The Guardian: Silicon Valley's culture of failure and 'the walking dead' it leaves behind

ATN-300InsightaaS: The Guardian is one of the world’s most respected news sources. Founded in 1821, it has stayed relevant by providing in-depth analysis of both local (UK) and global issues. It frequently offers an interesting take on technology, as today’s feature – written by a California-based correspondent – demonstrates.

 “Silicon Valley’s culture of failure…and ‘the walking dead’ it leaves behind” was highlighted for us by a new Twitter follower, PostmortemHK, a Hong Kong-based organization exploring “real failure stories” from startups. The Guardian takes up this mission with gusto. It notes that deals are at an all-time high, that it has never been easier to launch a company in the Valley, that investment bankers are flocking to San Francisco and San Jose. But it also looks squarely into the eyes of those who talk about the “psychic toll” that this “disconnect from reality” wreaks on entrepreneurs who are not startup magnates.

The piece pays particular attention to “the walking dead,” firms that “limp on for years, ignored by the market but sustained by founders’ savings or investors…[that] don’t necessarily die [but] putter along.” It can be difficult to draw a bead on failure rates – “VCs bury their dead very quietly” – but there is a growing body of research, journalism and online communities that exchange insight into the anxieties, fears and frustrations of entrepreneurs who work 100 hour weeks but can’t raise the capital needed to sustain even the pretense of success.

We all take notice of the instant wealth created by successful entrepreneurs. It’s good sometimes to also learn from those whose experience did not end with billion dollar IPOs and a future as an angel investor. 

 It is probably Silicon Valley’s most striking mantra: “Fail fast, fail often.” It is recited at technology conferences, pinned to company walls, bandied in conversation.

Failure is not only invoked but celebrated. Entrepreneurs give speeches detailing their misfires. Academics laud the virtue of making mistakes.FailCon, a conference about “embracing failure”, launched in San Francisco in 2009 and is now an annual event, with technology hubs in Barcelona, Tokyo, Porto Alegre and elsewhere hosting their own versions.

While the rest of the world recoils at failure, in other words, technology’s dynamic innovators enshrine it as a rite of passage en route to success.

But what about those tech entrepreneurs who lose — and keep on losing? What about those who start one company after another, refine pitches, tweak products, pivot strategies, reinvent themselves … and never succeed? What about the angst masked behind upbeat facades?

Silicon Valley is increasingly asking such questions, even as the tech boom rewards some startups with billion-dollar valuations, sprinkling stardust on founders who talk of changing the world….

Read the entire post on The Guardian’s website: Link


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