One Thing That Will Make or Break Your Startup

Ideas are cheap. It’s easy to have an idea. 

If it only took having an idea to scale a million-dollar business, we’d all do it. 

But where the real millions come into play is in the execution. 

Along with all the tests, trials, and tribulations that remind you of why not everyone does this. 

But of all the elements you’ve got to get right to launch a startup, there’s one thing we know for sure – and it’s this:

The innovation path you choose can make or break you. 

Jargon alert: “What’s an innovation path?” I hear you ask. 

An innovation path is simply the journey you need to take from having an idea to building a sustainable business.

However, many entrepreneurs unknowingly choose the wrong innovation path for their goals and the type of startup they wish to run – which is a recipe for heartache. 

So, what are these “pathways” and how do you know if you’re on the right one or not? 

First, let’s identify them. 

There are four key pathways: 

  1. The Small Business Entrepreneurship Pathway
  2. The Breakthrough Innovation Pathway 
  3. The Disruptive Innovation Pathway 
  4. The Breakthrough and Disruptive Innovation Pathway 

Now, let’s break them down. 


This is a pathway with little innovation. Innovation is not the main aim of the game here. 

The whole point of this pathway is to follow a well-trodden path.  

You’re able to capitalise on well-validated assumptions and draw on a pool of experienced staff and service providers who have “been there, and done that”.  

Introduce innovation sparingly, otherwise you risk undermining its primary benefit.


This is a pathway with intense innovation needs. 

If you’re familiar with the TRL index, this pathway is primarily about getting your technology to do what you say it can do, at scale.   

This pathway assumes focus primarily on the solution side rather than the problem side.  

We tend to call these startups “deep tech” startups.  

The primary risk here is believing “if we build it, they will come”. 

Science and engineering-biased organisations (like universities) tend to overinvest in this kind of innovation. 

Unfortunately, their well-deserved credibility inappropriately crosses domains away from research, into commercialisation, compelling investors and governments to follow them over the startup failure cliff.  


Because they often didn’t think deeply enough about who their customer is, and whether they are willing to pay.


This is another pathway with intense innovation needs.  

This pathway relies on adopting relatively mature technology.  

Think Slack and AirBnB. Both adopted mature cloud and mobile technology. GoPro adopted off-the-shelf consumer electronics.  

Hundreds of billion-dollar businesses are created each year using a disruptive innovation pathway. 

  1. The innovation risk revolves primarily around finding a compelling unmet need, and understanding both user behaviour and user success. 
  2. Companies who follow this pathway, deeply understand their customers before they build their product. 
  3. They iterate their product, focusing on delighting their customers and helping them be successful. In doing this, they win fans and advocates.
  4. The best startups following the Disruptive Innovation Pathway reach Product-Market Fit before they attempt to scale. 

The four points above, literally make or break startups. We cannot emphasise this enough.

How do I follow this pathway?

The best approach here is to adopt a lean startup methodology. 

Just be careful to avoid the trap of thinking you’re lean – when you’re really not.


For this most challenging pathway, think Google.  

This is the most lucrative, most innovation-intensive, and the most risky.  

Unless you have so much capital you don’t know what to do with it (like maybe resort to stock buybacks!) this is a path to be avoided.  

If your idea does land in this category, see if you can commercialise your idea in stages. 

Start with either the Breakthrough Innovation or Disruptive Innovation pathways.

What’s the big problem?

Unfortunately, not enough founders get support with innovation pathways in mind.  

Not from other successful entrepreneurs, not from professional advisors, not from investors, and not from innovation programs run by credible institutions or companies.

To maximise your chance of startup success, do two things: 

  1. Choose the right innovation path for you.
  2. Follow that pathway in a disciplined way. 

If you’re embarking on the startup journey – or you’re already on it but you’re wondering if you’re on the right pathway or not, click here to request a Startup Builder Strategy Session and we’ll make sure you’re on the right one. 


Whenever you’re ready, here’s how we can help you.

If you’ve got a startup idea, or you’ve already embarked on your journey – you might be facing one or both of these situations.

  1. You’re struggling while going it alone. Worse, you’re wading in the muddy waters of some not-so-great advice.
  2. Perhaps you’re trying to raise capital for your startup and you’re hitting a dead end. Raising capital is a notoriously difficult thing to do. Globally, only 0.74% of startups manage to raise capital at Seed stage. Despite this, 16% of startups we’ve worked with were able to raise capital at Seed stage.

If you’re ready to step up and get the help you need, our Startup Builder™ program was created especially for you.

The Startup Builder™ process is specifically designed to take you all the way from idea to global success – in a way that’s simple, sustainable, and scalable.

If you’re ready to grow your revenue, profit, and social impact faster without wasting time and money on the wrong things at the wrong time, click here to request your Startup Builder™ Strategy Session.


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