Research shows that startups that depend on one or two big clients outperform those that do not. "The basic idea in the research is that if you can sell as much to one large customer as you can sell to 10 smaller customers, you're going to be more efficient," says Helena Yli-Renko of the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. But it matters who those clients are -- partnerships with industry players such as Apple can build your startup's reputation, while relationships with less-respected companies may not be as helpful, she says.

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