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How Missing a Deadline Can Sink Entrepreneurial Ideas

  • Harvard Business School researchers find that approximately three out of four entrepreneurs miss their initial deadline for product release
  • As they gain business experience, entrepreneurs tend to get worse at setting deadlines as they underestimate the complexities involved in developing new products
  • Non-linear thinking and other tips for avoiding delays

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

More than three out of four entrepreneurs miss their deadlines when developing products, according to research from Harvard Business School. Second products typically debuted six weeks after they were originally scheduled to be released.

HBS researchers Andy Wu and Aticus Peterson looked at 314 entrepreneurs across 722 technology hardware projects, which were crowdfunded through Kickstarter between September 2010 and June 2019. Their findings were published in the Strategic Management Journal.

The researchers say that entrepreneurs have the surprising tendency to get worse at setting deadlines as they gain business experience, resulting in more onerous delays in product releases. This creates the risk of cash flow disruptions and jeopardizing support from investors.

  • Entrepreneurs often underestimate the time needed to address complications involved in new generations of products, including factors like finding a new manufacturer or shipper
  • Focus on product quality also contributes to short-term delays, although this can be beneficial for long-term goals
  • Wu and Peterson offer tips for avoiding delays, including thinking non-linearly and understanding that product complexity increases over time as new generations developed; starting and testing small to address potential flaws; and recruiting diverse teams who can offer different input

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