Is design an important part of a startup's offering? If it is, how can we explain the fairly large numbers of companies who are making a killing while harbouring less-than-stellar, or even frankly horrible looking websites?
Jason Cohen nails it, as usual:
I think you can go either way, but you must decide whether or not you're going to value design as core to your startup's identity, and then act consistently.
...it is useful to decide where you come down on the question of design in your startup, because if it's important you'd better work on that right now and develop a consistent culture of valuing design through-and-through, and if it's not important you'd better decide what is important and nail those things all the harder, because you'll be competing with people who are using superior design to cover up their lack of competency in those same areas.
In other words, "it depends". In some businesses, design is crucial. In others, it doesn't matter. Make sure you figure out which business you're in and then act accordingly.