or delays that increase their burn rate or reduce their income.
  • The startup struggles to raise more capital from investors due to poor traction, valuation, pitch, or timing.

To avoid this problem, you need to manage your cash flow carefully and plan ahead for different scenarios. You can do this by:

  • Creating a realistic budget and cash flow forecast that accounts for all your expenses and revenues.
  • Tracking your key financial metrics, such as revenue, expenses, burn rate, runway, profitability, and unit economics.
  • Cutting costs wherever possible and focusing on the essential activities that drive value for your customers and business.
  • Seeking alternative sources of funding, such as bootstrapping, crowdfunding, grants, loans, or partnerships.
  • Building relationships with potential investors and keeping them updated on your progress and milestones.

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Reason #3: Not Having the Right Team

A third common reason why startups fail is that they don't have the right team to execute their vision and strategy. This is also known as the talent problem. According to CB Insights, 23% of startups fail because of not having the right team.

This can happen for various reasons, such as:

  • The startup lacks the necessary skills or expertise in key areas, such as product development, marketing, sales, or operations.
  • The startup has too many or too few co-founders, leading to conflicts, communication gaps, or decision paralysis.
  • The startup hires the wrong people who don't fit the culture, values, or goals of the company.
  • The startup fails to motivate, retain, or develop their employees, resulting in high turnover, low morale, or poor performance.

To avoid this problem, you need to build a strong team that shares your vision and complements your strengths. You can do this by:

  • Defining your core values and culture and communicating them clearly to your team and potential hires.
  • Finding co-founders who have complementary skills, personalities, and backgrounds, and who can work well together.
  • Hiring people who have the right attitude, aptitude, and fit for your startup, and who can adapt to changing situations.
  • Providing feedback, recognition, and growth opportunities to your team members and empowering them to take ownership and initiative.

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Reason #4: Getting Outcompeted

A fourth common reason why startups fail is that they get outcompeted by other players in the market. This is also known as the competitive problem. According to CB Insights, 19% of startups fail because of getting outcompeted.

This can happen for various reasons, such as:

  • The startup enters a saturated or commoditized market where differentiation is hard or irrelevant.
  • The startup fails to keep up with the changing customer needs, preferences, or expectations.
  • The startup ignores or underestimates the threats from existing or new competitors who offer better products, prices, or services.
  • The startup loses its competitive edge or advantage due to imitation, innovation, or regulation.

To avoid this problem, you need to monitor your market and competitors closely and constantly improve your product and strategy. You can do this by:

  • Conducting a competitive analysis and identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in relation to your rivals.
  • Creating a value proposition that clearly articulates how your product solves a specific problem for a specific customer segment better than anyone else.
  • Innovating on your product features, design, quality, or delivery to create a superior customer experience and loyalty.
  • Protecting your intellectual property, brand, or reputation from copying, infringement, or damage.

Reason #5: Losing Focus

A fifth common reason why startups fail is that they lose focus on their core mission and vision. This is also known as the pivot problem. According to CB Insights, 13% of startups fail because of losing focus.

This can happen for various reasons, such as:

  • The startup chases too many opportunities or ideas without validating them or prioritizing them.
  • The startup listens to too much feedback or advice from customers, investors, mentors, or experts without filtering them or aligning them with their goals.
  • The startup changes direction too often or too drastically without testing their assumptions or measuring their results.
  • The startup loses sight of their original purpose or passion and becomes distracted by other factors, such as money, fame, or ego.

To avoid this problem, you need to stay focused on your core value proposition and customer segment. You can do this by:

  • Setting clear and specific goals and objectives for your startup and breaking them down into actionable steps and milestones.
  • Collecting and analyzing data and metrics to track your progress and performance and make data-driven decisions.
  • Seeking feedback and advice from relevant and credible sources and applying them selectively and strategically.
  • Revisiting your mission and vision regularly and reminding yourself why you started your startup in the first place.

An Example of a Successful Startup: Airbnb

While there are many examples of startups that failed due to the reasons mentioned above, there are also some examples of startups that succeeded by overcoming these challenges. One of them is Airbnb, the online marketplace for short-term rentals.

Airbnb was founded in 2008 by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk. They came up with the idea of renting out air mattresses in their apartment to travelers who couldn't find a hotel room during a conference in San Francisco. They launched a website called Airbedandbreakfast.com and managed to get three guests for their first night.

However, Airbnb faced many obstacles in its early days. Some of them were:

  • No market need: Many people were skeptical or reluctant to rent out their homes or stay in strangers' homes. Airbnb had to educate the market about the benefits of their service and build trust among hosts and guests.
  • Running out of cash: Airbnb struggled to raise funding from investors who didn't see the potential of their business model. Airbnb had to bootstrap their operations and rely on unconventional sources of income, such as selling cereal boxes during the 2008 presidential election.
  • Not having the right team: Airbnb had difficulty finding technical talent who could help them scale their platform. Airbnb had to recruit engineers from other companies or countries who shared their vision and culture.
  • Getting outcompeted: Airbnb faced competition from other online travel platforms, such as Expedia or Booking.com. Airbnb had to differentiate themselves by offering unique experiences, personalized recommendations, and community engagement.
  • Losing focus: Airbnb experimented with different features and markets without validating them or measuring their impact. Airbnb had to refocus on their core value proposition of enabling anyone to belong anywhere.

Despite these challenges, Airbnb persevered and grew into one of the most successful startups in the world. Today, Airbnb has over 4 million hosts in over 220 countries and regions. It has hosted over 800 million guests since its inception. It has a valuation of over $100 billion and went public in 2020. It has also expanded its offerings to include experiences, adventures, online events, and more.

Airbnb is an example of a startup that succeeded by finding a market need, managing its cash flow, building the right team, staying ahead of the competition, and maintaining its focus. It also learned from its failures and pivoted when necessary. It is a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and customer-centricity.


Starting a startup is not easy. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and resilience. It also involves a lot of risks and uncertainties. Many startups fail for various reasons, but some of the most common ones are:

  •  No market need
  •  Running out of cash
  •  Not having the right team
  •  Getting outcompeted
  •  Losing focus

However, these reasons are not inevitable or insurmountable. You can avoid or overcome them by following some tips and best practices, such as:

  •  Validating your idea and finding your product-market fit
  •  Managing your cash flow and planning ahead for different scenarios
  •  Building a strong team that shares your vision and complements your strengths
  •  Monitoring your market and competitors and constantly improving your product and strategy
  •  Staying focused on your core value proposition and customer segment

By doing so, you can increase your chances of success and join the ranks of startups that have made a positive impact on the world.

We hope this article has given you some insights and inspiration on why startups fail and how to avoid it. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them below. And if you need any help with your startup idea, please contact us at MD-Konsult.com. We are always happy to help you with your startup and business needs.

Thank you for reading and happy startupping! 😊