Why do 95% of startups "die"? - CfE Accelerator

Why do 95% of startups “die”?

The statistics of the ratio of startups that die to those that continue to operate is impressive. There are many reasons, let’s analyze one of them today using the example of Hans Selye’s concept. He devoted most of his life to the study of the adaptive syndrome (stress) and its impact on living organisms.

Summarizing the main thing – people are still alive now thanks to the fact that their ancestors developed resistance to adaptive syndrome during evolution. That is, those who knew how to adapt to the environment, and external changes and responded to them in time survived. Now let’s imagine that wild nature is a startup ecosystem and those who are flexible and determined can survive in it.


If a startup is not aware of the times it lives in and what it can bring, it will not be eaten by wild animals, but by circumstances due to unsuitability.

Three stages are distinguished in the development of adaptation syndrome:

The stage of anxiety – includes two phases – shock and countershock. For example, a startup has initial problems with idea validation, fails to build a business model, or clearly outlines the portrait of its potential customers. Then there are two ways: if you simply lack experience – study, look for programs, and mentors, attend workshops and fight for viability by strengthening your skills.


If the problem arises in the refusal to see things realistically and trying to create a startup that does not solve any problem and in fact only you need it – the second stage of resistance comes. Then the startup throws everything in its power to prove to investors and users that the product actually matters, while ignoring all the numbers and real-world metrics from interviews that prove the irrelevance of such a startup. Imagine if primitive man convinced nature so that the temperature of the air would not decrease. No, in order to survive – a person looked for ways to keep warm, to dress, and thus adapted to the environment. Did this mean that the environment was the enemy of man? No, it’s just what it is and you can work with it, but only with the right approach. This is how startups work, we don’t ask the world to change, we change our approach and cooperate. For this you need to understand – why you need this. Give yourself this answer and you can move on.

The last stage is exhaustion. This third stage can end with the death of the organism, that is, the startup.

We get the following, startups survive that:


  • They have a clearly defined goal and a problem to be solved
  • Ready to make a pivot if the idea is not too relevant
  • They adapt according to the needs of the market
  • Accept challenges as experience and understand that this is normal
  • Do not transfer personal negative experiences to a startup as a project


Hans Selye said: it is not stress that kills us, but our reaction to it.

That is, the main task of startups is the readiness to move forward and be flexible. Trial and error still work. Of course, in words, everyone is ready for an experience, but you should understand that you will most likely fall and do it often until you start using the experience of falling to improve your flight and increase its duration.

Let’s be honest, a startup is a stress that can take you to a qualitatively new level, where you are no longer afraid of anything! “Stress is not necessarily a bad thing, it all depends on how you perceive it. The stress of exciting, creatively successful work is beneficial, while the stress of failure, humiliation, or infection is harmful.” ~ Hans Selye