Failure isn’t always something we can avoid, but it’s always something we can learn from. An awful lot of successful companies flew like a phoenix from the ashes of a failed startup. Even though all their hopes and dreams were crushed, they persevered and eventually had the money and success to wipe away their bitter tears.
According to a CNN Money article, Instagram came from a failed check-in service called Burbn, and Entrepreneur Max Levchin drove four companies into the ground before he launched the wildly successful Paypal. Many companies even see a handful of failures as a badge of honor they can wear once success actually takes off. The best of the best don’t get there by playing it safe—they’ve got to screw up a few times first.
Interestingly enough, failure is so common among startups that members of the tech startup community get together yearly at a conference devoted to failure. Known as FailCon, the one day conference is designed so that all of the great failures of the year can get together to discuss their shortcomings, and rise from the rubble that once was their beloved business or project.
The concept might seem negative, but the intent is quite pure. People screw up, and that’s a fact of life. The conference is geared towards those who have failed and are ready to move on by learning all they can about their mistakes and overcoming them. Attendees are asked to share stories of their failures, and listen to success stories of those that failed, but where able to bounce back. By discussing failure together, they learn to overcome it.
One experience that might one day make it to FailCon is recounted in detail by an anonymous business owner on his blog called “My Startup has 30 days to Live,” in which the author relates his feelings as his business circles the drain. Entrepreneurship isn’t an easy endeavor, even for the well-equipped—a fact made evident by the glimpses into the dark side of business ownership the blog offers. These days, any idiot can have a startup, but only a handful truly make it. Jill and Joe Shmoes everywhere can be worth ten million dollars with the right idea, but there are far more people bleeding money than sleeping on piles of cash.
The author admits that he’s largely responsible for the demise of his business, though he doesn’t leave investors and venture-capitalists with clean hands. Their self-serving interests reportedly helped with plenty of coffin nails, and should serve to remind business owners that not everything is in their hands when other folks are offering the bank roll, and sometimes bad things just happen.
The author’s chronicle of failure will be one of the few remaining vestiges of his failed dream, but at least he can always remember the experiences he had and the mistakes he made, either from running the business in the wrong direction, or by listening to the wrong people.
Whether you’re attending a fail conference, watching epic fails online, or just sympathizing with a failed entrepreneur, there’s really no limit to the things you can learn from failure. You can’t understand good without understanding evil, just like you can’t understand success without understanding failure. The more you see of failure, the more adequately equipped you’ll be to deal with issues and to find the success your business deserves.
Want more about failure? Check out our infographic on server failure.
Photo Credit: sid-raphael via Deviant Art