How can start-ups overcome the ‘Valley of Death’?

One third of Nexus member businesses have accessed private investment since engaging with us and more than 80% have secured pre-seed funding.

This is something we’re extremely proud of and want to continue to build upon, but we’re also aware of the challenges new businesses face. The “Valley of Death” – a period where start-ups operate without revenue – is a significant challenge. But it’s one you can rise to meet for long-term success.

Three people stood in front of a whiteboard with post it notes on

So how can businesses overcome the “Valley of Death”?


Start-ups should seek out people they admire and whose expertise they value. They might be fellow entrepreneurs or people looking for their next business challenge. They may even be academic minds in their sector.

We’ve learned that start-ups are far more likely to thrive when they can draw on guidance from experienced, talented mentors with a proven track record.

Learn from any fellow start-ups who have also been through this. What pitfalls did they face and what are their success tips? This type of advice can often be worth more than the investment and can determine whether you survive – or thrive.


Grants from government agencies can bridge the gap between the ideation stage and securing investment and funding. Remember you don’t need to pay grants back or give equity in your business. We often find the members who migrate best between these stages are collaborating with the University on funding applications.

Typically, businesses only look for grants they are eligible for based on their industry. But this means you may miss out on grants that you are eligible for. Partnering with a University can help you discover new grant opportunities for your business.


Collaborating with a University is a great move, since its reputation reduces the risk of investment. It’s also drawing upon a wealth of experience and forming partnerships that have a track record in meeting businesses’ funding needs.

You can collaborate with other start-ups and businesses and seek opportunities for mutual gain. This allows you to build the expertise and knowledge of your team, while reducing the risk involved.

Take a look at our case studies for more essential business insights from Nexus.