The Opportunity to Fail

Most of us learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. In fact, it is the process of making mistakes, and discovering the many things we do not already know, that leads us to our ultimate success. This is why experiencing and embracing failure is such an important part of being a founder. “As Robert Young wrote on GigaOM in January”:,
it is critical for founders to understand that *failure, in this case, bankruptcy, is a great opportunity to learn.*

A former mentor, and a very smart man, once told me that the greatest invention in this democracy and capitalist system we live in and know as the United States is, of all things, bankruptcy. Yep, bankruptcy… the opportunity to fail.

I mention this because I believe Jeremy Liew, venture capitalist at Lightspveed and subsequently, James Hong of, posted some “must-read” thoughts and observations on this topic. In fact, I would encourage every entrepreneur to read what “Jeremy”: and “James”: just blogged.

Simply put, we live in a country that encourages dreamers to take risks, and the laws protect those “entrepreneurs” from the potentially excessive consequences of failure. Bankruptcy laws enable risk-takers to protect themselves and start over. There is no other nation on this planet that by its very by-laws fosters such an economic environment. This spirit, the acceptance of failure, while counter-intuitive, is crucial to this country’s enormous success within the world economy.

Consequently, it’s not a coincidence that in the world of technology, having some failures under your belt is actually a badge of honor. It means you’ve been around the block — you’ve made mistakes, ones to learn from — experiences that will make you stronger the next time around. In fact, the incredible and rapid rate of technology innovation almost requires that any entrepreneur worth his or her salt fully embrace failures as a very normal and acceptable part of the journey.

And as Jeremy and James implicitly advise all those dis/interested observers, who are unwisely kicking those who recently failed when they’re down: be warned, if your goal is to succeed, chances are 99 percent that you’ll experience failure along the way. And when the inevitable happens, let’s hope your peers are not as naïve and self-unaware as you’ve been.

It seems weird, I know. The ability for a U.S. entrepreneur to go bankrupt is actually the most important element of this country’s economic success and wealth. It’s a great example of why I love counterintuitive thinking.
_For more on how failure benefited some (now) big names in tech, see this April 2007 feature from our colleagues at_ “Business2.0″:


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