2014-11-28

FailCon: So Your Startup Failed, It Doesn't Mean YOU Are a Failure

Welcome to the Failure Age! - NYTimes.com: "An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. "
The FailCon event in San Francisco was canceled this year and Ms. Phillipps reports in the New York Times that "part of the reason is that failure chatter is now so pervasive in Silicon Valley that a conference almost seems superfluous. “It’s in the lexicon that you’re going to fail.” "30 to 40 percent of venture-backed start-ups blow through most or all of their investors’ money, and 70 to 80 percent do not deliver their projected return on investment." (source)

Startup failure, although destigmatized on a cultural level in Silicon Valley, can be painful for an individual entrepreneur:

Today my startup failed: "No soft landing, no happy ending—we simply failed... Our most recent product, DrawQuest, is by all accounts a success. In the past year it’s been downloaded more than 1.4 million times, and is currently used by about 25,000 people a day, and 400,000 last month alone. Retention and engagement are great. And yet we still failed. It may seem surprising that a seemingly successful product could fail, but it happens all the time. Although we arguably found product/market fit, we couldn’t quite crack the business side of things... I’m disappointed that I couldn’t produce a better outcome for those who supported me the most—my investors and employees. Few in business will know the pain of what it means to fail as a venture-backed CEO. Not only do you fail your employees, your customers, and yourself, but you also fail your investors—partners who helped you bring your idea to life... they’ve supported me throughout the ups and downs, and especially the downs. With that said, life goes on, and the best path forward is not a wounded one, but a more learned and motivated one..." --Chris Poole, founder of 4chan

Rewriting Cheezburger Saved My Life — Backchannel — Medium: "... When my first start-up failed, in 2001, I struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide. Things may have looked bad in 2013, but I had promised myself that I would not return to that same dark, helpless place. For many entrepreneurs, life and business are the same thing—a dangerous yet alluring corruption of the ego. If you really believe that you and your business are one, business failure destroys you, and success rewards you infinitely. But no outcome warrants such sacrifice. I started to tease apart my two identities first by embracing my own failure. I discussed the layoffs publicly. A public failure is embarrassing and isolating. You become the target of an endless stream of negativity. Acquaintances and strangers alike call you a crook, a fraud, a robber baron. You become a scapegoat for all the world’s economic, moral and social wrongs. Once you publicly disclose a failure, you only really have one choice: move on...." --Ben Huh, CEO of The Cheezburger Network

Wearing Your Failures on Your Sleeve - NYTimes.com"“We are getting a billion dollars a month of new investor money coming into the region, [Silicon Valley]” says Dr. Freeman, a co-founder of a nonprofit and a start-up. “If you fail, some investors believe that you’ve got the guts to take it to the mat. That you’re not personally going to be so damaged by adversity as to lose your persistence in business. That you’ll fight.”" (emphasis added)

Resources: failforward.org




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