In this paper, we explore company founders’ opinions and observations about their own trajectory and what influenced the success or failure of their businesses. The findings clearly contradict some strongly held beliefs about starting a business and entrepreneurship. The four most important factors for entrepreneurial success, according to our respondents, are prior work experience, learning from successes and failures, management teams, and luck.
Networks and financing also were important factors. Surprisingly few took venture capital or angelfinancing in their first ventures. Another surprise was the lack of reliance on alumni networks; it could be that being to obtain access to the alumni network, has been overstated as a benefit for startups. However, lessons learned in college are greatly valued, particularly for alumni of Ivy League schools.