Why Most Venture Studios Fail: The Brutal Truth No One Talks About

Tatevik Kyurkchyan

6 min of reading

13 June 2024

You’ve heard the statements: “90% of startups fail,” “Only 10% survive their first five years,” and might have thought these figures are exaggerated. While they may seem daunting, there is some truth to them. If individual startups face such grim odds, how are venture studios, which launch multiple startups, staying afloat? The allure of the venture studio model is creating multiple startups in rapid succession, leveraging shared resources and expertise and minimising risk through diversification. The reality is, many venture studios face similar challenges to startups and often fail for the same reasons. Let’s break down common challenges for venture studios that may sink the ship and what they can do to overcome them.

Common Reasons for Failure

  1. Lack of Focus and Specialisation: Venture studios often fall into the trap of trying to do too much at once. Without a clear focus, efforts and resources become diluted, leading to inefficiency and underperformance. For example, a studio that attempts to tackle multiple industries simultaneously may find itself stretched too thin, unable to gain a competitive edge in any one area.
  2. Insufficient Market Research: Thorough market research is critical before launching new ventures. Many studios underestimate the importance of understanding the market landscape, customer needs, and competitive dynamics. Poor product-market fit is considered one of the most common reasons behind startups failing, with 35% of small businesses 35% of small businesses being unsuccessful due to this issue.
  3. Inadequate Funding and Resource Management: Financial challenges are a significant hurdle for venture studios. Securing enough funding to support multiple startups can be difficult, and poor resource management can exacerbate these challenges. For instance, a studio might run out of funds before any of its ventures achieve profitability, forcing it to shut down prematurely. Insufficient funding is another major reason behind startups failing, and cash flow was reported as a major problem for 82% of businesses in 2023.
  4. Regulatory and Legal Challenges: Ignoring regulatory and legal requirements can lead to severe consequences for venture studios. Regulatory challenges can manifest in various ways, from failing to comply with local policies to encountering new regulations that temporarily halt operations. For example, suppose your studio specialises in fintech startups. In that case, it's vital to know all the ins and outs of the industry, or else you could risk facing severe penalties and legal battles, which can lead to an eventual shutdown.
  5. Inability to Recruit and Train Talent: Without access to qualified and motivated founders and entrepreneurs, venture studios may struggle to maintain momentum and achieve long-term sustainability. Having a strong network ensures that startups within the studio can thrive under capable leadership, reducing the risk of burnout for the studio's core team.
  6. Being Too Attached to Failing Projects: Emotional attachment to failing startups can prevent studios from making the tough decision to pivot or shut down projects. At ICEO Studio, we aim for a pragmatic approach, prioritizing resource allocation and strategic decision-making over emotional attachment.

    The Unspoken Truths

    Beyond the obvious challenges, there are unspoken truths that can significantly impact the success of venture studios. Here are a couple of them we want to highlight:

    • Unrealistic Expectations: Overhyped expectations can set venture studios up for failure. Studios that are overly optimistic about their prospects may overextend themselves and make unsustainable decisions. A studio that launched with grandiose visions but failed to achieve early success ultimately collapsed under the weight of its own expectations.
    • Misaligned Team Incentives: When the goals, metrics, and processes of a venture studio are not clearly defined, team productivity can suffer. If these elements are foggy, team members can become lost and unmotivated. This lack of clarity can lead to confusion, decreased commitment, and ultimately, failure to meet the studio's objectives.
    • The Role of Luck: Timing and luck play significant roles in the success or failure of ventures. Even well-planned and well-executed studios can fail due to bad luck. A studio that launched just before a major economic downturn found itself unable to secure additional funding, leading to its demise.

      Lessons Learned and How to Succeed

      So what can studios do to not let these complications take over? Here are a few actionable recommendations from ICEO Studio that you can implement. For a detailed checklist and guide on designing a successful venture studio, be sure to also check out our Venture Studio Checklist.

    • Focus and Specialization: To avoid spreading themselves too thin, venture studios should concentrate on areas where they have expertise and can add unique value. At ICEO Studio, we specialize in Web3, fintech, and blockchain, leveraging our deep industry knowledge to maintain a strong competitive advantage.
    • Comprehensive Market Research: Thorough market research helps studios understand the market landscape and customer needs, allowing for the development of products and services that truly address market pain points and increase the likelihood of success.
    • Strong Leadership and Team Dynamics: Effective leadership and aligned team incentives are essential for success. Leaders should foster a culture of collaboration and ensure that team members are motivated and rewarded for their contributions.
    • Effective Processes and Adaptability: Implementing effective processes and staying adaptable to change are crucial for navigating the complexities of launching multiple ventures. Studios should continuously refine their processes and be ready to pivot when necessary.
    • Realistic Expectations and Preparedness: Setting realistic goals and preparing for external challenges help studios navigate the uncertain landscape. Studios should be pragmatic in their planning and execution, allowing for flexibility in the face of challenges.
    • Build Strong Networks and Communities: Surround yourself with a community of skilled co-founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and product experts. By fostering high-quality, direct interactions, you can vet new ideas, share knowledge, and make smart hires. This network will provide the support and expertise needed to drive your projects forward and sustain long-term growth.

Despite the numerous challenges, venture studios have the potential to create innovative and successful startups. Remember, startups created within a venture studio model have been shown to achieve 30% better results compared to traditional startups. By learning from past failures and focusing on strategic planning, market research, and effective leadership, aspiring studios can navigate the landscape and turn obstacles into opportunities.

Want to learn more about ICEO Studio’s projects or avenues for collaboration? Get in touch with us here.

Tatevik Kyurkchyan

A content strategist with a flair for marketing and a passion for storytelling. With a background in fiction writing, she transforms complex ideas into engaging and memorable narratives. As a content marketing manager at ICEO, Tatevik drives content strategies that elevate brand presence and connect with audiences.