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Beating the Odds When You Launch a New Venture

By Clark Gilbert, Matt Eyring


HBRDespite the popular image of entrepreneurs as risk-loving cowboys, the reality is that great entrepreneurs don't take risks-they manage them. The authors counsel managers to recognize that not all risks are created equal: When you're launching a new venture, first consider deal-killer risks that, if left unexamined, could kill the whole business. Next tackle the risks that could sabotage the project if it took a path you're not currently anticipating. Then focus on high-ROI risks-the questions you can answer without spending much money (but that will trip you up if left unanswered). Once you've identified the most important risks facing your new venture, manage those risks the way the best venture capitalists do: Spend a little bit of money at a time; create experiments that will test your assumptions; keep your timeline as short as you can; test only one thing at a time; and listen carefully for what an experiment's results are really telling you. Hint: You should be trying to prove that your assumptions are wrong, not simply to confirm your own biases.

Article available for purchase on Harvard Business Review.

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