FailCon 2011 (Photo: Julia Buchner)

Advice for the just-failed entrepreneur, from computer scientist Anna Patterson:

  • Know when it’s over.
  • Acknowledge you’re grieving and depleted emotionally and physically. Hire a therapist and a personal trainer.
  • Reintroduce yourself to your family and your personal financial picture.
  • Don’t waste time in Tahiti. Get a job right away.

Patterson is back at Google after a failed attempt to make Cuil the search engine of choice. She was the opening act yesterday for FailCon, the annual gathering in San Francisco. The conference aims to share hard-earned wisdom from business failures.

They happen all the time, for all sorts of reasons, but in most quarters, people weep silently into their pillows.

Aye Moah, Product Chief with Baydin, came from Boston. “On the East Coast, people are, like, oh, you shouldn’t mention [that she was involved with two failed start-ups] on your resume. Here, you talk about it. You discuss it. What did you learn from it?”

Vinod Khosla was perhaps the biggest name at this year’s FailCon.

“My willingness to fail gives me the ability to succeed.” He’s quite fond of aphorisms.

You have to appreciate a venture capitalist who quotes Maya Angelou. He likes this (paraphrased) quote from the iconic author and poet: “You’ll face many defeats, but don’t let yourself be defeated.”

Josh Merrill, founder of TapCanvas, offered this quote about failure from John Doerr:  “The best way to get Vinod Khosla to do something is to tell him it’s impossible.”

Cass Philips, executive producer of FailCon, has her own favorite quote, from Manu Kumar with K9 Ventures: “Don’t hire anyone you can’t fire.”

Indeed, though there are many reasons why businesses fail — poor market research, bad timing, cash flow problems, scaling problems, conflicts with funders, burnout -– there was wide agreement in the crowd that too many start-ups are hatched by college buddies over a six pack of beer.  Some of those buddies can deliver on the vision. Others, not so much.

Final note.  That aphorism in the blog post title?  From Cathy Brooks of Other Than That.

Rachael Myrow is the host of The California Report.

FailCon: You Can Fail. Just Don’t be Stupid. 25 October,2011Rachael Myrow


Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED’s Silicon Valley Arts Reporter, covering arts, culture and technology in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She regularly files stories for NPR and the KQED podcast Bay Curious, and guest hosts KQED’s Forum.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow

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