Startups dish their secret recipes for success

startup recipe for success

While the US government had the covert Project Stargate, here in the startup world, there is word of an elusive trade secret — the well-kept ‘recipe for success’ made from an amalgamation of elements to make any collaborative effort, innovative idea or pioneering startup a massive success. This recipe would feed the constant question on any entrepreneur’s mind, “Is this company going to make it?”

Reservoirs of articles and opinion pieces have explored this revered recipe, leaving no stone unturned. From simple 3 step processes to lengthy exposition on the true path to happiness, everyone has a take on the transmogrified goal of true innovation. A 4-minute article read is a straightforward notion no doubt, but is the path to success that simple though? A recent statistic revealed that a whopping 90 percent of all technology startups fail, making it so common that most have dubbed it a Silicon Valley cliché.

There are some, like Theodore Roosevelt, who would have you believe that the secret recipe to any smashing triumph derives from a combination of blood, toil, sweat and tears — a phrase that has become fairly quotidian in today’s startup terrain. Others, as most sources suggest, believe in the big three: Fail often, embrace flexibility, and have a delusional passion for your craft. Yet, the honest truth is this: Successful startups are not concocted from secret success recipes. No one size fits all, and a method that worked for a particular powerhouse may not necessarily apply the same way for another.

To succeed, one must first be innovative. To achieve true innovation, is where inspiration steps in. Startups at LEVEL3 share their perspectives on the less tangible elements of startup success, and their take on the ‘secret recipe to success’.


I quote Paul Graham, Y Combinator’s co-founder, on this one: Be relentlessly resourceful. The problems and challenges faced by truly innovative startup founders are so new and diverse, that remembering never to give up and being resourceful on how to solve these problems, is the only way to go about it. Take Mecenato for instance: It’s a project that has been brewing for five-or-so years across three different countries. Only now, with the right conditions, can I fully dedicate myself to this project. Patience, resilience, and resourcefulness are all important traits to have as a founder.


The biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make is keeping their idea to themselves — I was no exception. Talk to anyone who would listen, as the real insights come from talking to complete strangers. You refine your idea the more you talk about it, especially with the opinions and instinctive feedback you get. The common reaction people have when thinking about sharing their idea, is the possibility of someone taking it. But the reality is, there aren’t many people out there willing to drop everything they’re doing to copy someone else’s idea. They simply can’t replicate your passion, vision, talent or insights. Most entrepreneurs start off believing that their idea is what separates their start-up from the competition, but it’s not — It’s actually themselves.


One mentor told me not to overly compare ourselves to competitors, saying: “You’d only be as big as your competitors, but not better than them. You won’t be pushing the boundaries.” The industry is changing fast; business models that work now may not work tomorrow, or even ten years down the road. Be prepared to change fast, and adopt skill sets that are transferable, instead of those that are only relevant for one particular industry. Learn how to learn, because innovation doesn’t happen when you stick to people who are like yourself, or when you focus too much on the same industry — Innovation happens when you explore different areas and get out of your comfort zone.


I’m significantly more creative after spending time in a new place surrounded by new people. Therefore, the most valuable advice I can give is to travel the world; not just for the sun and parties, but to learn languages, develop new habits and to share your ideas with others, no matter how foolish these ideas may sound at first. Gather as many different viewpoints as you can, yet retain your ability to recognise everyone’s biased narrative and don’t draw conclusions from what others do. Instead, think more like a scientist when you’re building something new: Reason first with principles, then identify the facts and work from there. Afterwards, reflect on your results and see if what you’re building actually makes a positive difference in the world.

Christina Oh