Wouldn’t it be cool if you could say, “Hey dad, I have failed in one of my papers” and your dad says, “Wonderful, I am sure you have learnt something out of it.” That’s exactly what happens in the Silicon Valley in the US. Startup founders flaunt failure as a badge of honour which is seen by peers as a sign that he has perhaps learnt and experienced a little more than someone who has succeeded in the very first attempt.
In 2009, FailCon, an annual conference on embracing failure was launched in San Francisco which was gradually replicated in other cities around the world including Barcelona in Spain, Grenoble in France, Porto Alegre in Brazil, and Bengaluru in India.
In India, forget the badge of honour, it’s often a baggage of shame. Little wonder that some of the most successful companies in the world – the likes of Apple, Google, and Facebook – are headquartered in the Valley. Many potential unicorns (valued over 1 $billion) are in the making and the area is still attracts the highest venture capital (VC) funding in the world.
The good news is, according to an Ernst and Young report, India (and China) is fast emerging to be among the top destination for VC investments. Shouldn’t we then make our ecosystem more conducive for startups? Shouldn’t we then encourage more experimentation and therefore cherish more failures? We certainly should because the three – startup, experimentation, and failure – form the foundation of any entrepreneur’s journey. As it’s famously said, if you haven’t ever failed, it only means you have not tried anything new.
The Indian startup ecosystem, though many years behind the Silicon Valley, has matured considerably in the past few years and people are starting to see failures a little differently. Microsoft Accelerator, a program from Microsoft to help late-stage startups scale up, is also thinking afresh today. Bala Girisaballa, CEO-in-Residence, Microsoft Accelerator, believes the definition of failure has changed today. “It is seen more as shades of success,” he says. “Also, the market is much more liquid and there are enough opportunities for the entrepreneur and his team to get acqui-hired.”
Microsoft Accelerator helps startups accelerate to success as well as to failure so that minimum damage is done. It mentors entrepreneurs to look at their problem objectively so that in four months they know if they are on the path to success or a shutdown. In the past four years, out of about 100 companies that Microsoft Accelerators has worked with, about 8-9 of them have shut down and an equal number of them have found successful exits. About 15-20 of them have changed strategies and paths along the way under the guidance of Microsoft Accelerator.
So, guys, it’s time to celebrate your failures and show the world that you are just a step closer to success. Didn’t someone say, “Failures are the pillars of success.”? As cliché as the phrase may sound, well said!