The Secret to Survival for the Startup Entrepreneur

Here’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received

Trevor Blake
4 min readNov 20, 2020


Photo courtesy of @_cecilencieux/

What is the number one skill entrepreneurs must have if they are to be successful? Adapt or die.

Globally every year, more than 30 million people start new companies, and the majority are single-person ventures like mine have been.

Yet the failure rate of startups is shockingly, and unnecessarily, high.

Of course, the reasons are varied, but I believe the most important are within your control.

I speak from experience…

Just get started

When I was just starting out on my first ‘start-up,’ I had the privilege of dining with the late George Rathmann, founder of Amgen and often called the Bill Gates of the biotech industry.

Today, some 15 years later, Amgen is valued at over $120 billion.

At dinner that evening, George gave me one of the best pieces of business start-up advice I’ve ever received:

“You don’t know what business you are in until you get into it. So just start.”

I didn’t fully appreciate his advice until the day after I finally started my first company. I say the day after because on the day I started my company I thought I knew what I was getting into.

After all, I’d spent a year writing a killer business plan and given George indigestion with my 30-slide pitch deck, accompanied by my breathless commentary.

The day after, however, I realized that I knew very little about my business, and the sudden avalanche of issues and opportunities almost overwhelmed me.

It’s fascinating to consider successful companies and then trace their history to how they started.

For instance…

Wrigley started out selling soap, which is hardly an appetizing accompaniment to chewing gum.

Amazon started out as an online book store, but now makes most of its profit from cloud computing, something that didn’t even exist when it began.

My own first business was about developing treatments for rare pediatric diseases, but…



Trevor Blake

Perpetual student of life. Author of NY Times Bestseller, Three Simple Steps. Author of new book, Secrets to a Successful Startup —