Given the amount of startup activity we've been witnessing the past couple years in the web space, we are in for a bunch of strikeouts this year. We should not avoid talking about failure. Words like roadkill and deadpool should be avoided at all costs. But I sure hope that the lessons that were learned will be shared with respect and restraint.

My friend Roger Ehrenberg has a great post on this today. Please go give it a read.

I'll end with the comment I left on Roger's post:

in the VC business, if you hit .300, you are doing well. if you hit .400, you are going to the hall of fame. but it is how you behave when you strike out that defines your reputation. 

no throwing bats 🙂

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Farhan Lalji

    Amen. For start up entrepreneurs it’s about just getting back to the plate though!We suffered our first set back this year, getting to the Seedcamp finalists but not winning. Had to regroup and focus and get up dust ourselves off and keep plugging away.Think resilience will separate the winners from the losers over the next couple of years.

    1. David Noël

      Farhan – I was at Seedcamp, saw you pitch and thought it was in the top five that day. I am sure you will do fine, keep going.

    2. Mark Essel

      My strategy is to build on my own, and pitch after I find a winning prototype (whether it takes years or decades). Do you find that pitching early helps you refine the product faster or uncover an opportunity?

      1. Farhan Lalji

        Seedcamp isn’t like your everyday pitching event, we had meetings with about 20 mentors during the day so it’s really helped shape the strategy, product and actually connected us with costumers and partners. Great experience regardless of the “official” result.

        1. Mark Essel

          Aha, many beneficial side effects built into the experience. New potential customers are priceless, not to mention building relationships and exposure to investors. Thanks for the reply Farhan.

  2. Matt A. Myers

    5:43am and no sleep yet, so my comment may just be non-sense..Wouldn’t it be how you behave defines your character? Reputation is just what people know of you … I suppose they are likely just to hear of how you threw the baseball bat, and not all the other parts of you that make up your character. This is Matt analyzing things when Matt probably shouldn’t. Matt hasn’t done an all-nighter in awhile now, especially not after two very busy days!! Sleep soon for me.. until a phone meeting at 11 – it should go well! :DI hope someone else will laugh at this post and not just me… alwell. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      i have found that the way people behave in tough times is a lot morerevealing than how they behave in good times

      1. Mark Essel

        I’ve observed it in my own behavior. After my first week of back at the gym and bad sleep I became a real pain in the ass. Thank goodness my dogs don’t mind my sailor’s vocabulary. This week’s been much better.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        I agree, and most people become very nasty. 🙁 I lot of people don’t know how to deal with anger. The first part is acknowledging the fear; Fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of ridicule, fear of discomfort, fear of the unknown.

      3. David Semeria

        Very true



        1. fredwilson

          I AM HAPPY

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  3. RichardF

    “Read what you’ve written, clean it up, and share it with others however you like. The process of sharing is both cathartic and can generate some valuable feedback for your future endeavors.”I like this, there were a couple of founders that wrote about why their start up failed, one of them was by Marc Hedlund. From an entrepreneurs perspective they are excellent lessons to learn from.The other I would say is when a venture fails, do what is right by employees, suppliers, customers and investors as quickly as possible. Nobody wants the death by a thousand cuts.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, fail fast

      1. falicon

        In order to do this, you need to have a preset definition of what ‘failure’ is to your company…everyone sets goals and has road maps, but I think very few have clear cut definitions in place to recognize failure…We thought we would get 1,000 customers this year…we got 836…does that mean we failed? Is there something we could tweak to make it work? Is it just a matter of setting better goals for ourselves? Or is it really an indication that what we are trying to do isn’t going to work the way we want/need it to…Once you’ve started something, it’s easy to talk yourself out of failure and not notice the water starting to boil right under your feet…so set clear ‘failure’ indications at the start, and check in on them just like you do your ‘goals’.That’s the key to failing fast…or as I prefer to call it, learning quick =D

    2. awaldstein

      Agree…but easier said than done here.It takes hyper belief to drive forward and it ain’t easy to let go. Especially with the multiple strings of responsibilities to employees and investors.Not arguing against your point, just restating that its really hard to do.

  4. Harry DeMott

    Fail fast, move on. Dragging things out is no good for anyone.

