The Wise Entrepreneur

7 Common Characteristics Successful and Shrewd Startups Have

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Common characteristics of successful startups: Do something great


The common characteristics of successful startups cannot certainly be ignored, and today we focus on these. Welcome back – and we extend our apologies for the break in our blogging, due to circumstances beyond control.

I guess you have heard about startup failures endless times. Not so? When you read about startup failure rate of about 90% then you should pick interest.  

Is this fact something to ignore? I don’t think so.

While we talk about the failures – we should also focus on the successes and find out what make some startups succeed.

Therefore, today we would like to briefly consider some of the common characteristics that successful startup enterprises have.

Certainly, we know that startups have huge learning curves and getting most things right is often more of a dream than reality.  

What then really makes key differences?

Come on. Let’s take a look.


1. Focus on the customer and market timing. Successful startups put emphasis on the product market fit and also timing.

This is one of the vital common characteristics of successful startups.

They strive to understand the customer and the market, and endeavor to keep ahead by knowing what the customer wants. They dedicate to customer excellence from the start.

I think this is an extremely important point. It simply reminds me of some salesmen introducing new products and all they yap about are product features that very few folks care for.

Candidly, starting with small test markets and focusing on customer acquisition is a good starting point for a startup.

Additionally, moving early to building communities and tribes around the product is another big plus. This brings early success.

When you get on top of what customers want then you have a higher success rate. Let me give you an example.

According to NBC News, WhatsApp simply built a product that was reliable, fast and secure, cheap, and with ad-free experience. It built a product and not a company.

Come on Mr. Entrepreneur! Do you realize that by doing these things you don’t even need to spend much money on marketing?

It’s up to you.

Facebook guys were not dumb to invest $16bn in WhatsApp. There is business sense here.

To increase your success rate for your startup, WhatsApp whirlwind success is  a good lesson.

How about the timing? Just imagine selling space adventure tickets to folks during the renaissance era! You could get stoned. Honestly!

But now you can – though some people will still look at you from an angle, like you are from another planet.

According to Forbes, market timing accounts for 42% of startup failure (and success).

Be smart with your startup. Let’s proceed to the second point.  

2. Human capital (the team and leadership). Do you know that having the right team accounts for up to 32% failure rate for startups?

I guess you might be wondering where I’m getting these crazy numbers from. Not so? I’ve already quoted the source of these stats and if you are keen you got it.

The right startup team and leadership is again one of the common characteristics of successful startups.

You need a team that is focused, strategic, works smart but plays hard, communicates sufficiently etc.

Isn’t this another fantabulous trait for successful startups?

Your team’s attitude, aptitude, knowledge, competence and skills etc. directly influence the speed at which a startup achieves its growth milestones.

If you assemble a team of clueless guys, you cannot blame anybody. Correct?

If your team comprises of opaque people who can hardly see around the corner, who do you blame for a messed-up startup?  I mean – who takes responsibility for the startup failure?

Take a look at Google’s success.

Google’s coordinated leadership group has been touted as one of the key characteristics accountable for its success.

Additionally, you need leaders that encourage innovation and creativity, a fun work environment, open communication etc.

London School of Business again attributes the above to the success of Google.

These are some of the reasons why you and I use Google every day! You must have even landed on my blog today through Google. Not so?

You don’t need to pretend. Ok? Google is a splendid company – even if they don’t give you good rankings for your site. He he he.

3. Ideas that are bold and disruptive. Another key trait you find in very successful startups is the fact that they are bold and disruptive in their approach.

Of course, this is associated with big risks oftentimes but these differentiators provide a good leverage that enables success.

It is reported that bold and disruptive ideas provide about 28% success advantage.

Common characteristics of successful startups: Be bold and disruptive

Consider Uber.

According to, Uber used a simple but disruptive approach to taxi services, and this was a gamechanger that gave it tremendous success.

What is it about the Uber approach? You can request a taxi from anywhere. You ride with style and convenience. The payment process is hassle-free.

Why would any folk with common sense not give Uber a try? Tell me!

How about Airbnb? Are there any easily verifiable common characteristics of successful startups?

Airbnb provides a free-for-all platform for all houses, caves, mansions, condos, castles, houseboats, tree houses, barns, chateau, you can name it. reports about this. In other words – anybody can participate on both sides, the service provider and the buyer.

This provides a disruptive and radically new approach with lot of options in a free market. There is also affordability and convenience.

It’s a simple approach to monetize space. This really challenged the old and boring approach to arranging short- and medium-term accommodation globally.

If you don’t agree with me that this is really bold and disruptive – then we need to sit together over coffee and try to understand each other.

Or we take a long walk around the parks in the city together – the Steve Job way. Just to think over issues. Ok?

Don’t you think so? Are you OK with this?

4. Flexibility and experimental tactics. Very successful startups also have the trait of being experimental and flexible.

