Recipes for a Successful Exit for Clean- and Hard-tech Startups

52 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2021 Last revised: 25 Feb 2022

See all articles by Soh Young In

Soh Young In

Stanford University - School of Engineering; Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University

Ashby Monk

Stanford University

Date Written: November 1, 2020


This study demonstrates the combinations of multiple causal factors that formulate a startup’s strategy to successfully “exit”, namely “recipes for a successful exit,” in the clean- and hard-tech sector. We identify seven key causal factors (i.e., causal conditions) that impact startup success, including commercial readiness, investor interactions, favorable industry, non-financial support, straightforward development path, experienced team, and visibility to investors. We also investigate the combinations of selective causal conditions that can provide further synergetic impact. We conduct the fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) on seven U.S. clean- and hard-tech startups that exited between 2005 and 2016. The successful companies all demonstrate distinctive characteristics based on three general categories (1) robust ecosystem; (2) heavy-lifting team; or (3) external opportunity. Across these three categories, commercial readiness and strong investor interactions are necessary conditions for all exit cases. But there are important differences that drive success in each category, such as the interaction with non-financial support (in the robust ecosystem case), experienced team (in the heavy-lifting team case), and favorable industry (in the external opportunity case). Our findings are meant to support entrepreneurs in reaching an exit by optimizing the given internal and external circumstances, and policymakers to build a robust ecosystem that can increase the success rate of the clean- and hard-tech development.

Keywords: entrepreneurship, clean technologies, hard technologies, lab-to-market pathway, exit strategy, fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis

JEL Classification: L22, L26, M13

Suggested Citation

In, Soh Young and Monk, Ashby, Recipes for a Successful Exit for Clean- and Hard-tech Startups (November 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Soh Young In (Contact Author)

Stanford University - School of Engineering ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-9025
United States

Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University ( email )

473 Via Ortega, Suite 324
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Ashby Monk

Stanford University ( email )

United States

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