Let’s face it! The chances of your startup being successful in the long run are slim. Depending on which source you want to believe, the failure rate within the first 7 years is somewhere between 85–90%. It sucks, I know! What makes it worse, is that probably around 50% of your Startup success is determined by pure luck, essentially being at the right place at the right time.

Elon Musk once said: “if you accept the probabilities, then fear diminishes”. So, now that we know the numbers, let’s accept them, get over them and talk about the exciting stuff!

Whenever I read reports about Startup challenges, then a lot of them talk about customer acquisition, raising capital and product-market-fit. Great! I don’t need to tell you this! So, let’s instead look at other factors that sometimes may get overlooked but are critically important to succeed in the long run. And if you still have doubts about your success, remember anything is possible: Sleeping with a porn star apparently will not prevent you from remaining the president of the United States. So, let’s get started!

I am afraid I must start the story in a place that you may not like: your school. This is where it all began. It didn’t make much sense for you to study Latin or French in the first place, did it? Ok, with French you may have been able to score that French lover on your holidays in the French riviera, but apart from this? That’s a low return on investment for years of study and afternoons that you could have spent on the football pitch, playing games or dancing. What I am getting at, is that our school system is outdated. And so is university!

This is how it used to be 150 years ago: Prussian teachers would stand in front of the kids and teach them math, geography and all the other stuff. The kids would sit still in file and rank and six hours later they would still be sitting there. The problem? In 2020 school kids are still doing the same thing. This is insane! It does not make much sense in the 21st century, where we need to co-create, run with self-organised teams and use technology to manage the complexity around us.

Let’s look at what is needed! One of the hardest things, when you are running a company, is to manage your own emotional states. A critical success factor in startup success is grit, essentially a combination of long-term passion for your project and perseverance. In a world which is incentivised on short term gains, this is hardly something we know how to do well. How do you gain superhuman grit? Enter the first superpower:

Superpower 1: Responsive Mindset

When the going gets tough, our first inclination may be to give up, throw it all in. Of course you can do this. But what are the chances that you do the same at your next project or even in your next relationship, when things start to turn sour? Pretty high I would think! It is no secret that we gain the biggest momentum and personal growth, when we stick through the difficult times. This is what we call a responsive mindset, the ability to hold ambiguity amid chaos and complexity. It requires an awful lot of energy and is a muscle that needs to be built over time, but it is a muscle which you will need a lot in your future sad grey life: whether in your relationships, when you are getting old and need to sit through severe diseases or in a financial crisis. So, let’s build this! The first step is to establish a routine where you can build the muscle. Everybody is different, but I found it useful to establish a morning routine of say about an hour to do the following:

  • 10–20 minutes of meditation (and you can choose what kind of meditation suits you)
  • 20–30 minutes of Yoga or cardio
  • 10 minutes of journaling appreciating what you have in life
  • A shower mixed with ice-cold and warm sequences starting and finishing off with cold water
  • 5 minutes of creating your to-do-list for the day

The most important trick to keep going with this was to even do a morning routine for at least 5 minutes when I felt sick, hungover or simply not up for it. That way, I was still doing the routine. So, why does this build resilience you may ask? Because you are doing something good for yourself every day and when shit hits the fan, you have something to hold onto in the darkest of times. Plus, we know from plenty of neuroscientific studies, that meditation alters your brain and makes you more resilient.

It is incredible how little we have learned at school on how to be with other people. And it shows: broken relationships, unproductive teams, politics in companies: you name it! The problem? If you don’t fix your relationships, they will eventually go sour, whether this is in your founders’ team or with your loved ones at home. If you don’t find an avenue to talk about your challenges, then you will have growing elephants on the table. In scrum, we already have a role to help fix this: the marvellous scrum master. If you break it down: the scrum master really is the psychologist in the team. But you don’t need scrum for this. So, let’s look at what needs to be done:

Superpower 2: Team Intelligence

The first Superpower was mostly about yourself, getting your own life in order. However, as we all know, our brain is inherently social. One of the key reasons why young companies do not succeed is that their Cofounders do not seem to find a suitable way of working together well. Here are the top 3 tips, which can help you to boost your team intelligence:

  • Find a person in the team who owns the role of the team psychologist, someone who cares about the wellbeing of the team and give him/her the authority to take care of the team.
  • A great tip from a friend was: If you have a problem with someone in the team, say with one of your Co-Founders: install daily 30 minutes meetings, look for specific topics on your relationship you want to talk about and do it. Steffi, my Co-Founder and I had a few big challenges last year and they truly grew into elephants where we almost fell apart. Using this simple trick will bring you a lot closer to your teammate and fix it almost instantly. I promise!
  • Bring the elephants on the table and articulate the lingering emotional stuff, which is bothering you! I cannot emphasise it enough. Your team psychologist can take care of this.


Superpower 3: Execution Power

Germany is a country of engineers and we have the tendency to make everything perfect: cars, industrial machines, tools. The problem? Perfection comes later, not when you are starting a business and have no idea what will work and who will buy your products. Enter the 3rd superpower!If you are a Startup founder or an intrapreneur, I don’t need to tell you about all the tools which are available in the context of the lean startup movement. Use them!

So, how exactly do you do execution power. We cannot go into a lot of detail in this article but here are some initial thought starters:

  • Design Thinking Sprints, Business modelling, agile ways of working. The key here is to rapidly get from your initial idea to a prototype. A prototype can be a sketch, a Lego-model or a robot made of cardboard. There are more than enough tools, which you can utilise to make sure you execute with excellence.
  • Have someone in your team of founders or at least employees who is the personification of execution power. Many people have great ideas but it is in the execution part where they often fail. So, find someone who has the energy to push through, is brilliant at project management and is a born executer.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff: if something didn’t work out, learn from it and move on. Life is too short to be dwelling for too long on things that did not work.·


Superpower 4: Digital Fitness

Finally, I find it puzzling how many speakers in Germany keep going on about digitisation. I think we know by now that we should have digital in the DNA of our businesses. But what does this actually mean? Here are the most important tips and tools to help you accelerate your business

  • Start your business with digital first: your processes, your book-keeping, the way you organise your daily business-life.
  • Think of your products with the mindset of a digital brain. They might inherently be analogue business models, however, there might still be elements which you could digitise or at least approach from the perspective of a digital business: your book-keeping-processes, sales approach or the way your structure your communication internally.
  • There are so many tools, which make your life a lot easier. For instance: https://www.getmyinvoices.com/de/ a tool which pulls your digital invoice from software such as Mailchimp, Google, Amazon and others automatically via their API.
  • If you are looking to use images in your marketing royalty-free, you may want to check https://pixabay.com/ or https://unsplash.com/
  • Miro.com is a great tool for brainstorming and creative projects. Helps you work creatively also remotely.
  • And every innovator’s heart beats faster when they are allowed to use the multitude of already prepared digital canvasses on Mural.com.
  • Build Trello boards to not only boost your personal productivity, but also your team projects with a real-time digital kanban board — www.trello.com.


So, there you go. This is what I believe will make your life a lot easier and hopefully set you up for success. And remember: “If you accept the probabilities, then fear diminishes”. Let’s do this!