The Dangerous Myth of Startup Overnight Success
Whether it’s an IPO or just a seed round, nothing happens as quickly as it seems
If you follow stories about startups, it's not hard to come away with the impression that a fair number of these new companies go from idea to multi-million dollar funding rounds in a matter of months or even weeks.
Of course, this isn't true. But that begs a questions that no one ever really answers:
How long does it really take to go from idea to successful startup?
I've founded, worked at, and advised dozens of startups over the years. And two of my own stand out as pretty decent examples.
- ExitEvent was a three-year journey from launch to acquisition -- seemingly record time. But the full story was at least seven years in the making, built on technology I had first started developing in 1999. Yes, that is a one and a nine at the beginning of that year.
- TeachingStartup.com just celebrated its first full year live with paying customers and much success. I registered the URL back in 2014.
All good things take time. So here's a rough look at how much time those good things usually take, based on my experiences with startups that thrived, startups that failed, and startups that stagnated.
Spoiler alert: The ones that achieved the most success were the ones that took the longest to get there.
It can take a couple years to develop the right idea
An idea can rattle around in an entrepreneur's head for a long time. It can die there too.
Most startup ideas never leave the brain of the person with the idea because the person with the idea never takes action. Action doesn't mean writing the idea down (although that's as good a first step as any). Action doesn't mean sharing the idea with others (unless those others have skills and resources to help).
Despite what you see in Hollywood plot twists, the vast majority of great business ideas are not lightning strikes of instant inspiration. Inspiration can indeed strike quickly, but the bolt it produces doesn't accelerate an idea from 0 mph to 100 mph. Bolts of…