The single biggest reason why startups succeed


Bill Gross has founded a lot of startups, and incubated many others — and he got curious about why some succeeded and others failed. So he gathered data from hundreds of companies, his own and other people’s, and ranked each company on five key factors. He found one factor that stands out from the others — and surprised even him.


Words your Startup should NOT use

To stand out from the competition, think about removing these over-used words and phrases from your press releases, product announcements, and general communication:

  • “Award winning.” Awesome—which awards? If you’re a Web design firm and you won a Webby, that’s impressive; if you received the Fulks Run Ladies Auxiliary Community Service Award, maybe not so much. When an award will establish your bona fides with your target audience, name the award.
  • “Innovative.” Unless you developed a new product, created a new process, or are the first to do something, you’re not innovative. And that’s OK. Thousands of companies flourish by doing the same things other companies do, only better. If you truly are innovative, use “first.” Then people will keep reading.
  • “Leading.” It’s pretty tough to be the leader at anything, and besides, who defines “leading”? Oh, that’s right—you do. So if you are the best, describe how. If you are the largest, prove it. Show instead of tell and let your customers decide if you’re the leader—or its cousins “premier,” “unique,” “exclusive,” and “top.”
  • “Solutions.” We all love solutions, so maybe that’s why everyone seems to provide them; I know a plumber who calls himself a “water systems solutions provider.” Be who you really are and describe what you do. Name the problem and explain how you’ll solve it.
  • “Next generation.” (See also 2.0, Web.) Next generation has about the same impact on readers as new and improved does on consumers—in other words, zero. Just say “improved,” and describe how your improvements will improve people’s lives.
  • “Collaborative partnership.” When customers pay you, they’re not your partner. And unless you’re telling them what to buy, you have to be collaborative. So if you have a process that allows you to act on input or feedback better than your competition, explain how that works. Describe specifically how working together will benefit us. If what you do is in your customers’ best interest they’ll be happy to read the details.