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Fail Road Image

image by FireFlyThe Great http://www.flickr.com/photos/fireflythegreat/

So… (apparently all West Coast folks start a new sentence with so…!)  learning #2 from BubbleBath 2011 was about the West coast attitude to getting things wrong. You know, getting things wrong so much that you lose the company and have to sack your friends and colleagues.

In Silicon Valley, failure just means you’ve probably learnt something – if nothing else, not to do that mistake again!  Pretty much every entrepreneur we met has some serious screw-ups under their belt and some even seemed to think you can’t be a ‘proper’ entrepreneur without some carnage being left behind you as you clearly can’t have been pushing hard or fast enough! As an example, one company we met have “pivoted” (one of the “in words” from the lean startup approach – essentially meaning you failed!) after investments of tens of Millions of dollars and genuinely see that as a positive move for the business – after all, why would you carry on with Plan A if it isn’t going to bring the out-sized returns you need?

In the UK we naturally think of business failure in a completely different way. For those few who actually take the risk of moving out of a paid job to take on the start-up world it’s usually a one-off. It tends to go something like… “I’ll give it a jolly good go, and if it all goes tits-up I can always go back to a 9 to 5 or contract for a bit”. Silicon Valley on the other hand is pretty much “I’ll give it a go. It’s bound to work and even if it doesn’t I’ll learn from it and do it better next time”.

Then there is other people’s view of failure. Instead of the attitude I sometime perceive here of “hmmm… she failed last time, so perhaps we should use someone else” we saw more of “Guess it failed but she got over it and now she’s got that to learn from. That’s gotta deserve another try”.



About Richard Godfrey

CEO of Bath-based iPrinciples and KoodibooK. Back in 2007 I left the comfort of 9 years working for Microsoft and started iPrinciples, originally at the Bath Innovation Centre. Software is our passion and we’ve built some amazing applications over the past few years including stuff for the BBC, Bank of America, Microsoft and other big names. However, we mostly love incubating our own ideas (like www.koodibook.com) and working with local start-ups to create something innovative that is going to change the world.


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