These are environments where there is fast learning and adaptation as the need arises. These entities seek advice and change quickly when needed.

Even if it means pivoting, they do it swiftly and move on. Got it?

These continuous learning and evolution efforts are all aimed at meeting and exceeding customer experience.

The customer puts money into your pocket. Once you have a tribe of customers willing to put money into your pocket always then you are on your way to success.

Steve Job’s Apple is a good example here.

CNBC explains why Apple has been so successful.

The key point here is this: Successful startups have leaders that are willing to drop some things and move on. Flexibility and continuous experimentation are common characteristics of successful startups.

In other words, they have leaders who are willing to get out of the office and go find what is key and what others are doing.

Steve Jobs brought simplicity to design and innovation. He was always experimenting and adapting to improve customer relations and experience.

Don’t you agree with me that this is another vital trait of successful startups?

Do you want to increase your chances of success in your startup? Be flexible and experimental.

Be agile and adapt.

Sometimes it’s okay to walk away from a bad fit. Good business owners know when to get out.

They also know when to get feedback, adjust and repeat.

5. Business model and funding. This is another vital trait or characteristic of successful startups.

Amazon comes out here based on its customer value-obsessed business. Of course there are several other successful business models.

Again, it is reported that the right business model accounts for 24% success rate for startups, while the funding strategy accounts for 14%.

So, what the hell about the business model? How does this damn thing affect startup success?

The answer is here. Your business model reflects value creation or generation and delivery. It is also aligned to the market and vision.

This implies that your business model also helps attract funding from investors.

People who put their money into your business want to see that you can deliver promises and grow.  

Without sounding sarcastic and discriminative – who likes a child to remain stunted? Nobody, I guess.

What about your startup business? Don’t you desire growth and maturity? Come on!

Just watch how successful startups organize their business models and associated funding strategies.

6. Execution orientation.  The execution culture is an additional vital and common trait in the most successful startups globally.

If you have ever worked on major projects with people that don’t move (I mean act and get critical things done in time), I guess you know what I mean here.

Sometimes you feel like moving with a stick to drive some sense of urgency and action.

Execution – or the lack of it – can build or destroy a business. We can confirm that execution is one of the common characteristics of successful startups.

Common characteristics of successful startups: Action orientation

Taylor Ryan, the Chief Marketing Officer at puts it very nicely in his blog.

Why is execution a great plus for startup success?

Execution helps quickly translate your ideas into reality and also lays a solid foundation for your business early enough.

It also enables you save on time – which is very precious anyway. Additionally, it enables you to learn and make corrections early.

By the way, I wrote about execution earlier in my 7 ways to transform your business idea to a successful business opportunity.

Wake up my dear startup entrepreneur!

You need people who can plan and execute. You need people who are implementation oriented.

Startup success comes with the ability to accomplish what is initiated, discussed and agreed.

You can read this article about ways to tune execution in your startup. This will enable you move towards success.

Even if this execution means a pivot as mentioned above, please do it with gusto. Powerful brands such as Youtube, Yelp, Shopify and Groupon all pivoted at some point in their individual histories.

Harvard Business School advises about the need to demonstrate the ability to execute second and third acts.

Can we proceed now to our last point for today?

7. Founders. As I conclude my points about the common characteristics of the most successful startup companies, I wind up with the founders.

Founders of startups play a cornerstone role in their success.

My 7 Essential entrepreneurship characteristics to develop – to avoid failure, could be handy here – if you so wish.

Success starts from within.

Successful startups start with successful founders. There are traits of successful founders.

Characteristics such as DIY mentality, vision, passion and integrity, discipline, risk taking, creativity and resourcefulness, resilienceetc. is what I’m talking about here.

Do you understand me?

Never go bragging about intentions or steps of building a successful startup when you don’t have the basics of internal success.

You will be humiliated if you joke anyhow with startups. I’m not discouraging you but I’m simply speaking the truth in love.

The right founder traits go a long way in ensuring a successful startup.

Let me leave it here for today.


Haven’t you enjoyed reading the above common traits of very successful startups? Get these points right, and improve your chances of startup success.

Now it’s my turn to make a request. Ok? Pleaaase…………If you have found this article useful, please share it with as many as you can. You can also follow us on Twitter for regular updates.

Bye for now.

Take care – and till then,

The Wise Entrepreneur

NB. Images Courtesy of:

  • Clark Tibbs on Unsplash
  • Valerie Sigamani on Unsplash
  • Oliver Sjöström on Unsplash

Clayton W. L. Mwaka

Clayton W. L. Mwaka

Clayton W. L. Mwaka, a Ugandan chartered accountant and motivational speaker with 24 years of diverse experience, specializes in business administration, international consultancy, and lecturing. He advocates for personal empowerment through balanced living, qualitative leadership, and paradigm shifts, aiming to unlock individual potential globally.

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