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This is First Round's effort to provide an in-depth snapshot of what founders across the entire tech ecosystem think, feel, fear and value. We surveyed over 860 venture-backed founders who volunteered their experience and opinions.
Every year, we survey as many venture-backed
startup founders as possible to ﬁgure out what it's
like to run a technology company right now. This
year, we got more responses than ever before
— 869 — giving us an even more precise pulse on
what entrepreneurs think, feel, fear, and value. As
we have since 2015, we're excited to present the
results here — starting with the trends and insights
that stood out as important or counterintuitive.
This year, we asked about everything ranging from
the fundraising environment to politics, as well as
perspectives on sexual harassment and diversity
At First Round, whenever we ask founders what
data they most want and need, they almost always
say the same thing: they want to know what other
entrepreneurs are thinking and doing (and
whether what they're doing is normal or in line
with their peers). To answer these questions, we're
pleased to publish the industry's largest set of data
speciﬁc to the founder and startup experience —
we hope you ﬁnd it informative and insightful.
1Half of founders have had personal
experience with sexual harassment.
Over 50% of the 869 founders who took the
survey have been or know someone who's
been sexually harassed in the workplace.
Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the results
to this question were extremely gendered —
78% of female founders said they've been
or know someone who's been sexually
harassed, compared to 48% of male founders.
They also split on public perception of the
issue. 70% of female founders said sexual
harassment in the industry is still
underreported vs. 35% of male founders. And
men were 4 times more likely than women
to say the media's overblown the issue (22%
2 Women and men disagree on what will help
solve tech's sexual harassment problem.
Female founders' top solutions:
More women VCs and pressure from limited
partners to prevent bad behavior (tied with
blacklists publicly calling out oﬀenders).
Male founders' top solutions:
Sensitivity training and more media
coverage of incidents when they occur.
Both genders agreed that decency
pledges alone won't cut it — only 1% of
women and 4% of men thought they were
the best solution.
3 1 in 3 founders think ICOs can compete
with venture capital.
With Bitcoin and Ethereum hitting record
highs, and ICO ﬁnancing outpacing early-
stage venture this year, the founder
community seems to be embracing this new
form of funding.
The most eye-popping stat:
In Q2 and Q3, a whopping 90% of the $2.3
billion raised by blockchain startups came
4Politics impact who founders want in
25% of founders said someone's perceived
or known political aﬃliation would inﬂuence
whether or not they'd oﬀer them a job.
29% said an investor's politics would
aﬀect whether they'd take the money.
37% said they'd be swayed in
choosing a board member based on
the person's political views.
5 Founders remain unfazed
Despite giants like Amazon and
Google making bold moves this year,
only 5% of founders said they think
their company will fail because a
competitor outdid them.
Many more respondents said they fear
not raising enough follow-on capital
(22%), missing product-market ﬁt
(17%), growth stagnating (15%), or
hiring the wrong people (11%).
6 For the ﬁrst time, sales leaders take the
title of hardest to hire.
In 2015 and 2016, engineering leaders
were far and away the hardest executive
hires to make.
But this year, the tables turned, and
sales leaders became the most coveted
and diﬃcult hires (with 26% saying
sales was the hardest vs. 24% saying
This looks like the start of a sea change
as more enterprise companies enter the
fray, compete for talent, and see
ﬁrsthand how costly a bad VP of Sales
hire can be.
Compared to their peers who think
fundraising's a piece of cake,
founders who struggle made the
same mistakes more often:
3x as many said they monetized too
late; 2x more chose the wrong co-
founder; almost 2x more pursued the
wrong business model; 40% more of
them botched their go-to-market
strategy; and 40% more let their burn
rate get too high.
Founders who struggle to fundraise
make the same mistakes.
8 Investors now have the power
For the last two years, the majority of
founders (64% in 2015 and 61% in
2016) said that entrepreneurs had the
upper hand when negotiating terms
This year, for the ﬁrst time, this power
dynamic has ﬂipped, with 53% of
founders saying investors now have
more sway. Notably, this is a shift that
67% of respondents said they saw
coming last year.
9 2 out of 3 women founders say their
gender hurt their ability to fundraise.
66% of women respondents said
they think their gender made it more
diﬃcult for them to raise venture
capital. So, it's not surprising that
female founders are also much more
likely to say that investors hold the
power in negotiations — they have
Kudos to the third of male respondents
who acknowledged that gender
probably helped their fundraising ability.
To the 12 men who said it hurt their
10 Good character is the #1 reason
founders pick a lead VC.
By far, good character stood out as
the #1 criterion founders said they
look for in a lead investor.
28% said so, compared to the
runners up: partner expertise
(15%), deal terms (14%), and long-
term funding potential (11%).
A team of phenomenal people made this year's State of Startups possible.
Many thanks to Andreas Weiland, Jarom Vogel and July Camp Design for
building this beautiful site. And to Mike Goodwin, our indefatigable data
scientist, who made sure we did everything right (especially our math).
Last but not least, we're grateful to the hundreds of founders who took the
time to share their perspectives so that we could create an accurate
snapshot of startup life in 2017.