FailCon: Why Screwing Up Is OK

The point is what can be learned from mistakes

By Scott Budman
|  Tuesday, Oct 27, 2009  |  Updated 3:25 PM PDT
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If you love to surf the web, you'll probably like YourVersion.com.  A Silicon Valley startup, YourVersion collects and keeps your favorite search terms, and updates them for you on the go, so you can stay current with your interests.  A thoughtful site, with founders who understand how some startups rise, and others fall.

They know about the fall, because they've been there.  The CEO used to work at Friendster.  His co-founder worked at a startup that bombed so quickly, I've never heard of it before, and I've covered tech for 14 years.  They're the kind of company you root for, and one that's also a perfect fit for FailCon, a gathering of companies willing to admit that it's not always an easy climb, and also willing to learn from those who have failed in the past.

I must admit, after covering hundreds of conferences where companies try their hardest to convince you that everything is perfect, and their path to success is guaranteed to be smooth, FailCon is a breath of fresh air.  Those who have tried and failed taking the time to explain the benefits of the strikeout.  As Steve Jurvetson of Silicon Valley VC giant Draper Fisher Jurvetson explained once, he's not going to invest in a startup, until he knows the founders can handle failure.

Cassie Phillipps agrees.  She started FailCon for just that reason.  What we screw up, she says, makes us stronger.  "Just the idea that your first company bombed, and you get back on that horse, is a huge sign for a VC." 

Which brings us back to YourVersion.  Dan Olsen, YV's CEO, probably thought he hit the jackpot with Friendster, back when the social network was adding friends by the ton.  But, it turns out, Olsen says he learned the most when things slowed down.  "I think the honest, boring truth," he says, "Is that a successful startup takes a lot of hard work." 

A good lesson to pass on, in good times and bad.

Have a fail story to tell?  Let Scott know on Twitter:  @scottbudman

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