FailCon: You Can Fail. Just Don’t be Stupid.

| October 25, 2011
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FailCon 2011 (Photo: Julia Buchner)

Advice for the just-failed entrepreneur, from computer scientist Anna Patterson:

  • Know when it’s over.
  • Acknowledge you’re grieving and depleted emotionally and physically. Hire a therapist and a personal trainer.
  • Reintroduce yourself to your family and your personal financial picture.
  • Don’t waste time in Tahiti. Get a job right away.

Patterson is back at Google after a failed attempt to make Cuil the search engine of choice. She was the opening act yesterday for FailCon, the annual gathering in San Francisco. The conference aims to share hard-earned wisdom from business failures.

They happen all the time, for all sorts of reasons, but in most quarters, people weep silently into their pillows.

Aye Moah, Product Chief with Baydin, came from Boston. “On the East Coast, people are, like, oh, you shouldn’t mention [that she was involved with two failed start-ups] on your resume. Here, you talk about it. You discuss it. What did you learn from it?”

Vinod Khosla was perhaps the biggest name at this year’s FailCon.

“My willingness to fail gives me the ability to succeed.” He’s quite fond of aphorisms.

You have to appreciate a venture capitalist who quotes Maya Angelou. He likes this (paraphrased) quote from the iconic author and poet: “You’ll face many defeats, but don’t let yourself be defeated.”

Josh Merrill, founder of TapCanvas, offered this quote about failure from John Doerr:  “The best way to get Vinod Khosla to do something is to tell him it’s impossible.”

Cass Philips, executive producer of FailCon, has her own favorite quote, from Manu Kumar with K9 Ventures: “Don’t hire anyone you can’t fire.”

Indeed, though there are many reasons why businesses fail — poor market research, bad timing, cash flow problems, scaling problems, conflicts with funders, burnout -– there was wide agreement in the crowd that too many start-ups are hatched by college buddies over a six pack of beer.  Some of those buddies can deliver on the vision. Others, not so much.

Final note.  That aphorism in the blog post title?  From Cathy Brooks of Other Than That.

Rachael Myrow is the host of The California Report.


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Category: Economy, Education, Technology

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About the Author ()

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness. Reach Rachael Myrow at

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