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4 Comments

Failure is Ok

Yesterday Gagan, the co-founder of @udemy shared something powerful on Twitter about his startup @sprig and its failure.

It’s was really thoughtful, transparent and worth a read: https://twitter.com/gaganbiyani/status/1265755248922157066?s=20

I have to admit as a founder who’s had two startups fail I'm guilty of not sharing my lessons publicly… with a 90% failure rate you’d think we’d hear more stories about failure than success.

It seems we’ve created a culture that only shares good things, people don’t want to share failure because of judgement and insecurities.

However I believe the failure rate would be far lower if more people shared their knowledge and experience.

If you touch a stove and burn yourself then let someone else do the same you’ve burnt yourself twice.

Like myself founders tend to keep these failures private. I think it’s time that we start embracing failure because it’s ok to fail.

It’s not ok to not try.

I’ve personally learned more from my failures than I have from the successful startups I’ve created.

Here are some thing’s I’ve learned that I hope help someone.

  1. Feedback isn’t bad, it’s only bad if you use it all. (It’s not one size fits all, take the parts that work for you)
  2. Grit and hard work beat luck every time. (We see Stripe, not its journey from /dev/payments)
  3. People and competition will distract you. (Limit your networking, stay focused)
  4. If you or your partners don’t have conviction don’t build it. (Burnout will happen and you need to love what you do)
  5. People join companies that will succeed without them. (This is important when looking for cofounders or employees.)
  6. 99% of the time you can validate your idea without a product.
  7. Validate before building (Don’t guess what to build either.)
  8. You’ll face more challenges if you’re trying to solve a problem you don’t have or had.
  9. You’ll spend more time fundraising if you don’t have validation, domain experience or traction. (Focus on these first)
  10. Don’t bring big org bureaucracy to your startup. (It’s an advantage to be agile, adaptable and make changes quickly)
  11. Love the process, it’s gonna be a long journey. (Take breaks and find that thing that keeps your tank full)
  12. Your role as founder is similar to a firefighter, Find the fires and put them out before they burn the house down.
  13. Set expectations early, keep your communication transparent.
  14. Keep your burn rate as low as possible.
  15. One bad apple can ruin your culture and poison your company. (Hire people with a winning track record who have done the job before)
  16. If it’s easy to build, you’ll have a lot of competition. (Be prepared to answer what’s your moat)
  17. What works for others might not work for you. (Just because X has a Podcast doesn’t mean you need one.)
  18. Avoid trying to sell to the rainbow, discover a color being underserved and build the best experience for them.
  19. Don’t be scared to share your ideas, if it’s that easy to copy, you haven’t found your moat. (They can copy your idea but not your brand or culture)
  20. Don’t copy the competition, they could be doing it wrong too.

I'd love to hear what others can share from their failures.sel

  1. 1

    Great post!

    People focus too much on the end goal, rather than the journey. And from my experience, the journey is way more interesting than the end goal.

  2. 1

    Great points all around.

    I recently re-listened IH episode #88, with Jason Cohen. Absolutely stunner of an episode in my opinion and I think Jason is one of the better bottoms-up thinkers about what kind of company to start. If it's just you and you're self-funding, does it make sense to offer high-touch support? What price point should the product be? What is the sales process like, is it self-serve or do I need to spend 3-6 months per customer to close them?

    Many startups fail because the founder naively picks a combination of these variables — or falls in love with the idea that inherently has a "difficult" combination of variables — that makes it extremely hard to make your bootstrapped/self-funded/etc company succeed.

    Experience is what you got when you didn't get what you wanted. :-)

  3. 1

    There is a saying that we either win or lear

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