Book Brief


The 10 Critical Factors That

Will Make or Break a New Company

By Joel Kurtzman and Glenn Rifkin

Portfolio; $25.95

Academia has only recently embraced entrepreneurship, and there's shockingly little quantitative research about startups. This book is an attempt to begin filling that hole. Joel Kurtzman, a former editor of the Harvard Business Review, and journalist Glenn Rifkin, along with a team from PricewaterhouseCoopers, conducted four years of research and interviewed 350 owners of successful startups, as well as dozens of investors, executives, and board members, all with the goal of uncovering the factors that lead to success.

Unfortunately, the results don't shed much new light. On the whole, conventional wisdom about startups seems to have been pretty accurate. The book is a haphazard collection of occasionally interesting, often unsurprising facts, anecdotes, and generalizations. Overestimating market size and lousy products are key reasons early-stage companies don't obtain more venture capital. And a good board can be a lifesaver.

Nonetheless, the authors distill several common attributes of startups that last: They started with a group of three or four founders, including a marketing/sales pro; hired the right team; managed their cash; started with an existing market rather than trying to create one; found a great first customer; made their product high-quality and unique, then branded it. Sounds as if the secret is common sense.

By Marilyn Harris

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