21st-Century Success Strategies for Startups

Successful enterprises in 2020 and after will depend on one or more of these, so anyone starting a business or nonprofit today is smart to incorporate some of these into their business plan in order to maximize their chances of success in these fast-changing times.


Not all are brand new, but most have their roots in the last decade or are on the horizon for the next one. Every founder for years to come needs to consider these.

Our innovation hub members learn dozens more of these strategies.

  • Think about who you want to spend your days with and in which role

  • Define and evaluate popular options for businesses like yours in numerous areas before you choose your options

  • Think through your strategy

  • Consider pros/cons of me-too/copy-cat vs unique businesses

  • Build as many proprietary features and processes into your operation as possible to discourage copy-cats

  • Create your own or choose a niche you dominate vs go for 1%-2% of a huge competitive market

  • Avoid markets with lots of eventual competitors (competition kills profit)

  • Consider competitors as role models that make you better

  • Partner with competitors vs compete (as PayPal did with Visa)

  • Use design thinking

  • Inspire people to join your team (as staff, partners and buyers) with a big audacious goal

  • Avoid all types of races to the bottom

  • Create indisputable value

  • Find the gaps and fill them in ways that improve entire systems’ or an industry’s operations

  • Be different

  • Risk being bold

  • Innovate

  • Disrupt by improving something

  • Work to be the very best in your market

  • Solve big, important problems or prevent a buyer’s pain

  • Be nimble AND agile

  • Be lean

  • Build credibility via who you associate with: your early buyers, partners, investors, sponsors, etc.

  • Create something worthy of going viral

  • Be known/liked/trusted

  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission

  • Decide success as money vs as a certain lifestyle and quality of life

  • Use new economy and knowledge businesses

  • Be part of the Internet of Things (IoT)

  • Create one or use the sharing economy

  • Enable the emerging middle classes abroad

  • Develop information products as additional revenue sources (books, courses, training, videos, blogs, podcasts, etc.)

  • Cash is king

  • Create passive income

  • Use OPM – other people’s money (vs your own)

  • Create ways to minimize how much time you trade for dollars

  • Bootstrap to get started quickly

  • Build an asset to sell

Copyright © 2014  2018 Carol Abrahamson. All rights reserved.


Copyright © 2018 by Illinois Business Innovation Association. All rights reserved.

We make every effort to create accurate, up-to-date, leading-edge information but have no liability for anything that doesn't meet that standard.

Carol Abrahamson

Founder & Executive Director

Carol at CarolAbrahamson dot-com


2500 North Annie Glidden Rd, Suite F

DeKalb, IL 60115​​