What does it take to make your startup succeed? Is there some magic formula or key ingredients that you can mix together to create success?

Last year a group of Silicon Valley investors launched The Startup Genome project to research and uncover the “DNA” of successful startups. The Startup Genome studied more than 600 companies, CNET News reports, and, although the research focused on Internet startups, some of what the project found has valuable lessons for all startups.

Meet milestones: Successful startups tend to go through certain specific milestones in development. Skipping or missing any one of these generally leads to poor performance.

Lesson: Follow the rules. Don’t think your business is so unique or special that you can skip key steps like market research or validating that there’s a need for your product or service.  

Learn: “Startups that have helpful mentors, listen to customers, and learn from start-up thought leaders raise seven times more money and have three-and-a-half times better user growth.”

Lesson: You’re never too old or too experienced to learn from other people’s input. Many entrepreneurs get cocky, sure that it’s “my way or the highway.” But in today’s economy, it’s the customer’s way or the highway.  

Get help: Solo founders and teams without technical cofounders tended to perform worse than average. The teams that had “balance” between business-oriented and tech-oriented co-founders did best at raising capital.

Lesson: The team is everything—so make sure your team has all the skills it needs. If you try to do it all yourself, or no one on your team has the industry knowledge you need, you’re fighting an uphill battle.  

Be humble: “Startups that haven't raised money overestimate their market size by 100 times and often misinterpret their market as new.” Lesson: Overconfidence is a common failing among startup founders. Pitching investors is one way to get a reality check. Listening to others (see Lesson 2) is another, less painful way.  

Of course, you can also get a reality check, lots of lessons, and help meeting your milestones from the Mentors at SCORE. Visit the SCORE website to get matched with a mentor and get advice and help 24/7.

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and

CEO, GrowBiz Media