A quick Google search of “start-up success rates” will fill your screen with eye-watering statistics.
- 90% of new start-ups fail.
- 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.
- Under 50% of businesses make it to their fifth year.
Before you brush past these stats, comfortable in the belief that your company has all the makings of a unicorn, did you know that only one percent of start-ups evolve into a unicorn of the likes of Slack or Uber?
The hard reality is that over 80 percent of businesses fail because of cash flow problems. Solving cash flow problems means accessing either equity or debt financing, and both bring pros and cons. The average new business raises nearly three rounds before getting to Series A. And the time between funding rounds extends with each round. The average time from Seed to Series A is 22 months, Series A to B is 24 months and Series B to C series is 27 months .
Despite these tough stats, there are inspiring success stories of small to mid-market firms that have become brands familiar to every Australian household through successful commercialisation. Examples include Canva, the graphic design platform, that raised $386.8m in six rounds of funding. Prospa, Australia’s #1 online lender to small businesses, raised $96.7M in four rounds. Online fashion and sports retailer, THE ICONIC, raised $44M in two rounds. And software company, Atlassian raised $210M over two rounds.
So how can you drive your company to successful commercialisation, the process of bringing new products or services to market, while leveraging financing and beat the odds to grow a successful business?
At the recent Saltire Capital Partners Insights event, John Rogers, Director at Kagu Capital, addressed this question on-stage. He shares three pieces of advice for firms using financing on the path to commercialisation:
Compared to any other job, commercialising your own company demands you to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. You’ll need to know how to deliver your competitive advantage to the best of your ability, every time. You’ll have to learn new skills to commercialise your venture. That includes mastering concepts you may not personally enjoy, such a hiring staff. Or actions that may feel mundane, like figuring out which network to run in the office.
You’ll have to deal with events that threaten your business in ways you may have never expected. Maybe your board quits. Mybe an employee leaves and starts an identical business to yours. Or maybe your business organically evolves away from your original vision. You’ll have to navigate opportunities and challenges from employees, partners, suppliers, customers, and financiers. The likelihood of running out of time, energy, and money is a daily presence. Giving up for any of these reasons, or any others, will spell the end of your business. Guiding a small or mid-market firm to commercialisation requires a deep, unshakeable commitment that you are on the right path and faith that you will succeed.
Every business has its ups and downs. Things don’t go according to plan, or the plan might get side-tracked. When you’re in control of your company, you have the scope to ride those ups and downs. If external investors have majority holdings in your company, they’ll likely want specific performance criteria to be met, no matter what. Partners may not have the patience or willingness to ride the ups and downs and you may find yourself replaced by a leader who will deliver what those partners, or investors, need or want.
As CEO of your company, it’s critical to maintain control of your business. Become comfortable with your authority. Get familiar with what you’re empowered to do, make decisions, and follow through. Pick your battles. Stand your ground. Negotiate confidently, communicate often, and embrace an open mindset to receive insights and feedback from those around you who have greater levels of experience.
The success of every organisation is driven by the clarity of its vision. Vision unifies a team around a specific purpose. It lets you set goals that define the path forward and gives you a framework to measure progress. Vision provides perspective to guide decisions, solve problems and focus learning. For businesses seeking to commercialise, it is critical to define, maintain, and regularly communicate a crisp vision defining the company’s direction. Without a clear vision, the path forward will become clouded, and the company’s momentum is destined to falter.
The Saltire Capital Partners team has proven experience advising small to mid-market companies on commercialisation with strategies that beat the odds. Contact us to find out how.