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Default Alive vs Default Dead

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Default alive is a startup company that is on track to make it to profitability with its current resources. In other words, revenues will cover expenses before cash runs out. The term can also be applied to a program or project that is currently within its schedule and budget.
Default dead is a startup company that doesn't have enough cash to reach profitability. Applied to a project, the term suggests that a project is behind schedule, over-budget or both.
The distinction between default alive and default dead is a consideration in strategy. Default alive initiatives are looking for opportunities to do more. A startup headed to profitability might add new features to its product. An on-track project might be focused on preparing for a smooth launch.
Default dead initiatives may need a new strategy. For example, they might simplify their approach or strip features from a product. Alternatively, if they show great progress they may be able to continue with their strategy by securing additional funds and time.
Default Alive vs Default Dead
Default Alive
Default Dead
An initiative that has enough cash to complete its mission.
An initiative that has doesn't have enough cash to complete its mission.
Typical Strategy
Do more
Prepare for launch
Sell company
Simplify approach
Cut features
Pitch for money


The terms default dead and default alive were coined by Paul Graham, a well known venture capitalist and computer scientist. The terms were initially applied to startups but can also be used to describe projects and initiatives of change.

Change Management

This is the complete list of articles we have written about change management.
Agents Of Change
Anticipating Objections
Bias For Action
Big Bang Adoption
Business Change
Business Stakeholders
Business Transformation
Change Agent
Change Analysis
Change Characteristics
Change Drivers
Change Fatigue
Change Impact
Change Management
Change Plan
Change Planning
Change Principles
Change Process
Change Readiness
Change Resistance
Change Risk
Change Strategy
Choice Architecture
Communication Mgmt
Contingency Planning
Emergent Change
Goal Setting
Impact Analysis
Initial Excitement
Lessons Learned
Message Framing
Nudge Theory
Organizing Principle
Resistance To Change
Revenue Impact
Scope Creep
Status Quo
Turnaround Management
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Project Risk

A list of common project risks.

Project Management Basics

A list of basic project management techniques.


A definition of workaround with examples.

Project Branding

A list of project branding techniques.

Stakeholder Management

An overview of project stakeholder management with examples.

Action Plan

A definition of action plan with examples.

Cost Overrun

The primary types of cost overrun.

Document Control

The definition of document control with examples.

Project Oversight

A guide to project oversight.

Design-Driven Development

A definition of design driven development with examples.

Change Management

A list of change management first principles.

Change Fatigue

An overview of organizational change fatigue.

Resistance To Change

The definition of resistance to change with examples.


A definition of restructuring with examples.


The common types of implementation.

Internal Stakeholders

A definition of internal stakeholder with examples.

Change Agent

A definition of change agent with examples.

Change Management Metrics

A list of common change management metrics.

Status Quo

The definition of status quo with examples.
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