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If you feel the urge to pour your money into a venture-capital-backed, high-tech startup, you might first consider whether you’re better off playing a corner bet in roulette.

 

The Wall Street Journal reported recently on research by a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, Shikhar Ghosh, who has found “evidence that venture-backed start-ups fail at far higher numbers than the rate the industry usually cites.”

 

Specifically, about 30% of firms eat up all the money and return nothing; about 75% of venture-backed firms in the U.S. don’t return investors’ capital; and about 95% of firms fall short of meeting the targets set by investors.

 

Now, to be sure, an innovative idea is a good start for a business, and if you’re in the right field, it’ll see you a long way. In his book Innovation and EntrepreneurshipPeter Drucker observed that, in many industries, “time is on the side of the innovator.”

 

 

But this is not so in what Drucker called “knowledge-based innovation,” for which there’s only a short time window and little room for error. “Here innovators do not get a second chance; they have to be right the first time,” Drucker wrote. “The environment is harsh and unforgiving. And once the ‘window’ closes, the opportunity is gone forever.”

 

These challenges, in Drucker’s view, are “particularly pronounced in the high-tech industries.” Because “such industries are in the limelight and thus attract far more entrants and far more capital than more mundane areas,” high-tech tends to be a riskier game “in which a middle hand is considered worthless,” he explained. With so few missteps permitted, “very few businesses in the industry have the financial resources to outlast even a short storm.”

 

So what is an investor to do?

 

Look for a start-up with indications of good management. It’s no guarantee of success, but it’s a minimum requirement. “Unless a new venture develops into a new business and makes sure of being ‘managed,’ it will not survive no matter how brilliant the entrepreneurial idea, how much money it attracts, how good its products, nor even how great the demand for them,” Drucker warned.

 

What are your thoughts? If you’re looking to invest in a startup, what’s the best indication it’s well managed?

 

 

 

 

  1. Something Ventured, Nothing Gained?

    If you feel the urge to pour your money into a venture-capital-backed, high-tech startup, you might first consider whether you’re better off playing a corner bet in roulette. The Wall Street Journal reported recently on research by a senior ...
    Date2012.11.22 Views7359 file
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  2. What Peter Drucker Would Be Reading

    Recent selections from around the web that, we think, would have caught Peter Drucker’s eye: 1. More Direct Reports Make Life Easier: How many direct reports should you take on? Traditionally, the accepted range among most professionals has ...
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  3. If Self-Management Is Such a Great Idea, Why Aren’t More Companies Doing It?

    In his latest column for Forbes online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about a recent visit to Morning Star, a tomato producer and processor described by Harvard Business Review as “the world’s most creatively mana...
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  4. Eight is Enough

    Peter Drucker may not have been quite this rigid, but he would have been close. “We want to cut to the chase,” writes Kevin Starr in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “and the tool that works for us is the eight-word mission statement.”...
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  5. Regarding the 47 Percent

    Who’s a maker and who’s a taker? That’s been the discussion of the week following the release of a video clip of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who told supporters that 47% of Americans would be voting for Barack Obama no mat...
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  6. Why Eric Holder, Despite an Inspector General Report Clearing Him in the “Fast and Furious” Investigation, Still Failed the Test of Leadership

    “Captains are responsible for what happens on their watches.” — Peter F. Drucker, 1976
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  7. There’s No Place Like Home

    Do it yourself, Home Depot said to Chinese customers. Go ___ yourself, said Chinese customers to Home Depot. Several years ago, when Home Depot set up 12 stores in China, it had high hopes of winning over Chinese to the joys of hands-on home...
    Date2012.11.22 Views4404 file
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  8. What Peter Drucker Would Be Reading

    Recent selections from around the web that, we think, would have caught Peter Drucker’s eye: 1. Phasing Out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Is It Being Done Responsibly? Not many of us have warm feelings for Freddie or Fannie, but they’ve been a...
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  9. Joe’s Journal: On Learning How to Learn

    “Managing oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs. It requires new and unprecedented things from the individual, and especially from the knowledge worker. For, in effect, it demands that each knowledge worker think and behave as a chief ex...
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  10. Competitive Edge

    Forget the recession. At least for a moment. According to Harvard Magazine, the “real problem, obscured by this acute, cyclical downturn, may be a long-term erosion of competitiveness in a more challenging global economic era.” The United St...
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