OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Learning to Love Failure

Nobody likes to fail but how a startup approaches failure will have a huge impact on its chances for success. Is it a culture that embraces this as a learning opportunity? Or does it ostracize those that took a risk?

Photo of DeletedUser
1 3

Written by DeletedUser

I've been fortunate to be a part of four startups over the past six years ranging from pharmaceutical software to medical device to 3d printing to web/app services. One was acquired, one went down in flames, and one morphed into the company where I am today.

It's the last iteration where I've learned the most. 

Day to day startup life
Startups are the ultimate sine curve. One minute you're on top of the wave and from that vantage point you can stare off into distance and see the end of the rainbow and it looks gorgeous. Then without warning you find yourself rolling along the bottom of the ocean and not sure which way to come up for air. The time between? It might be just a few hours.

I believe it is when you're getting tossed along the bottom of the ocean that you actually learn the most (even though it's kinda painful).

  • Web startups by default don't know what they're doing. 
  • They are trying to get the market/product fit down. 
  • They're trying to code up a prototype. 
  • They're trying to identify partners.
  • They might be trying to raise funding. (If they're really smart, they're out meeting with potential users and customers and trying to understand if they have anything of value.)

Often times, we find out we don't have anything of value. And we fail.

If the culture does not embrace this risk-taking attitude, it makes for a miserable experience to come into work. The founders must reward risk-taking and accept the inevitable bumps and bruises that come with doing something original.

The exciting aspect of web startups lies in the powerful open-source code frameworks that exist today. All of which mean companies can prototype at incredible speeds and pivot directions with minimal time wasted.

This helps make it just a little painful to fail...

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Cheers for sharing your personal insights here, Jacob – super inspiring!