Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, wrote an article titled “How to Fail” in Business Week. He talked about failure faced by him (many times) before finally succeeding with Zynga as one of the largest online game providers in the world. There he wrote a closing that is quite memorable for me. His quote is as follows:
I think failing is the best way to keep you grounded, curious, and humble. Success is dangerous because often you don’t understand why you succeeded. You almost always know why you’ve failed. You have a lot of time to think about it.
Pincus’ statement seems to have a truth in it. If we succeed, we might think it’s because we’re great, luck is on our side, or other positive things that could be lulling. it would never occurr to us to perform in-depth analysis on why we became successful and whether the same method would bring us to continuous success in the future.
On the contrary, if we fail, we will surely know (or at least find out) why we failed. People who fail and analyze their failures will definitely learn from their mistake and will not repeat it in the future, at least, if he never gives up to achieve the label of “success”.
In the world of technology startups, this is not some nonsense. Rovio (creator of Angry Birds) and OMGPOP (creator of Draw Something) are two examples of how failure after failure (eventually) led to a great product that is well received by the market. Rovio, as you may know, failed 50 times before finally producing a phenomenal game available on almost every modern smartphones out there.
I often read that investors (VC) in Silicon Valley prefer to fund projects belonging to someone/company that have experienced failure rather than the ones that never even tried, simply because of this lessons learned principal. People who have failed will certainly be more careful to define each step in the future. There is an entrepreneur principal that says “do, then think”. I try to interpret this as “fail first, think about the why and go for the next success.”
Back to my story at the beginning, based on the “failure” that I’ve experienced, certainly analysis is being done. All of the whys are trying to be answered. Do I want to retain my brand as the same product or do I want to pivoting to different method are the things currently considered. At least, I know there’s something wrong with the previous method and I won’t repeat it. Whatever lesson we learn, certainly will try so our next step won’t end with (the same) failure.
Lessons taken from failure may be the most precious “investment” to gain success. It may be more valuable than any fund given by any investor.