    1. David Noël

      @tdavidson wrote a terrific post on the topic in 2008 titled 25 secrets learned through failure. Highly recommended”Fail fast, fire, aim, repeat”:

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        Not so sure about repeating. Some people should try again and make use of their new gained knowledge. Others should just do other things.

  5. ErikSchwartz

    I hed the odd situation in my last company where one of the vc’s just would not let it go.I went to the board in October of 2009 and told them we’re out of money in 4-6 months, we have some value here, we need to package up the assets (interesting tech in the cloud voice space) and try to sell them for what we can because the market under us has evolved so quickly out original plan is not going to work. Our lead vc would hear none of it. He just wanted to keep on pushing down the road. He kept repeating to me my market observations from 2006-07 (in the mobile space) that were no longer valid.I knew continuing on the original path was a waste of time. If we were to continue, we needed to leverage our business connections, walk away from about 50% of our technology and 75% of our marketing and pivot hard to smartphones.Eventually I saw the relationship was unsalvageable, he wanted to take the company in a direction I strongly disagreed with, so I resigned. Six months, and a few bad bridge loans later the company went under. Many of the remaining employees were screwed over in the process (which i feel terrible about).If I had done better due dili on this investor I would have discovered he has a history of riding companies all the way down (like Slim Pickens in Dr Strangelove).

    1. fredwilson

      denial is a powerful forcedenial that he made a bad investment in this casei fight this all the timeit’s a bitch

    2. Sebastian Wain

      It’s very interesting to discuss around what you said: “… because the market under us has evolved so quickly our original plan is not going to work.”We all knew that mobile will be a major force in the future, but until the market doesn’t take shape it’s difficult to progress. Competitors and established markets give a lot of guidance and information. I think guidance is the chain between vision and execution.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        I greatly underestimated the adoption of data prior to the release of the iPhone (05-06). Not even so much the actual adoption (there is still billions of feature phone users out there today), but the perception that smartphone would be everywhere soon.The iPhone so greatly changed the slope of the adoption curve that realistic market analysis done in 2006 was useless by 2008.

        1. Sebastian Wain

          In that case it was impossible to estimate. Because a single company/product was a game changer.I also know failure counterexamples to that (two sides of the same coin), a friend started alone a 2D game engine for the iPhone and it’s not the most used 2D game engine in the world. Many of the presentations at the Apple conferences were using

          1. Sebastian Wain

            I tried to say: “it’s now the most used iPhone 2D game engine in the world”

      2. fredwilson

        That is a common cause of failure (and pivots)Pivots are failures trying to be successesFlickr was a pivotTwitter was a pivotMongoDB was a pivot

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Could you elaborate on how Twitter was a pivot?

          1. ErikSchwartz

            It was a pivot from Odeo.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Which would make Odeo the failure, in Fred’s formulation — but it appears that’s still around, although it evolved into an enterprise SaaS biz..

          3. ErikSchwartz

            I think Obvious Labs sold off the assets

          4. Dave Pinsen

            Right. To Sonic Mountain, I think.

          5. falicon

            twitter was a pivot from odeo (video blogging)

          6. Dave Pinsen

            OK, think I got it now: Odeo was originally video blogging, failed at that, but found a viable model later as some sort of corporate SaaS video platform. Twitter was a pivot from the original incarnation of Odeo.Thanks.

          7. Dave Pinsen

            Even better, thanks. Reading it now.

          8. fredwilson

            Started as a podcasting business called odeo. It didn’t work. They startedtrying some new ideas. One was twitter. The rest is history

          9. Dave Pinsen


        2. Eric Leebow

          It would be interesting to see why these companies you’re alluding would not be able to pivot. When you say “failure” do you mean they’re going to make a pivot? I’m also wondering if you’d be able to sell the companies or make them go public. Where or when do you draw the line between failure and pivot?

        3. Neil Braithwaite

          “Pivots are failures trying to be successes”Does that sentiment cross-over to politics?Have I been hearing since the November election that President Obama was going to pivot?Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

          1. Aaron Klein

            Yes and if he wins re-election in 2012, it will have worked.Of course the question we ask of every President seeking re-election is: was it a sincere pivot, or do they just want what every first-term President wants? (A second term.)

