“SUCCESS?” or “FAILURE?” [Spoiler Alert: It’s NOT as obvious a distinction as you’d think!]

Below are details of 3 real startups I’ve been involved with (A: Angel-Funded, B: Bootstrapped, C: VC-Funded) + outcomes of each. But…

What would YOU consider each to be? Success? Failure?

  • A) had 7-figure profits for 4 straight years — (Success?) — but never got the exit we wanted and were eventually forced to sell off assets, lay off employees, and shut it down — (Failure?)
  • B) was profitable each year and was acquired — (Success?) — but those “profits” were only ~$12k/year and the “acquisition” was only ~$50k — (Failure?)
  • C) lost money each year, never came close to profitability — (Failure?) — but was acquired for ~$20 Million Dollars — (Success?) 
    There are always more questions to be asked! In this case (Startup C), how much funding was taken? at what valuations? You can’t possibly know if $20 Million is good or bad without the answers to those questions!]

I’ll come back and write more on this soon (if I don’t, someone feel free to remind me to), but I believe the overall answer is: #ItDepends
It depends on many factors — like, who ARE you? Founder? Co-Founder? Investor? Employee? Unaffiliated 3rd party looking in? What were your goals, your expectations, your investment (time? money?), your opportunity cost… [to be continued]

By the way, I was personally/financially involved in all 3 of those companies and *EVEN I* have a difficult time deciding whether I consider each to be a success or failure!! #ItDepends #ItAlwaysDepends #Perspective :)

[Note to Self: Come back and elaborate more on each of those 3 examples, perhaps with links to additional information and related lessons learned from each experience]