Is Growth the Best Measure of Startup Success?

Startup Growth & Traction
Growth gets a lot of attention in the startup world. A lot of attention. If you Google “startup growth“, you’ll find a plethora of articles, blog posts and tools all suggesting that growth is the most important measure of your startup.

Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, asserts that “The only essential thing is growth“.

In some sense, this attention is well-deserved. But it is often misunderstood and taken out of context.

Growth is, of course, important. Growth is a telling measure of your product/service’s popularity; and, as such, strong growth metrics are invaluable when you’re trying to raise money from investors.

But growth can, and often does, flatter to deceive. And this is something both entrepreneurs and investors should be wary of.

Entrepreneurs need to be careful because “…many founders hurt their companies by focusing on growth too soon“. This is what Sam Altman, the founder of Loopt and President of Y Combinator, wrote in a recent article on the topic of growth.

His reasoning is simple: if you focus too much on early growth and not on actually building a product people love, then at some stage you will encounter the leaky bucket problem where the customers you worked hard to onboard, leave in droves ne’er to return!

But, if you focus on building a great product then you will have better customer retention and, as a result, growth should become increasingly easy as word-of-mouth spreads.

Consider the example of AirBnB who worked and iterated for years before they got the product just right; and then it spread like wildfire because people loved it.

Equally, investors need to be careful because there are often more telling metrics indicating the potential for success of a particular company. An app, for example, may have achieved 100,000 downloads in its first week, but if 95,000 of those users had stopped using the app by the second week, then the impressive early growth suddenly appears deceptive.

So there we have it. Growth should always be important, but it is also important that entrepreneurs and investors espouse a more nuanced attitude to it than believing it to be the ultimate measure of potential and success.

Author: Oliver Jones

Head of Marketing at Angel Investment Network - helping startup businesses succeed by connecting them with angel investors. Now with over 1 million users. Likes meditation, magic cards and helping + investing in startups...

10 thoughts on “Is Growth the Best Measure of Startup Success?”

  1. Hi , l am woman enterpreneur l would like investors to help me invest.Here in Africa particularly in Cameroon, we don;t have enough places where children can play. there is no play ground, pool or tennis or basket ball.
    Can l have investors which can help me in this domain?

    l have another project build flat with appartments. if there are investors also in that domain please contact me.

    l can also represent a big enterprise of transit or others….
    In the moment, my site is not available l will put it sometimes

    1. Hi Candide,

      Thanks for your message. You should try the South African Investment Network ( We have a large network of angel investors looking for projects across Africa.

      The first step is to register at Then you’ll be able to submit your proposal to our investors. You just need to enter “Outside South Africa” as your region.

      Best wishes,


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