The Chrysalis Effect

Several years after it’s founded, an organization experiences something like the metamorphosis of a larva into a full-grown butterfly. Even for the insect world, this is a brutal transition; the caterpillar molts its skin four or five times and then, as a pupa, literally digests itself. Its old body becomes broth. Formerly dormant cells called imaginal discs, released by new hormones, replicate rapidly, forming eyes, wings, and color patterns. Only one in 400 caterpillar eggs survives to take flight.The chrysalis metaphor is apt because the process of maturation for startups also involves severe winnowing. In 2015, startups died at a rate of one per week, according to the venture capital database CB Insights, and when it comes to scale-ups, the chances of survival are even lower. The survivors become famous: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, and Apple are among them.

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