What Is the Development Stage in the Life Cycle of a Business?

What Is the Development Stage?

Development stage refers to the first phase in the life cycle of a new business. During the development stage, companies focus on establishing themselves through activities such as market research, product development, and the construction of new manufacturing facilities.

The different phases in a business’s life have been characterized by economists as the business’s “life cycle”. While the development stage is the first in this cycle, it is followed by periods of market introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.

Key Takeaways

  • The development stage is one of the stages in the life cycle of a new company.
  • The development stage is considered a very difficult stage and is characterized by a high probability of failure.
  • For investors with a high capacity and willingness to bear risk, development-stage companies can occasionally offer spectacular returns.

How the Development Stage Works

Development-stage companies have often not generated any revenues. At the same time, they may be incurring mounting expenses as they seek to ramp up operations. Development-stage companies are prone to chronic cashflow shortages and have a high rate of failure. Investors in development-stage companies must therefore have a high risk tolerance, and often seek to reduce their risk through diversification.

For investors who have the financial resources and temperament necessary to bear the associated risks, investing in development-stage companies can occasionally produce fantastic returns. Whereas most development-stage companies are unlikely to reach success, the few that do become successful can attain valuations that are tens or even hundreds of times that paid by their earliest investors. For this reason, venture capitalists (VCs) and other early-stage investors often find that a very small percentage of their portfolios are responsible for a large percentage of their overall return on investment (ROI).

The development stage is a famously difficult period in the life of any business, as the company’s founders must attempt to develop their business model despite while also relying on relatively meager and uncertain financial resources. Oftentimes, early-stage investors will only provide funds in stages; the next installment of their funding is conditional on the achievement of specific performance objectives.

For developing companies, this uncertain funding outlook can make it challenging to attract and retain new customers and employees who may be reluctant to sign contracts with a company that might prove unable to deliver on its promises. Similarly, investors face a very high risk of failure when backing development-stage companies because these companies’ business models are still relatively untested. When these investments fail, moreover, investors often lose all of their invested capital.

Example of Development Stage

An example of a development-stage company was Pebble Technology, an early product innovator in the market for wearable devices. Pebble Technology created one of the first commercially viable smartwatches, attracting widespread attention through its successful crowdfunding campaigns.

Through its flagship product, the Pebble Watch, the company attracted growing demand from consumers before encountering cashflow difficulties in its attempts to scale up production. Eventually, Pebble Technology became insolvent and sold off its assets to its competitor, Fitbit (FIT).

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  1. MIT Technology Review. "How Pebble Is Killing It on Kickstarter." Accessed Nov. 14, 2021.

  2. fitbit. "Fitbit, Inc. Acquires Assets From Pebble." Accessed Nov. 14, 2021.