The Failure Fetish Fallacy: Learning is at the Core of Startup Land

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The valley and startup-land does not fetishize failure despite the increasing reports to the contrary. FailCon is not the Darwin Awards for startups. Founders do not start businesses with the express interest to fail.

Instead, the valley is infatuated with the post-mortem of failures and successes alike because within every venture are pearls of wisdom - a subtle but important difference. Extracting and applying these insights can be the difference between success and failure. This is why founders pursue knowledge relentlessly. Ultimately, iteration and learning speed is the hallmark of great startup teams

Startups are vehicles designed to test hypotheses: Will millions of users participate in a photo sharing network? Will tens of thousands of businesses pay $10 per month for easy to use expense reports. Understanding what worked and what didn’t is essential to maximizing the odds of success for new ventures.

The valley in its entirety is structured to share learnings. Founders create huge information dissemination groups in person and through blogs. Incubators, accelerators and others have become de facto vocational training institutes. Advisors and VCs join boards to share experiences. And successful entrepreneurs return to their stomping grounds to regale newer founders with stories of their trials, tribulations and ultimate successes. The ambit of every one of these is success - not failure.

The confusion is caused because we are overloading the term: fail fast, fail forward, etc and we may be doing ourselves a mild-disservice using these terms. But all of these concepts focus on learning quickly.

This dogged pursuit of insight, knowledge and truth is at the core of the valley - not failure.

28 January 2013

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