          2. JLM

            There is truly a possibility that Pres Obama — my President mind you and the only one we’ve got just now — may wreck the entire country by 2012.He is off to a damn good start.The speech he gave on Tuesday in which he had discovered sex, earmarks and freezes (tiny little freezes to be fair about it) was truly remarkable for its lack of being remarkable.When a country like ours with functioning, auditable nuclear power plants is sending money to the Middle East for oil and not building nuclear power is proposing the solution to our energy problems is solar, wind and thermal — ooops, I just threw up into my mouth, sorry — you truly have to wonder who had checked out the brain that day.The deficits we are wracking up while pontificating about all the “new investments” will choke a horse, a very big horse.I blame it all on a faulty teleprompter.

          3. Aaron Klein

            I should expand on my comment above and make clear that I don’t see a true pivot here.In this post on failure (perhaps an appropriate place for discussion of our federal government’s performance), we’ve talked a lot about what pivots are: picking yourself up, taking what you’ve got, building a new product and heading in a new direction.Pivoting and rebranding are not the same thing.The President delivered much the same speech a year ago. He still believes in his heart of hearts that we can tax and spend our way to prosperity; it is one of his core principles. On Tuesday night, he replaced the word “stimulus” with the word “investment.”The question is, will the American people like the rebranded product any better?The other party is doing a fabulous job of trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but I heard the faint sounds of a winning message: let’s get our debt and deficit under control so that the private sector can feel secure in making those investments, and can create jobs and prosperity for all.

          4. JLM

            The equanimity of your statement and its simple and incontrovertible logic disqualifies it from real consideration.You cannot lose weight eating 10 cheeseburgers a day and you cannot solve our problems by doing more of the same things that got you into trouble.I have no love for the Republicans except for Paul Ryan.Truly, we could wreck our country by running a couple more 1.5T deficits.

          5. Aaron Klein

            “10 cheeseburgers a day” = great analogy. Well said.Is there any chance we can get you to run for office? :)(By the way, hate to do this on AVC, but did you get my e-mail message? If so, and you’re busy or uninterested, no big deal.)

          6. fredwilson

            If we haven’t wrecked it already

          7. Dave Pinsen

            Yes, but Obama said he’d cut $400 billion in non-defense discretionary spending over ten years (and all the innumerates cheered).

          8. fredwilson

            They also need a winning carrier of that message

          9. Dave W Baldwin

            A faulty teleprompter with a clueless gentleman standing behind it does deliver a positive point regarding Artificial General Intelligence.I’d say his speech was more pointed to the history books in the future where he’s hoping the brief describes him as one of the most brilliant presidents.In the short term he can say everyone loves his ideas but the republicans are uncooperative.Now it is a matter of seeing if the Republicans can be a little more crafty in delivery, showing some wit along with determination.

          10. fredwilson

            what the republicans do in the next two years will be tellingi’m looking for some good ideas, some truth, and some good leadershaven’t seen any of that yet, but i’m hopeful it will come

          11. Dave W Baldwin

            The emergence of simple truth is needed since the public wants it.At the same time, though I’m a Republican, I hope the Blue Dogs in the Democrat Party can learn from their wounds and do something.I am a ‘glass half full’ kinda guy obviously ;D

          12. JLM

            These high expectations set for the Rs seem particularly misplaced.The Rs have the House but not the Senate and not the WH.The Rs are not in a position to provide any truly meaningful leadership because they really have no followers other than themselves.Obama had it all — House, Senate, WH — and he allowed Spkr P and Sen Reid to dictate the agenda.He squandered his beans.

          13. fredwilson

            i’m talking about the question of who will emerge as the leader ofthis country in 2012i’ve not seen any good ideas, truth telling, or leadership from the GOP yeti’m hopeful that it will emerge

          14. Neil Braithwaite

            In keeping with the content of this blog, what conditions would have to be met before our esteemed AVC curator invested another dime into America’s governing body?

          15. JLM

            Politicians — all of them, mind you — are weathervanes.Getting blown in whatever direction the electorate puffs to get re-elected and re-elected and re-elected.Get that dirty thought out of your dirty little mind or the nuns will wash your dirty little mouth out!

          16. Aaron Klein

            Here’s a great piece from Chris Stirewalt on that topic. I’m not personally a big Fox News fan myself, but he hit the nail on the head here.

