TechBaguette launches the Failpage

So, as many of you may already know, Cass Phillips and I are teaming up to launch the first European edition of the FailCon in Paris later this year. It’s a conference that Cass started in the Bay Area so that entrepreneurs could share stories of failure and how to recover/avoid it.

Hot topic.

Failure seems to becoming more and more of a hot topic – and not just in conferences. For example, Failure is this month’s cover story for Wired UK and the April edition of the Harvard Business Review. And just yesterday, the New York Times published an article on a “Facebook class” at Stanford with a few lovely failure stories inside. Failure seems to be popping up left and right and numerous entrepreneurs and investors seem to be popping up to talk about it.

No, you go first.

When I published an article on TechCrunch France announcing that the FailCon would finally be making its way to France, our readers didn’t hesitate to comment that one would have to be very courageous to be a speaker at such an event. But then again, one would have to be very courageous to be an entrepreneur as well, right? Once Gilles Babinet came on board (you can check out his presentation slides here and video here), it was easier to get other speakers to step up to the plate. But I found that it was a little bit like pulling teeth to get some people to actually give concrete, personal examples of failures – big or small – and how they recovered or could avoid it in the future. It was more of a “no, you go first” mindset – which is definitely not the right way to approach the issue, especially as a speaker at such a conference.

Harder than it looks.

Obviously, talking about one’s failures on stage in front of hundreds of people is harder than it looks. And I’ve discussed before how the “You Suck” mindset in French schools definitely isn’t very encouraging for risk-takers. In fact, during one of the panels of the first Failure Conference in Paris in January, someone in the audience sent a tweet asking if everyone on stage could share a personal failure story or take a risk on stage. In retrospect, it would’ve been a terrific way to lead by example but I let comment go unnoticed and the opportunity slip away.

My Failpage

The funny thing is, even if it seems that entrepreneurs and investors are reluctant to grab the microphone when it comes to this topic, they don’t hesitate to share their stories with me. Which is why I’ve decided to add a special page to my blog dedicated to “failure” stories. It’s a sensitive and personal subject, so I’m not about to go broadcasting their stories without their permission. But I definitely think that it can only help get people more comfortable with the subject. I’m going to publish stories that people may or may not already know but I’m also happy to include anonymous tips and stories as well.

Oh yes, you failed.

On a final note, I was recently talking with an entrepreneur that runs a rather large company – something like 500 to 600 employees – and asking a few questions to see if it would make sense for him to speak at the Failcon. I found it rather funny that his first reaction was “of course, but I haven’t failed as an entrepreneur, so I don’t really know what I could talk about.” Seriously? You mean to tell me that your company was an instant success from day one and that building a 600-person company is a piece of cake? Really? I almost wanted to tell him that only such a statement would make him a failed entrepreneur because he obviously didn’t learn anything or take any risks. Of course, no entrepreneur can be called a failure as entrepreneurship is simply about inventing your way out of problems; entrepreneurs are thus problem solvers by definition – the more complex the problem, the better. So to tell me that he didn’t know what he could talk about, well, that was perhaps a good example of a failure…

The un-four-letter-word.

What I realized, is that people are still uncomfortable with the word “failure” because they don’t realize that I’m actually talking about success. I’m obviously not looking for a guy that hit a problem that he couldn’t figure his way out of – but the opposite. I’m looking for the “we did this, it didn’t work, so this is what we did instead” type stories. Stories like why didn’t the first game published by social games developer Kobojo take off? How did they change the model and their approach so that the next games would attract millions of users? Or why did the initial version of Moo.com fail and how did the founders relaunch the site in 2006 and become the success that they are today? So, if you have a story or a tip that you’d like to share (even anonymously), don’t hesitate to send me an email.

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9 thoughts on “TechBaguette launches the Failpage

  1. Years ago, before Apple was the success that it is today, I recall that they launched the forerunner to the Macintosh, called Lisa. It was a great computer but a marketing failure. That failure led to the successful Mac that followed (and many claim it also was one of the instrumental factors that led Microsoft to start its own work on its Windows Operating System).

    It is a long time ago but Apple strikes me as a perfect example of a company that learns from its mistakes – or failures – which may explain why they went from a company that was near bankruptcy (remember Sunmicro was going to buy it?) to the second-most valued company in the world!

  2. Failure is part of the company’s storyline. There are barely companies that never failed. It happens at different levels and stages. It might be at the company level at a whole, at project level or at product level.

    Failing allows you to do a proper analysis on what has been missing, what should have been done differently and what needs to be changed in the future.

    One of the main issues with failure is not admitting it until very late more importantly than failing itself. Dignitiy will push some people to hang on the fragile ropes that are still keeping their project alive and devouring their capital, hoping that it will take off someday.

    The right action is to admit the failure at the right moment (yes, this is not easy to define) and to define what should be modified in order to go for success.

    A failing project/product will not fix itself and suddenly become a success. It takes a great courage to say it is now time to address the problems, and potentially move back to a new cycle to modify your approach/project.

  3. Very nice initiative. Gonna read with pleasure ur still-empty-what-are-you-waiting-this-teasing-made-me-read-it failpage ^^

    Btw, i think one of the biggest challenge in France is accepting that someone is not by nature what he built at the moment you meet him -ie what his CV tells you- (or even worse which school he was in).
    Accepting the infinite present of our lives, and corollary accepting change.

  4. Do you think that if you called it PivotCon, more people would volunteer? In my opinion, pivot is just a polite (if obnoxiously trite) buzzword for failing and adapting, but it at least connotes that you learned from your mistakes and created something positive out of that experience.

  5. As an astrologer, I suggest you’ll see even more interest in ‘failures’ as Neptune slips into Pisces (April/2011) where it remains until January 2026 – Pisces is all about sacrifice and surrender – and the energy has a maudlin touch. BTW – it’s no surprise everyone’s on about ‘rapture’ at the moment – that’s Neptune in Pisces too.

  6. Pingback: La stratégie de l’échec pour une vie plus créative – JK Rowling | Brocooli : voir la vie en vert

    • Oh Tristan, you are right! But it is because I wanted to first announce the speakers for the European FailCon we are organizing (we’re announcing this week, stay tuned) so I could avoid writing about people we’d be hearing from 🙂

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