Idea in Brief

The Light Bulb

Most start-ups don’t succeed. A foremost expert on entrepreneurship realized he didn’t understand why.

The Autopsy

An examination of start-up failures revealed two common mistakes by founders: failing to engage the right stakeholders, and rushing into an opportunity without testing the waters first.

The Remedy

Founders should take conventional entrepreneurial advice with a grain of salt, because it often backfires. They also should find the right investors and management team and avoid giving short shrift to customer interviews and research.

Most start-ups don’t succeed: More than two-thirds of them never deliver a positive return to investors. But why do so many end disappointingly? That question hit me with full force several years ago when I realized I couldn’t answer it.

A version of this article appeared in the May–June 2021 issue of Harvard Business Review.