As an entrepreneur, your most valuable lessons can come from the most unexpected places.

Most people perceive bigger companies and startups as being at odds with each other. However, startups in reality need to be adopting the resilience and structure of legacy companies (businesses or corporations that have left their mark across generations). For many, these organizations lack the appeal and excitement that emerging tech “disruptors” ooze. But paying attention to these veteran companies from your startup’s liftoff will help to ensure your team is designing, architecting and constructing an organization that is capable of adapting and delivering on what it says it is going to.

Startups should take some tips from deeply founded organizations which have already found success in various categories. Here are three ways that founders and burgeoning businesses can learn from legacy companies.


In an era during which tech “unicorns” rein and new products can get lost in the noise, basic business survival skills can be highly valuable. These are times when bigger business can set the standard for quality through market or hype cycles cycles, which are measured by gauging the impact that emerging technology trends can have on businesses in the future. For example, Gartner’s 2017 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies identified artificial intelligence, blockchain, and augmented reality as areas businesses should be paying attention to.

Demetri Argyropoulos, the founder and CEO of business advisory firm Avant Global, says survival is one area where startups can learn from their elder legacy companies.

“Legacy companies have survived hype cycles while focused on a core segment and delivering on consumer demand,” says Argyropoulos, whose firm helps clients ranging from budding Silicon Valley stars to Fortune 1000 companies to identify and nurture strategic relationships. “If startups can achieve that early on, they’ll go a long way.”


An entrepreneur’s odds of failure are much greater than the likelihood of success. In fact, a study by Statistic Brain found that the failure rate of any U.S. business after five years was more than 50 percent. After 10 years, that rises to more than 70 percent.

While creativity and disruptive thinking are typically top of mind for founders, they may be lacking in general business proficiency. Industry “incumbents,” on the other hand, are long-time leaders because they have found success in providing customer satisfaction and in consistently driving new products to market. They’ve set the standard for quality through market satisfaction.

Argyropoulos says this is a common area where he has seen startups flounder. “Startups are often preoccupied with picking apart their business models using a disruptive process. What most of them don’t realize is that they should still be paying attention to the business basics, too.”


Many may find it hard to believe, but legacy companies are fast and furiously becoming the leaders in disruption in their respective industries. It isn’t necessarily the norm anymore for new and sexy Silicon Valley companies to be doing all of the work. An IBM Institute for Business Value study recently revealed that only 22 percent C-suite executives believe that smaller companies and start-ups are leading disruptive change.

But while startups can learn a few lessons from legacy companies, the opposite holds true, too.

Argyropoulos, who has worked with the likes of Viacom, Sony, and Lennar, can attest to that. “Many established companies focus on protecting their IP or trade secrets that define their business while there could be disruption brewing in a segment like web services or packaging which could ultimately challenge their whole business model or financial performance. The perspective of a well-informed business owner is that they often are aware of the landscape they are competing in but not how the landscape may be changing.

“Executing with the bigger picture in mind and understanding how collaboration can accelerate new frontiers for businesses new and old.”