Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Startups do fail. What’s New?

Posted on: February 23, 2008

I am seeing a flurry of activity among the tech blogs who’ve caught on a interesting topic to latch onto. Failed startups. If you ask me, I am not sure what the big hoopla in this is about.

Birds fly. Fishes Swim. Deals Fall through and Startups Fail. This is the natural order of things. The only thing we can do is alleviate the chances of success for a startup by a small degree. We do not, neither can anyone assure anyone of success and failures totally. Heck, the Silicon valley, which is considered to be this rich ecosystem, has its fair share of failures. What are we going to do about that?

“Success is one in a million. There is a very small chance that you could be that one and the obvious choice left is to fail. Are you ready for that?” is what my mentor used to ask me. For the first six and a half months, as I was pursuing him to be my mentor, every single book he gave me was on this amazing idea, great execution which went nowhere and resulted in a failed business. I used to think what was the point he was trying to make there. It was simple. Success in a startup is an anamoly. The natural route is failure. If there is one breed of people who can dare change that, it would be an entrepreneur. Yet there are factors and choices beyond our control which all contribute against it.

I remember talking to some students a few months back and the question kept going back to the concept of failing. How do you mitigate that risk and all that. I thought it was one of the profound and mature audiences that I had dealt with. I don’t even get some of those question at, where startups are on a much progressive stage. I am hoping that they already know the answers to that.

Most of the startups that are slowly gaining traction are on an average on their third iteration. Most companies that come to themselves are on their second iteration. It’s quite obvious when you talk to them and see how they have evolved their offering based on market interaction. It is that iteration which actually is the strength of a startup. Remember Agile, evolving, and the path towards a “complete” product? It’s all part and parcel of that.

There is this interesting session that happens when you learn how to skate – whether on ice or on inlines. The first thing you learn is how to fall. How to fall gracefully is the next step. If you are afraid of failure, You wouldn’t even move a step ahead. You need to dare, and that’s what entrepreneurship essentially is all about. There is a high level of risk and high level of reward at the end. Not everyone who get a lottery wins, and not everyone who starts up a company also succeeds. I am not sure what is news about it.

As long as you are afraid of falling, you won’t be able to stand up on your feet either. I can assure you that. I’ll leave you with these following words, which we had posted on a high banner for the first edition of Perhaps it needs to be much more visible, perhaps even everyday:

It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

PS: This issue of looking at failed initiatives in a bad light, doesnt end in India alone.It seems quite universal – even in the US

6 Responses to "Startups do fail. What’s New?"

Wonderful and much needed post!

I agree completely with your opinion about successful is tough and failure should not be a surprise. However, I don’t think it is “big hoopla” in the blogs. It is just a concern/thought about the “trough” after a “crest”.

– Rajiv


Its always something new i derive out of your writing.

“It was simple. Success in a startup is an anamoly. The natural route is failure.”

Its the startup era, and now its time we realize there should be a Dead pool era, where not many startups succeeded, as we speak more about the ecosystem involved alongside with proto, its unfortunate to glorify the failed startups on tech blogs, not even a single tech blog, has discussed why did the startup fail, or how not to make same mistakes, if a startup of a search engines fame fails, is it a easy way to say, don’t’ start another search engines ??.

My mentor always said three things.

Supply > Reply > Apply

Supply >

those people who gather more information elsewhere and they keep supplying you with good/bad deeds, its like bloggers who supply real set of information

Reply >
There are another set of people who keep replying for every supply it happens, it might make some sense or sometimes it might not, its like people replying on blogs

Apply >

Its the individual, who would like to apply his thoughts, his imagination, his unconquered dreams, exactly s start up should be where you apply


“Birds fly. Fishes Swim. Deals Fall through and Startups Fail.”

[…] Some spoke about how it is important to take action and the other about the inevitability that most startups face failure. […]

To be an entrepreneur is to know that you succeed even when you fail.

If you do not understand that, entrepreneurship is out of question 🙂

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