          17. fredwilson

            He’s pivoting very nicely

        4. ShanaC

          Do you mind going into more deeply about the idea of pivots, failures, and successes?

          1. Matt A. Myers

            Maybe it could fill a whole post topic for discussion.

  6. David Noël

    As much as we like to hear (and talk) about the winner stories, it’s important to have the same open discourse about failure. It’ll help process the experience for the ones affected and help others to learn from the experience.Throwing in Bijan’s post from two weeks ago also inspired me to write down some thoughts about the same topic:

    1. RichardF

      I read your post when you published it David, I agree with you about reporting failure to the family, it is the hardest thing.

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      Yes, talking about it makes the picture about entrepreneurship more complete. I’ve seen a few people go into starting a business moved by the nice stories they read everywhere, just to discover that things are harder than expected. A couple of them would kill for an opportunity to go back to their previous life.

      1. David Noël

        I wish other industries would address the notion of failure more openly (cough *banking/finance* cough)

  7. kagilandam

    Ideas can fail … but the entrepreneur in you should not.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, exactly

      1. baba12

        Yes but rarely do you hear of a VC funding a failed entrepreneur. They like to invest in “winners”. So it is nice to say the entrepreneur in you should not die when your idea dies etc but the probability of being funded only diminish with failures.

        1. kidmercury

          pincus failed with some social networking ventures, then fred funded him, now they are laughing at everyone

          1. fredwilson

            I funded him in those failures too. I’ve been with mark since he was 27

      2. Mike Hart

        Let me ask this another way. An entrepreneur with the same idea is 0-2, 1-1, or 2-0 in prior companies. Which one do you fund?

        1. fredwilson

          Can I meet with him or her before answering that?

  8. Fernando Gutierrez

    There is a song by Andres Calamaro (Argentinan singer) that says “no cometas el crimen si no puedes cumplir la condena”, which translates as “don’t commit the crime if you can’t serve the sentence”.I’d say that the same is true for entrepreneurship most of the times. If you can’t afford to fail you should not be doing it. Many people talk about being all-in as something great. And it can be because it gives you determination. But people who are all-in are usually those who make the worst decissions when things flip because they have nothing to lose.

  9. Tom Labus

    Look at all the “social networking” companies that died before Facebook had its run. The lessons from those companies are almost more valuable then the guys who make it.In Tech, and I guess other industries everyone averts their eyes but that’s part of the deal for starts ups and should be expected and analysed.

  10. Sebastian Wain

    There are different kind of failures.Many startups with inexperienced people are very naive. This is a failure that needs to be mitigated. It’s ok to have a great vision but knowing in some way the real challenges ahead.Also, many times big investments just accelerate failure and give a bad direction to the company. I put money in the seed stage of a company (mobile/palm in the late 90s), that later received an investment and they closed the business last year (in the mobile hype!) while that other similar companies with few money could evolve better.The .300 and .400 hit is one of the most interesting things to analyze. Sometimes just having a few new key customers impacts your business tremendously. For example in my very small business I calculate that “just” a 2x increase in solutions sales move our company in a new direction, but it’s difficult when you are targeting niche markets.Again, the most important thing is having the time (i.e: enough money in the bank) to surf between business/economic cycles and learn from experience. This experience trump education.

    1. Mark Essel

      That experience IS education.

      1. Sebastian Wain

        Yes. Right.I should say “formal education”.How many MBAs is a Startup worth? it depends, but it’s nice to compare.

    2. Dale Allyn

      “Again, the most important thing is having the time (i.e: enough money in the bank) to surf between business/economic cycles and learn from experience. This experience trump education.”Very true statement, Sebastian.

  11. LIAD

    Shit happens. Things don’t always turn out as we hoped, regardless of the energy, love, thought and attention we put into them.As long as you act with integrity, honesty and respect and treat investors money with the same care and diligence you would your own, failing is nothing to be ashamed of. It is better to have tried and failed than to never have triedTake a breath, learn the lessons, dust yourself off and get back in the game.The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Speaking of needing to dust myself off. I just wasted my time with a design company who seemed to just be fishing for my ideas. They signed NDA and all, but now wasted time, and delays projects. *sigh*If anyone knows anyone good with CSS3/HTML5/JS and cross-compatibility – that might be available in the near future – let me know? Will be very appreciated.



