Marc Anderseen, co-founder of Netscape, has made an interesting observation regarding startups in his Blog post:
"I'll assert that market is the most important factor in a startup's success or failure..."
"In a great market -- a market with lots of potential customers and/or a highly growing set of potential customers -- the market pulls product out of the startup. The market needs to be fulfilled and the market will be fulfilled, by the first viable product that comes along. The product doesn't need to be great; it just has to basically work. The market doesn't care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product. In short, customers are knocking down your door to get the product; the main goal is to actually answer the phone and respond to all the emails from people who want to buy."
His post makes room for an interesting corollary (see my comment on the post and Marc's response):
Startups having their development teams/engineering staff workng out of India have it much harder. When you are a startup, achieving the right product/market mix will surely require a few iterations. These iterations are much harder to achieve in a nimble manner if your marketing staff sits in the US and "hands-off" the specs over concalls or after meetings. It is very easy to lose precious time in this back-and-forth exchnage. I would guess this partly explains why the Indian software companies have not been able to develop consumer websites or products like Yahoo or AOL Messenger, though they have been successful in Indian markets (Rediff, IRCTC).
Disclaimer: I have worked for a startup (Webrizon) only for a limited period and it was unable to make much headway. Hindsight is always 20/20 and so if any readers have specifics to add, please post a comment.