How many Silicon Valley startups succeed? Is it true that a

The definition of “success” in Silicon Valley is kind of brutal.

As a personal example, I sold my first start-up for $50m — just 12.5 months after founding. Not too shabby, right? But not a single one of my VC investors (who 5x’d their money in a year) even bothered to drive from Woodside to downtown Palo Alto for the closing dinner. And while the technology went on to save hundreds of lives, and impact thousands … only a handful of folks in Silicon Valley would call it a true “success”. The company never really had a brand on its own, let alone one that has been forgotten to the dustbins of startups that were.

Don’t flame me too much, don’t shoot the messenger, and I know it’s context sensitive … but …

I’d suggest that if you ask successful founders and VCs, privately — they’d answer a true success is an exit of at least $250m for a start-up people have heard of, or $400m+ for one no one has every heard of. I know.

Silicon Valley is a Go Big culture. VCs are looking for unicorns. Snapchat passes up $2b+ from Facebook. Salesforce is worth $50b+. The co-founder of Workday regrets selling his last company (in a hostile takeover) to Oracle for $10 billion. WhatsApp sells for 10% of Facebook’s market cap ($20b). Yahoo! selling to Verizon for $4b is considered a failure. Series A rounds alone are $10m today. Etc. etc.

So selling for even $100m isn’t considered a success, at least, not by the folks that have sold for more. Yes, it’s incredible and will change your life. But — there are 180+ Unicorns today. You can’t really be close to the elite if you’re not in the Top 180.

The Complete List of Unicorn Companies

So … try to live by your own code. And judge yourself. Or you’ll be full of ennui almost no matter what. Founders are full of ennui. The closer you are to the heart of Silicon Valley — the more ennui.

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Published on December 22, 2016

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