Do Startups Stand a Chance Against Big Business?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The latest indications from Silicon Valley are a bit disheartening, particularly for entrepreneurs hoping to get disruptive. Many of the startups that have sprung up over the last few years — many of which are aiming at disrupting already-established industries — are startlingly ineffective at disrupting anything. In fact, with a few notable exceptions, corporate America is looking as strong as ever, at least according to insight from FiveThirtyEight.

As an example of disruptive startups, Uber and Lyft have built their businesses by taking aim at the taxi and transportation system, and it’s definitely worked to some degree. Airbnb is disrupting the hotel and hospitality world. Another example — and possibly the most successful instance — is that of Netflix, which turned the home entertainment industry on its head.

While those companies have tasted success or even flourished, most others are still struggling to swipe market share from incumbents. And for right now, those incumbents are standing strong. While FiveThirtyEight says that entrepreneurship and startups are an important piece to the overall economic health of the country, the rising rates of startup failures and failed ventures have economists worried. In 2011, 27% of new companies went out of business within their first year, whereas 20 years ago, that figure was at 20%. Also of note: during the 1970s, 15% of all businesses in the United States were startups. Now, that number has been cut nearly in half, to 8%.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s going on here, but it’s clear that there are a number of things at work. One possibility is that following the recession, which hit a lot of lower and middle-class residents incredibly hard, people have not been willing to take on the risk of either starting their own company or working for a small business. The security and safety of working for large corporations does have its benefits, as they are less susceptible to going under when economic conditions sour.

This is really only one advantage that big companies enjoy over smaller, less-established businesses. And it plays right into declining rates of business dynamism being seen across the country.