        1. Matt A. Myers

          Uh-ho.. what have I gotten myself into. 😛 Hopefully you have a Robot Dinosaur “off” switch.. 🙂

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  12. Ronen Mendezitsky

    Do you think all the major increase in funding of internet startups may cause a collapse of some VCs due to failure? or is this an exaggeration?

    1. fredwilson

      Not sure. Too early to know

  13. awaldstein

    “Theres no success like failure. And failure’s no success at all”Dylan was circling round this same point in “Love minus zero”.

    1. fredwilson

      Zimmerman for the win!

      1. awaldstein

        He had a monster winning streak for my generation.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          His son was on fire for a year or two as well.

          1. awaldstein

            Agree…I have selected Wallflower songs on my workout mix.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Have you read Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel (“Freedom”) yet? There’s an interesting bit about Dylan in it.

          3. awaldstein

            Nope…been too busy lately. I’ll put it on the list.I found myself telling someone the other day that one of the advantages of being of my generation was coming of age in the club/pre-stadium music days.Being able to see The Stones (@ Fillmore East), Hendrix and QuickSilver and Easy Dozen Jug Band and Blues Project and endless others in bars was a gift. Made music and the musicians really personal.

    2. William Mougayar

      A (successful) friend of mine’s email signature was:”When all else fails, achieve immortality through spectacular error.”

      1. awaldstein

        great one. thanks for sharing.

  14. kidmercury

    in a world with billions of people in poverty, food riots around the globe, and 1 in 7 american households on food stamps, failure is no big deal. the whole world is failing. you’ll fit right in! :Dand of course as tyler durden told us, it is only after you’ve lost everything, that you’re free to do anything. failure can set you free.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      I get the sense Roger Ehrenberg is talking about a different kind of failure. Failing at a venture-backed start-up seems to be a little more like failing as an NFL coach than, say, failing at a conventional business or a franchise after sinking all of your own into it.

  15. William Mougayar

    Totally agreed that we’re bound to see more failures as a result of the increased overall funding activity. The law of mathematics. Good warning, Fred. The one thing that I see which bothers me is when VC’s hide their failures or tuck them in or pretend they never happened. I might be wrong- but it strikes me that entrepreneurs are more likely to be open about their failures than VC’s. I mean in the “talking about it” sense, not the “taking the blame for it” sense. It might be because VCs don’t want failures to tint the rest of their portfolio. It’s misleading when you look at a VC website and they dress up all their investments as winners, although it’s a known fact that on average 30% are winners. One has to read the tea leaves to figure out the reality. Eg when a given Exit is branded as success when it was known that it wasn’t. Would it not be more transparent if VCs listed the “failures” explicitly and explained the lessons learned. I think both VCs and entrepreneurs have a responsibility for failure communications transparency.

    1. David Bloom

      I always respected Bessemer for publicizing their Anti-Portfolio ( Apple, Google, Ebay, HP…. And they list their most notable exits with a date attached. That’s a healthy attitude.

      1. William Mougayar

        That’s a good way of doing it. Thanks for sharing. I’d like to see more examples like that.

        1. Sebastian Wain

          VC Confidential ( ) is a blog with sincere (old) posts about failure and related issues.Some favorite posts (no, I am not a link spammer!): – http://www.vcconfidential.c… – http://www.vcconfidential.c… – http://www.vcconfidential.c… – http://www.vcconfidential.c… – http://www.vcconfidential.c… – http://www.vcconfidential.c… – http://www.vcconfidential.c…- http://www.vcconfidential.c…- http://www.vcconfidential.c…- http://www.vcconfidential.c

    2. fredwilson

      There’s a reason for it but its not what you think. We failed with wesabeand infongen but we don’t want to disrespect the work of marc and his teamor Isaak and his team. If they want to talk openly about it, they can andshould. But it is not our place to do that to them or for them

  16. Mark Essel

    We’re on the same wavelength this am Fred. I caught Roger’s answer in Quora this morning and couldn’t resist sharing my perspective and spinning it into a blog post, to relay what I did after Victus Media sunk.

