TL;DR In the US, fewer than 90% of startups fail in the first 10 years. In India, more than 90% startups in India fail in the first 5 years. Failure rates depend on year and region. First-time entrepreneurs are more likely to fail.
According to IBM (emphasis IBM's and not mine):
More than 90% startups in India fail in their first 5 years. Lack of pioneering innovation (77%) is the topmost reason for the failure of most Indian startups.
The IBM study, “Entrepreneurial India” is based on interviews with more than 1,300 Indian executives, including 600 startup entrepreneurs, 100 venture capitalists, 100 government leaders, 500 leaders of established companies and 22 educational institution leaders to analyze the macro impact of startups on the economic growth of the country.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has a neat table showing survival rates of establishments (workplaces) from 1994 to now. For each year, the table shows the survival rate of all businesses founded a certain year. (At the time of founding, the business would be a startup. Thus, this table shows startup survival rate.) For example, 17% of businesses founded between March 1993 and March 1994 were still around in March 2018. These statistics show survival rates do vary year-to-year. Thus, it is reasonable to assume startup survival rates vary year-to-year.
The BLS also published a study analyzing the success and employment rates of Silicon Valley startups. This article uses "Silicon Valley high-tech firm" and "Silicon Valley startup" synonymously.
The majority of high-tech businesses born in 2000 did
not survive past 2003. ... By 2009, fewer than 1
in 5 high-tech startups born in 2000 were still in business.
The 2000 cohort’s highest annual survival rate, 93 percent,
occurred in its first year. This finding is consistent with
those from previous studies, which also show that businesses generally have higher survival rates in their first
year. The reason is that new businesses often have enough
initial reserves to survive for at least 1 year.
Chart 2 on page 4 of the pdf shows that in 2008, the survival rate of startups founded in Silicon Valley in 2000 was slightly under 20%. The datapoints for future years are not displayed, but the survival appears to have plateaued. Going back to the table, we see a 38.6 survival rate nationwide. Thus, perhaps unsurprisingly, survival rate varies by region as well. The BLS study further stated:
percent of a typical cohort of high-tech firms survive past
9 years; however, only 17.1 percent of the 2000 cohort
survived that long.
Chart A-1 on page 13 shows ~15% of Silicon Valley startups survive for 15 years. From the table, ~25% of US startups survive for 15 years.
Less credibly, an article titled "Startup Genome Report Extra
on Premature Scaling: A deep dive into why most high growth startups fail" coauthored by researchers from
UC Berkeley & Stanford writes:
More than 90% of startups
fail, due primarily to self-destruction rather than competition. For the less than
10% of startups that do succeed, most encounter several near death
experiences along the way.
The timespan is unclear.
A Harvard Business School article titled "Performance Persistence in
52% of computer startups founded in 1983 eventually went
public, while only 18% of computer companies founded in 1985 ultimately succeeded.
This demonstrates the high variability between year of founding and survival and reflects the concept of "market timing."
The overall success rate on first-time ventures is 25.3%. Not surprisingly, serial
entrepreneurs have an above-average success rate of 36.9% in their first ventures. It is more
interesting that in their subsequent ventures they have a significantly higher success rate
(29.0%) than do first-time entrepreneurs (25.3%).
Thus, the chance that your startup will fail (when you have not created other startups) is higher and the 90% statistic may apply to you and be sensible general advice.
Do 90% of startups fail?
The failure of a startup depends on many factors such as experience, timing, and location. According to IBM, 90% of startups in India do fail within 5 years. In the US, it is highly likely that fewer than 90% of startups fail in a 15 year period.