Key success-factors for startup performance through the experience of KICKSTART Alumni

Guest Author
May 7 2020
In 2020 KICKSTART is stepping into its fifth year, when bringing a new batch of entrepreneurs to Switzerland and fostering ecosystem innovation.

In the last four years, it has initiated more than 120 pilots and commercial projects between startups and established organizations from various industries. Through a collaboration with our research partner, ETH Zurich, we learned how collaboration between such different parties works. The research continued in 2019, and Dr. Jennifer SparrNora Varesco Kager and Prof. Dr. Gudela Grote brought us new insights regarding important success-factors for startup performance.


The photograph by Yusef Evans

The research group identified three key elements that have relevant influence on a startup’s achievements:

1 Psychological Ownership

The strong feeling of the team that the startup belongs to them (“this is OUR startup”) is a motivational force related to persistence in challenging times. The research shows that it is positively related to the startups’ performance indications with respect to overall performance compared to their competitors.

2 Team Learning

Startups shouldn’t underestimate the role of feedback seeking, since those early-stage startups who seek feedback more frequently on how to improve capabilities indicated a higher overall startup performance than did startups who seek it less frequently. Another important team learning resource is reflection.Specifically, joint reflection with collaboration partners can help to align expectations, contributing to successful collaborations.

3 Trust

Trust is considered as the foundation for customer satisfaction and we learned it is positively related to a higher frequency of feedback seeking from collaboration partners as well as to a higher rated customer satisfaction.

Based on the surveys conducted with our alumni startups and advisors, the research showed that according to their ratings, startups performed slightly better than their competitors did.

For more detailed research insights and learnings, please read the research report document. The research team of ETH Zurich will continue their work with the 2020 batch.