A recent Roanoke Times news article about formation, growth, sale, and dis-mantling of New River Pharmaceuticals points out how point of view means everything. The company was an investment grand-slam home-run, but an economic development fizzle. In the 2008 government statistics, it will go down as a business that closed up shop. Never mind that its investors pocketed 2.6 billion dollars.
If you root around in the entrepreneurship literature, it becomes clear that everything is unclear, hopelessly confused by the nature of the collected data and the imprecision of the questioning. For example, "not surviving" can include successful sell-outs like New River as well as companies that were never serious attempts at business building in the first place. Many (most?) single proprietor home-based businesses are either hobbies or temporary experiments, rather than solid runs at building something permanent.
Of course, once-published, often-quoted. Pretty soon everyone says that 90% of new businesses fail early.
My conclusion is this: most businesses that are ill-conceived fail; most businesses that are well-conceived succeed. Ill-conceived businesses are sometimes saved by outstanding downstream management. Well-conceived business are sometimes ruined by poor downstream management.
And sometimes, as elsewhere in life, nobody can figure out what the heck happened.