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Report: 75% of Venture-backed Start-ups Fail

One Harvard Business School professor says that a high number of venture-backed start-ups kick the bucket, while the industry says otherwise.

When it comes to venture capital, maybe you shouldn't believe the hype.

About 75% of U.S. venture-backed start-ups fail, according to Harvard Business School senior lecturer Shikhar Ghosh.

The failure rate Ghosh reported to the Wall Stree Journal is far higher than industry reported failure rates, which range from 20% to 30%. The National Venture Capital Association, for instance, estimates that only 25% to 30% of venture-backed start-up fail completely.

Ghosh told the outlet that venture capitalists "bury their dead very quietly."

But the discrepancy may be due to different definitions of failure, he added. Ghosh's research estimates 30% to 40% of high potential start-ups end up liquidating all assets--a failure by any definition. But if a start-up failure is defined as not delivering the projected return on investment, then 95% of VC companies are failures, Ghosh said. 

Despite Ghosh's research, corporate venture capital investments climbed to $2.1 billion in the second quarter, a five quarter high, according to investment research firm CB Insights latest announcement. 

Corporate venture capitalists accounted for 15% of all venture capital deals in the second quarter, and the average corporate venture capital deal was $7.8 million greater than all venture capital deals during the same period.

Last updated: Sep 20, 2012


John McDermott is a business and culture reporter whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Playboy and on He recently moved from Chicago to Brooklyn, New York, to work for

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