Startups: Embrace Failure & Fast!

You’ve heard it before, in order for a startup to succeed it must embrace failure. This is a difficult thing for traditional business thinkers. In an existing, established company, the focus is generally on execution. Therefore, if there is a failure it means that something is broken. In a startup, the business is initially focused on the search for product-market fit and the only way to find that is through hypotheses and trial and error.
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Because of this initial focus on the search, the early failures of a startup are part of the process. The trick is to fail fast. You don’t want to spend all of your time, energy and financial resources to get a product out only to find that it needs significant changes and think: wow, if I only realized that earlier, I could have saved $200,000 and three months!

If we re-orient ourselves to failure and look at the positive side, perhaps we will become more attuned to the necessity of failure and reduce our fear. This is not a simple thing and by nature, we become attached to the ideas and things that we produce and are concerned about them failing. Sometimes that means that we take the time for just one more tweak or to add one more feature. This is the opposite of failing fast.

Here are three ways that we can begin embracing the idea of failing fast:

!. Develop a culture within which it is not only ok to fail but it’s expected. Reward teams and members for their failures when warranted.

2. Place an emphasis on the Minimal Viable Product (I like Eric Ries’ definition of MVP– that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort) so that your development team is expected to get things out fast and early.

3. Get out of the building sooner. As we get more and more attached to our ideas and products, our bias increases and we begin to believe that if we think something is inspiring, everyone else we think so as well. Get the heck out of the building and get input from others. Even before you release a beta product, get feedback from friends and family.

A startup should live Steve Blank and Bob Dorf’s maxim: If you are afraid to fail in a startup, you’re destined to do so. Hang that on the wall so your entire team can see it and send the message that: This company embraces failure.

Posted in Articles, Startups