- Paul Graham in TC Disrupt 2011
After seeing over the years how up and coming entrepreneurs often drag on with a startup that is going nowhere, I realize that failure is not an option they want to think about.
Of course, if you are passionate about an idea and set about making your passion a business, having thoughts about “what if I fail” is a bad idea and definitely something investors don’t want. You’d be expected to put your heart and soul in the startup because it’s not about the founders but also the employees who work with you to build the idea into a sustainable enterprise.
What I think Singapore entrepreneurs don’t have is the ability to pivot quickly to something else when they are reaching nowhere. That’s what people mean by failing fast.
Being involved with startups as an early stage investor in the past and a full-time entrepreneur now, people often ask me, “How’s your company going?” I will reply that we are busy with some recent happenings in the company and focused on our tasks. When they start associating the word ‘success’ with my company, my instant reply is: “We’re not that there yet. We can only do our best and everything is 50-50.”
What I mean is that all start-ups are inherently volatile. Perhaps, experience has taught me to be self-aware and focused on the journey rather than worry about success and failure. It is better to have a good fight than to think about what happens after that. If you fail, you probably have all the time to reflect. Spectacular failures can happen to anyone, and if you want recent examples, check out Color, the US$41M funded startup.
Recently, our newly elected President, Dr Tony Tan, made an interesting point in a forum that if he has to come up with an idea to engage youth, he will want to find a way to allow them to taste failure. He illustrated his point with the Silicon Valley culture where instead of giving up, entrepreneurs often go back to the drawing board when they fail.
He’s spot on about the problem of entrepreneurship in Singapore. I don’t have any idea how to induce students to experience failure, because to do so is to expect someone to take risks and suffer the consequences if something does not work out.
More interesting views:
- What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? Paul Tough from the New York Times discussed how failures actually help students to cope with challenges in life. His article is the reason why I wrote down these thoughts.
- Face to Face 2: Presidential Forum video Part 2. Check out the question in the video where the candidates were asked for one good idea to engage young Singaporeans. Dr Tony Tan’s suggestion about getting youths to embrace failure is spot on.
Image: Tinou Bao
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