Ron Conway

Conway: During The Bubble, 77% Entrepreneurs Failed. Now, It's Around 40%

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Today, during our Social Currency CrunchUp, angel investor Ron Conway had some interesting data to share for the first time. Conway says that his company, SV Angel, has recently done an audit on the over 500 companies they’ve invested in over the past 12 years. And he was surprised with the results.

Conway expected it would show that about one-third of companies fail, one-third get investors their money back, and one-third bring a 2x to Google-x return (Conway invested in Google early on). But that’s not the case. Conway noticed that during the Internet Bubble in 1997 to 2001 — the failure rate (startups that go out of business and the investors get nothing) was a staggering 77 percent. “It was catastrophic,” he said.

But things improved. The failure rate in recent years — since 2002 — has dropped to about 40 percent, Conway says. He makes sure to note that that’s just his portfolio — which they’re picky about. They only invest in about one of every 40 companies they see.

Conway notes that he was able to make it through the Bubble years because of a very few smart investments in Google, PayPal, and others that also took place at that time. “We were lucky, others weren’t,” he notes.

He also notes that entrepreneurs have a 66 percent chance of being successful on a startup if it’s their second one. But that’s also partially because they’re often doing a second startup if they were successful the first time around.

All that said, Conway notes that his data shows that regardless of the time period — Bubble or Boom — the rate of very successful outcomes has stayed roughly the same. With that in mind, “anytime is a good time to start a company,” he concludes.

Conway says there is a misconception that “every 10 years we get a Google.” “That’s not true,” Conway says. He notes that AskJeeves came, then six years later, Google came. But then six years after that was Facebook. And now the big companies are coming faster. After Facebook, it was only four years until Twitter came around. Then it was two years later that Foursquare, Zynga, and others have come along. “Great companies are being created at a much greater rate,” Conway says.

You can watch the rest of the Social Currency CrunchUp live here.

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