Recipes for startup success, failure -- from an incubator veteran

March 19, 2012|Gus G. Sentementes

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ann Lansinger, who has run Baltimore's Emerging Technology Center for the past 13 years and who is retiring early next month. Ann has seen scores of companies come and go in the Baltimore tech ecosystem. Many have succeeded. Some have failed.

Along the way, Ann has had the chance to get to know many entrepreneurs and their businesses, and I thought to myself: here is someone who has probably seen it all in the startup world, at least in our neck of the woods here in Baltimore.

So I asked Ann to tell me about her recipes for success and failure for startups. Here's a snippet from the full interview that ran in yesterday's Sunday newspaper:

Do you have a sense of what it takes to succeed — or fail — as a startup? What have you seen in your experience in successful entrepreneurs?

You can see the fire in the belly. And you can see whether or not someone seems to have the confidence, someone who is going to be prepared for the hard times as well as the good. Someone who won't run away easily. I'm going to use Paul Palmieri [CEO of mobile advertising firm Millennial Media, which filed for an IPO this year with plans to raise $75 million] as an example. The day I met him, I knew immediately this guy was going to hit it big. You can see someone who comes in and just has that confidence that they can do it. And they're grounded.

Are there recipes for failure?

People who are not willing to listen. People who are not smart with how they handle their finances. People who are not collaborative. I think those are the people who are likely to fail. A lot of companies fail because the market shifts and people don't have ideas for follow-up products. Anybody who comes in with a one-product company, and doesn't think about how to change or add to it, is probably not going to make it.

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