3 Key Factors of Startup Success According to Founders

by May 29, 2017

Let’s face it, the career landscape has changed since our parents’ time. Technology has made the world a smaller place, with the dynamics shifting almost constantly between traditional and emerging industries. One of the growing changes in the career space is the rise of startup companies – organisations built around people’s passions, to provide our society with solutions that classic business structures might not yet have tackled.

And this startup space is growing. At the end of last year, Gust released their end of year Startup Funding Trends report which showed that startup funding applications increased by 5.5% between the first and second half of the year. This means that the startup industry is becoming a more viable career option for millennials, as they face a workforce adapting to these changes.

If you’ve ever thought of starting your own business, or are interested in working in the startup space, then it’s important to understand three of the key elements that many successful founders quote as being  essential to startup success.


One of the main components many founders point to as key to their success is their passion: passion for their product, their ethos, their industry. Many  started out working in a traditional corporate structure, the usual 9-to-5 slog, and found it wasn’t for them. Emma Seibold of Barre Body took the plunge after being made redundant in her marketing job and having her first child: ‘After a long career in marketing, I wanted to make my passion – health and wellness – my career’.

So if you’re interested in getting into the startup world, what’s the take away? Don’t get in your own way. Rather than thinking about what field or niche you want to get into purely because it would be a good business move, think about how you can fit into the niche or industry you’re most passionate about.  Focus on what brings you most joy and go from there – you’re making your own path.

Read more: From intern to editor: Latte magazine’s Rebecca Bodman

Want some advice? Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix has said:

“Be absolutely passionate about the idea. You have to live and breathe it. I spent a long time looking at the hunting and fishing space – a huge market that is ripe for disruption. But I’m simply not passionate about hunting and fishing! It’s really hard to start a business if you don’t care about it. At the margin, when it’s 2am, it has to be that passion that pushes you forward.”

Kaylene Langford of StartUp Creative has said the same thing, highlighting the strong connection between authenticity and passion:

“Be authentic. The most successful businesses are an extension of the founders! If you try to be something you’re not, you’re bound to stuff it up. Be yourself, stay true to you passion and don’t do [stuff] you hate, life is way to short. Do more of what you love and let it become your career!”


Joining the startup world is all about balancing your passion with the inherent risks of starting a business. After all, while passion is a fantastic driving force, it won’t lead you anywhere if you aren’t prepared to take a few risks.

“After a couple of years of ‘what ifs’, ‘how the hell am I going to do this’, and millions of crazy ideas, it became the path I was going to take. If I didn’t go through with it, despite the innate fear of branching out on my own with a huge debt, I would regret it for the rest of my life.” – Olivia Ellice-Flint of The Grassy Bowl

Here’s where the balancing act comes in: for a lot of us, taking the plunge and starting a business isn’t a viable option right off the bat. You can’t quit your job or your studies just because you’ve had a great idea – you’ve got to work for it. While passion should be the driving force behind your decision to enter the startup space, developing a solid work ethic and being proactive in building your knowledge base is essential.

Read more: Launching A Startup and Tackling Employability: A Chat with Rewardstudents’ Dana Achrafi

Many of those entering the startup world have an idea and want to get started straight away (which is great!), but you need to play it smart. If you’re keen to start your own online fashion store, it’s time to learn more about ecommerce, connect with others in the industry, understand what your competitors are doing, and draw on the experience of your friends and colleagues. If you don’t have experience in the space you want to work in then you’ve got to be proactive in learning, so that any risks you feel you need to take can be evaluated and weighed accordingly. It’s all about those educated risks:

“Within our business we make educated decisions but we also take risks… I’d like to say they are educated risks. Everything we have done in the past has lead to this point, so we draw on past experiences to make important decisions.” – Elle Ferguson of They All Hate Us

Fear and failure

Two other important motivators for many startup founders is the relationship they have with fear and failure. Many successful startup founders either built their career off of something they struggled with, or tried and failed to start a business before their startup took off. Whether it’s using past failures as a motivator, a launchpad for a new career, or a learning opportunity – it’s all about harnessing that fear of failure and turning it into a positive force in how you work.

While none of us actively enjoy failing, it can prove a powerful motivator when first trying to get a company off the ground:

“I was so afraid that GoPro was going to go away like Funbug that I would work my ass off… I was so scared that I would fail again that I was totally committed to succeed.” – Nick Woodman of GoPro

Failure can also lead to life changes or new career paths that can make a startup career possible:

“There are two pivotal moments for me. The first was in 2009 when I was made redundant from my role as Marketing Manager at Oroton. This inspired me me to go to India and pursue my passions in the wellness industry full-time and was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (or was made for me).” – Emma Seibold of Barre Body

Read more: Want to Succeed? Don’t Fear Failure – Embrace It


 If you rethink your definition of failure and view it as a learning opportunity rather than a sign that you should quit, you may find yourself being able to build on the experience to work your way towards success!

“Failure for me became not trying, rather than the outcome.” – Sarah Blakely of Spanx


So if you’ve got a passion you want to turn into a business, you’re willing to put the work in to making informed risks, and you think you’ve got what it takes  to turn fear of failure into a motivator, then maybe it’s time to start thinking about entering the startup world!

“I believe that the startup organization is one of the greatest forms to make the world a better place. If you take a group of people with the right equity incentives and organize them in a startup, you can unlock human potential in a way never before possible.” – Bill Gross

Want a bonus tip? Check out this TED Talk from Bill Gross on why startups succeed:

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

By Mia Casey

By Mia Casey


Mia is a Sydney-based copywriter and content creator, who has run the UTS Careers Blog since its conception in 2016.
Her freelance work focuses on branding development and helping companies create a cohesive identity narrative tailored for each of their platforms.
She enjoys piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.