Does Silicon Valley ring a bell? Of course it does. At every startup event you go, this great city’s name is invariably brought up. It’s a symbol of power, myth, glamour, and great business success. Even so, Silicon Valley has also a dark side: the failed start-ups’ side. They form the ‘walking dead’ culture, where failure is sweetened and worn as a sign of honor and bravery. If you fail, you are marked. Then you can say: ‘been there, done that’. As Rory Carroll suggests, you adhere to the mantra: “Fail fast, fail often.”. Then, you can start rolling, preparing for success. To some, it never comes.
Embrace startup failure
Rory Carroll talks about Silicon Valley’s culture of failure… and ‘the walking dead’ it leaves behind and shows how people can find comfort and a reason for celebration in failure. Academics and entrepreneurs commemorate failing events and there are conferences held on “embracing failure”. This could all be done for the benefit of mankind. Hearing people out while they talk about their own hindrances and difficulties is inspiring, soothing and relaxing. The sad fact is when this is all used as a balm and the pep talk doesn’t seem to function, because you see your start-ups failing one after the other, again and again. The reality is most start-ups fail, about 90% of them. As The RIP Report – start-up death trends shows, “companies typically die around 20 months after their last financing round and after having raised $1.3m”.
However, it’s not that easy to call the time of death.
Many startups and VCs can still live in a zombie-like fashion. This happens because every failure counts. Although you’re a veteran once you failed, if you fail too much, you’re not good enough, so it’s better to just bury it in silence. When it comes to mourning your startup, the fact is it can be quite hard to accept the truth. So, even though donors have backed away, the start-up is still supported by family and founders, who can’t just give up. Think about losing someone and how people prefer keeping someone alive just because of the fear to pronounce their death: a terrible certainty. This is, however, unnecessary and in many ways harmful. People are averse to losing in the detriment of gaining something, while they prefer facing a slow, painful death rather than calling a sword.
Glamorizing startup failure in Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is the city of great startup examples, so business wannabes can easily find their role-models and the company to look up to. Unfortunately, this could sometimes turn into a tragic story.
Jody Sherman, a 47-year-old serial entrepreneur, shot himself last year. He had been suffering for a long while, as his start-up, Ecomom, was on the brink of failure. Moreover, holding a start-up together, involves a lot of stress and control, and some can crush under it. Justin Yoshimura had at 24 years already founded 3 start-ups, after dropping out of college. For him, being the CEO of another company was like “running marathons back to back”.
More and more people would like to try and shoot for the moon, even if facts are contradicting them. People who face only failures, people who still sell goods at a shop on a street’s corner, people who’ll never get to know whether their talent and capacities are better invested in other domains, believe in Silicon Valley’s golden stories and mythic entrepreneurs.
Do you think this culture of startup failure is doing any good or is it just an agonizing man-made concept?
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