    1. ShanaC


      1. Mark Essel


  17. reece

    Roger’s blog is on fire lately. Definitely hitting above .400.As for failure, I sat down with a friend recently who’d started a company, raised $500k, ran it as hard as he could (3 years – even sold his car among other things to keep it going!), and ultimately “failed.”It was a major hit to his pride, but he’s still in the game and getting ready for #2. I love it.

  18. baba12

    There are more failures, because there are more ventures being funded. I am not sure that any of the VC’s have a vision and are soothsayers to predict accurately what will hold or not. As much as they may hash out numbers etc in the end it is some gut instinct, some luck, and a lot of hope. You throw a thousand darts and hope a few stick.The only reason you are able to throw 1000 darts is cuz they are inexpensive and even if only a few stick, they pay for all the ones that did not stick.Id love to see VC’s making investments in startups that are trying to solve the energy problem. or sustainable mobility etc.Few VC;’s are involved and the amounts of investments is minuscule, if you fail in those areas it is worth it.Investing in web services is great from a return standpoint. Im guessing VC’s average in other areas will be in 20% range, possibly not good enough return for many VC’s.But really how much profit does one need once one has all the material comforts, the house(s), car(s), pension plans that will sustain lifestyles for 5 generations etc etc. Does the VC then say don’t have to have a 30% average, 10% is enough and will make investments in things that may provide more in say some other value than capital gains.Also someone mentioned about transparency. Are you kidding me?

  19. andyswan

    This is America. We win big, talk big, walk big, eat big, shoot big and by God we FAIL BIG. Even bigger in Texas, as many of you know.This isn’t just arrogance, it’s intelligent and pragmatic.As an entrepreneur, you are more likely to fail than to succeed. You’re also very likely to be able to try again afterwards.Given that, would you rather fail big (every single person in the world knows you failed…and what you were trying to accomplish), or fail small (no one has any clue you even tried)?Take a look at one of my defining failures:…It was awesome.

    1. LIAD

      show me a man who hasn’t failed spectacularly and I’ll show you a man who hasn’t tried reaching high enough.

  20. William Mougayar

    I believe that a failure should make you stronger when you emerge from it. Otherwise, it’s like you failed twice..i.e. you would have failed at learning from it.

  21. Eric Leebow

    I think a lot of great ideas and companies are awesome that you invest in, and they may not be a financial success right away, yet the concept should not go away or someone else will take it up. For instance, I don’t know how some of the companies VCs invest in make money right away, yet love the idea or concept behind them. Twitter was the first example, and I wouldn’t call them a failure by any means, yet they failed in many ways, to the point that people were knocking on their door to try to help them succeed. Since they did not give up, I hope they will succeed. I don’t think the entrepreneurs are failures either. One thing I know for sure, it’s not funding that equals success. I saw some companies raise a lot of funding, and they were not able to stay alive, however I believe ambition of an entrepreneur can determine whether a company succeeds. If the entrepreneur believes in the product or more importantly the vision, then the company will most likely succeed if a good team is created.

  22. Seth Lieberman

    The best advice I have gotten in *years* was from Jerry Colonna who told me fear is paralyzing and can help accelerate failure. “Embrace your fear” and you disarm it and mitigate one aspect of the risk of failure. It is so true. Talking with Jerry is like cheating in business.(also somewhere there must be a clip of Bo Jackson breaking a bat over his knee

    1. fredwilson

      I’m always grasshopper when I’m around Jerry

  23. ShanaC

    I’m going to ask this one question that I think should be asked..Well we know we’re all going to fail, how do we learn to talk about that failure and reflect on it positively for the learning experience, and then take it to the public (or publics) so that again, we can all learn from failure in a positive way.

    1. fredwilson


  24. markslater

    a company i am involved with is going through a financing exercise.there are 2 things i insist that myself and the other founder take in to meetings.1. Find the opportunity to talk about past failures. If the person is turned off by this – they are not the right investor. Everyone has a success story – either real or manufactured. they are boring and usually end in pointless self promotion.2. Be keenly aware of “wrong questions”. If we find ourselves educating the listener – wrong person. we will know within 5 minutes. If i have to explain that user acquisition is not viral – then they’ve missed the intrinsic value of the product right away, and i am lyrically pissing in to a headwind.

