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By Luanne Teoh on 10-25-2011


Recently we wrote about Failcon, a conference dedicated to entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs who have gone on the entrepreneurial journey and have failed. Yesterday, I attended Failcon in San Francisco and here’s what I learned.

Some of the entrepreneurs who presented have had epic fails over and over and some just mediocre failures in their journey. One thing for sure, all the entrepreneurs who presented have failed before, some more than others — in fact, I doubt they would have been asked on stage if they have never failed previously.

However, there was one recurring theme from these entrepreneurs and their journeys — they got up and tried. Over and over again.

The reason they were selected to present was to share their experiences in what they did, how they did it and how they eventually beat the odds and succeeded. It’s not in every society that you will find people willing to stare their failure/s in the face, eat a giant piece of humble pie and and then share it with the world.  I was fascinated and inspired.

According to Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, he said “lots of small failures equals lots of learning” and “the single biggest way to encourage an entrepreneurial environment is to set up role models” he added. When choosing a VC, the entrepreneur should look for flexibility with an experimental approach to things. To further test the commitment of a VC, he told entrepreneurs to talk to others who have worked with that VC when the plan failed. This should give you a pretty good idea on how they operate.

Khosla also said that “most business plans are irrelevant and and most experts are full of shit.”

Adil Wali from Kemists said that “VCs are in the student loan business. They are paying entrepreneurs to learn and make mistakes.”

In a commencement speech by JK Rowling (of the Harry Potter series) to Harvard in 2008 she said, “Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations,” she said. “Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way.”

Hearing from entrepreneurs who have had epic fails (one was sued by his own investors for $250 billion) — but have since gone to create wildly successful companies like, and  is inspiring.

Here are some key points:

  • Failing creates a natural learning environment for the entrepreneur and VC — it also shows you who your real friends and business partners are at the depths of your failure.
  • Sharing your failed experiences fosters a support-based ecosystem — at least the entrepreneurs know they not the only crazy ones out there.
  • Collaborating with other passionate people creates a sharing-based community — when passion meets experience and knowledge, the combination can be lethally good.

According to Dan Martell, co-founder of Flowtown (recently acquired by Demandforce) in his blog he wrote, “In San Francisco, being an Entrepreneur puts you at the top of the food chain and failing is worn like a badge of honor, so most people can’t wait to jump into a pool full of startup Kool-Aid. Even the non-swimmers.”

Failcon is an excellent event where failures are celebrated so we can all talk about it and move on to the next big thing. At least we will now know what not to do in our next move (hopefully!)

See highlights from Failcon here

Image courtesy of karmickappuccino

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