You've heard many times that the vast majority of startups fail. But just how good are your chances of success compared to other unlikely events, such as writing a New York Times bestseller or being falsely declared dead?
In an attempt to answer that question--and many others--the folks at Lottoland have assembled some entertaining statistics on a wide range of unlikely events, including winning the lottery.
Spoiler alert: With odds of 1 in 14 million, winning the lottery is only the second least likely thing to happen to you, according to Lottoland. The least likely is having identical quadruplets, with odds of 1 in 15 million.
What about starting a successful business? Lottoland pegs your odds at 1 in 200. From the information on sources, it seems likely Lottoland drew that number from an article in Business Insider that concluded that about 1 in 200 applicants to Y Combinator are likely achieve a $40 million valuation or purchase price.
Needless to say, there are a bunch of things wrong with this statistic. First, for the purposes of calculating these odds, Business Insider is making the assumption that startups Y Combinator rejects will necessarily fail which obviously isn't always true. Next, it's assuming that a company worth less than $40 million qualifies as a failure, which isn't true either, although receiving venture capital does force founders to start thinking in very big numbers.
Which brings us to the third big problem with this statistic: You could start a company without venture backing and still be extremely successful--just ask Paul Mitchell founder John Paul DeJoria. Admittedly, Lottoland's infographic is tracking ways to get filthy rich, so starting and running a moderately successful business, or a small company that stays small doesn't carry much weight with them. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that Census Bureau statistics put the odds of five-year survival for any new business large or small closer to one in two.
But whether you want to start a venture-backed business and become a household name or just run a small shop in your home town, your odds of success are at least as good as your chances of getting arrested for drunk driving, which Lottoland also places at 1 in 200. On the other hand, your chances of marrying a millionaire are worse, at 1 in 215. So if you've been waiting for a wealthy spouse to solve all your financial woes, you should consider working on a business plan instead.