Let’s Talk About Failure: Lessons to Learn from FailCon

1FAILI find people most endearing when they speak with humility and honesty about things they’d rather not have you know.  FailCon was an amazing day of just that – successful people describing how they failed, rather than how great they are.  Here I’ll summarize my key learnings on running a successful start-up for all of you who weren’t able to attend. (Also check out #failcon on twitter for more).

  • Don’t build your resume.  You screwed your resume up when you became an entrepreneur, so you might as well just go for it. Who cares what the next person is going to think. ~Mark Pincus, Zynga (Love this one!)
  • We are living in a time and place where there is a high reward for success and high social acceptance of failure.  We call this Boom Town.  Take advantage of it. ~ Thor Muller and Lane Becker, Get Satisfaction
  • Don’t get funding too frequently, or too much.  This made the team very lazy.  The coolest things we’ve done have been when we’ve been close to running out of cash.  There’s something about being in a tight spot that you have to innovate out of.  ~Ali Moiz, Peanut Labs
  • Get empathy into your business.  Spend time with your target customers, learn about their behavior and motivations, connect these insights to your business objectives.  ~Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path

  • Create a culture of iteration.  Assume you are wrong.  Continuous improvement should be the goal.  Maximize the quantity and quality of trials. ~ Max Ventilla, Aardvark
  • Define the experience your customers will have: Create a style guide, determine your company’s voice, and the way you and/or your product interact with your customers. ~Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path
  • Prototype and iterate on what you don’t know about your product. ~Brandon Schauer, Adaptive Path
  • Do anything you can to dial down the risk in your start up.  And BE PATIENT (the average successful start-up has a 9 year lifespan). ~ Max Ventilla, Aardvark
  • Hire well.  Hire smart. Build a grade-A team. ~most every panelist
  • Exploit collective wisdom.  Task many people to collect and share learning.  Set aside a regular time to discuss.  ~ Max Ventilla, Aardvark
  • Don’t miss the boat trying for a perfect product.  Get out there before space gets crowded.  ~Diana Benedikt, Venture Insight
  • Be prepared to change direction.  If you see a wall, you can either ram your head against it or you can turn. Get ready to change. ~Max Levchin, PayPal, Slide
  • As an entrepreneur you want to control your destiny.  We don’t want some stupid boss. We want to be the stupid boss.  ~Mark Pincus, Zynga
  • Fear of failure is insidious.  ~Mark Pincus, Zynga
  • We’re in the failure business.  We fail everyday until we hit a day when we don’t fail.  ~Mark Pincus, Zynga
  • Don’t attach to anything that’s written about yourself.  I don’t read comments in techcrunch or venturebeat. You have to not crave respect.   You can’t get caught up in good or bad press. ~Mark Pincus, Zynga
  • Put people on your board that will call you out on your shit. ~Mark Pincus, Zynga
  • Don’t run your organization by committee.  This is not a democracy.  When you make decisions by committee you decide on lowest common demonimator which is mediocre.  ~Ali Moiz, Peanut Labs

Amie runs Cobblestone Solutions, LLC, a consultancy focusing on business development, marketing, communications and strategy for mission driven companies. Previously, Amie served as Director of Business Development for Viv (a Bay Area environmental start-up), Program Manager for Social Venture Technology Group (a boutique consulting firm focused on measuring social and environmental impact), and Associate Consultant at Bain & Co (a global management consulting firm). She is particularly interested in innovations that reduce waste, altering consumer behavior for good, and leveraging the power of business to solve the climate crisis. You can read more from her on her blog, on GreenBiz.com, and on JustMeans.

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  1. Pingback: Better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all | Entrepreneur's Friend

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