Why do some startups win, while the vast majority lose?

Why do certain products catch fire, while others – even high-quality products – struggle to attract customers?

luckWhile hard work and skills are important, startup success often hinges on luck and circumstance. They find themselves in the right place at the right with the right product.

It sounds flippant but startup success is, frankly, a crapshoot. Many startups sell the same product but only a small number succeed.

Maybe the difference is the customer experience, customer service, pricing or marketing. Maybe a startup attracted media coverage and a few key influencers waved the flag.

Startups are not science experiments. There are no shortcuts. You create a product, do your best to let people know about it and cross your fingers that people will pay for it.

Right now, I have a client soaring like a rocket ship. It sells a product that customers want and there’s no competition. In nine years of doing marketing for startups, only a handful of clients has grown so quickly. I’m almost tempted to work for it!

So what’s the secret to its success? I would say luck and recognizing an opportunity. Like many startups, this company began as a consulting business. It soon realized there was a market for software that automated the processes it was helping clients figure out.

The founders developed software to solve the problems their clients were experiencing. It was as simple as that. Next thing you know, clients are clamoring for the software.

I’m hoping to work with another fast-growing company that evolved as a side project. The co-founder is a salesman frustrated with the cold-emailing process. To meet his own needs, he started to build software. Along the way, he ran into an entrepreneur looking to tackle the same problem so they teamed up.

What was interesting is the product was launched in a low-key way. Much to their surprise, sales started to trickle in. Pretty soon, sales exploded with little sales or marketing activity. It was simply a product that company needed.

It’s a mystery why these startups are successful. The world is chock-a-block with SaaS startups with interesting products. But few of them gain serious traction, particularly startups that are bootstrapped or financed by friends and family.

To me, they’re lucky. It’s not to suggest they don’t have great products or smart people but that’s entrepreneurial table stakes.

Successful startups catch lightning in a bottle. It’s like when you walk down a street with many restaurants. A few are packed while many of them are empty. Is the food better? Is the service better? Who knows!

If you’re an entrepreneur, working hard and selling something with product-market fit is impressive. But it doesn’t guarantee success; it just means you have a lottery ticket.


I work with startups and entrepreneurs looking to accelerate their growth with marketing powered by storytelling and strategy. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to develop messaging, brand positioning and marketing roadmaps.

If you want marketing that makes an impact, let’s talk.

If you are looking for hand-picked startup content, subscribe to my weekly newsletter focused on marketing. operations, sales, raising money…and some Canadian startup news.

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