    1. fredwilson

      Great approach

    2. Schuyler Brown

      Mark,Very smart approach. Would you mind if I reposted to the meetup I run, Founders @FAIL? You can hit me up there or @schuylercbrown on twitter

  25. daryn

    “It is how you behave when you strike out that defines your reputation. ” – love that, Fred.Failure happens, and yes, we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it, but I do think we should do everything we can to avoid it. Sure, you have to know when to double down, and when and how to throw in the towel, but I hear so many entrepreneurial soundbites like “Fail Fast, Fail Often” and they drive me nuts.The biggest problem I see with new startups are people giving up too early, and people sticking with things way too late. The latter is fine, if you are pivoting, or at least pointed in the right direction and just moving too slow, but if you’re getting further from your goal every day, it is time for a change one way or another.

  26. Aaron Klein

    Roger’s post was a great one and thanks for sharing it, Fred.The thing I love about technology is that failure isn’t always the end of the road, either. One startup I was involved in couldn’t get its Series A completed and hit the wall.Rather than admit defeat, a few of us took the technology and put it in a joint venture for a different market niche. That new company is now gaining revenue traction and already has some M&A interest. Will our seed investors make a lot of money? Probably not. But we’ve given them a second chance to get their investment back with a small return, and I’m proud of that.The experience also taught me a lot. We ended the process not sure what went wrong (we were making most of our numbers, etc.) but once we were able to sail up to the 30,000 foot view and look objectively at what happened, we learned a variety of important lessons that look pretty basic in hindsight but hey, we were newbies back then.1. Don’t try to conquer France at launch. Just try to land at Normandy.2. Find a market to be #1 in. You can’t win by taking 3% of a billion dollar market.3. Until your model is scaling really well, do everything you can to avoid scaling cost.

  27. Matt Meeker

    Such a smart topic. I was involved in a failed startup prior to starting Meetup. I learned so much from that experience and applied those lessons directly to our approach with Meetup.Failures should be celebrated and learned from!

  28. J.R. Sedivy

    I recently read about the role of error in innovation from Steven Johnson in Where Good Ideas Come From. Similar to entrepreneurship, we can sometimes learn more from error (or failure) than by success. It’s a painful, yet necessary process.

  29. Steven Kane

    “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” -unknown

    1. fredwilson

      Love that one steve

  30. Magnus Wikegård

    A pessimistic qoute from the Swedish comedian Ronny Eriksson:-No matter how bad it might look, remember, it is never too late to give up!

  31. paramendra


  32. alexasamuels

    Coming from a hotel industry background, f*ups happen all the time. It’s never about the mistake, but rather how you deal with it – and letting employees have enough rope to own the solution.

  33. HowieG

    Great subject and your friend had a lot of valuable tips. Lost of tech companies are going to run out of money or fall by the way side next 1-3 yrs. Especially Social and LBS. And long term there will be continued change some incremental some possibly massive. I even don’t see Facebook as the default social communications platform in 5yrs. Definitely not 10 yrs. Though that will be a slow death as it has already peaked but can hide behind growing gross user numbers for sometime. So failure is a very important topic.There is only one thing in life guaranteed and that is change – Tibetan Book of Living and DyingGood news is this also enables lots of opportunities for smart people!

  34. amanda moskowitz

    I’ve been enjoying a brilliant new meet-up in NYC: Founders@Fail. At each meet-up, Schuyler interviews a company that failed. Failure is likely and, frankly, inevitable if you study the longterm. But we still study entrepreneurship and new technology businesses from the biased angle of success; most panels, articles and discussions revolve around companies who have succeeded or are currently going in a positive direction. Founders@Fail presents the perspective of companies who failed – why they failed, when they knew they failed and how they might have prevented it.

    1. fredwilson

      is there a group i can join?

  35. ChubbyBrain

    While failure of many startups will be inevitable, that also means an opportunity to learn from those who’ve failed especially since the startup community and founders tend to be quite generous in sharing their insights about failure even though it can be a deeply personal thing.We’d recently analyzed 32 startup founder post-mortems to see what the top 20 reasons startups fail is and came up with this list. Hopefully learning from past mistakes will help some folks avoid similar fates in the future.

  36. ShanaC

    could you post what you have of your book online?

  37. fredwilson

    Hashable is a pivot from