Straight from the horse's mouth: Founders' perspectives on achieving 'traction' in digital start-ups

Hasnain Zaheer*, Yvonne Breyer, John Dumay, Mahesh Enjeti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Factors that contributed to the success of 12 digital start-ups are explored from the perspective of their founders. Key insights were drawn from narrations of their start-up journeys, along with interviews, public documents, and existing theories on entrepreneurship. The result is a rich tapestry of combined experiences and wisdoms on human and social capital, organisational and developmental processes and the priorities necessary to achieve early success - or traction - in digital start-ups. The founders emphasised having a vision and purpose based on solving customer problems; values that prioritise their customers' needs over their own; focusing on a limited range of activities while pursuing iterative product development; and developing a customer base with an emphasis on quality and user experience. Each founder was part of a cohesive founding team comprising complementary business and technical competencies that pursued continual learning. And each founder demonstrated a digital start-up mindset - an entrepreneurial attitude combined with a deep understanding of the scalable, open, born-global, generative nature of digital technologies. These insights we derived from our analysis have been combined into a proposition for the TrAction framework, which contains the elements necessary to set a trajectory and the actions for achieving early success in digital ventures. The study provides practical learnings and applications for entrepreneurs and theoretical advances for academics in this nascent field of research through empirical insights across multiple aspects of digital start-up performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-274
Number of pages13
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Early online date1 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Digital entrepreneurship
  • Digital start-ups
  • Entrepreneurial performance
  • Internet start-ups


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