‘Don’t Take Failure Personally’

I met this morning with an awesome start-up CEO.  Unfortunately, his company is out of cash next month. The company had raised money from some individuals (who are now tapped out), progress has taken longer than expected, and he has 30 days to raise new money or to unwind the company.

“Don’t take failure personally,” I told him. As I’ve blogged in the past, only one-third of start-ups generate a return for VCs, with the rest losing money. In other words, I told him, it’s a lot like baseball.  You can work as hard as you can, and you should, but sometimes, the odds are against you.

I also told this CEO that the key to success will be grit.  Eventually, if you keep at it, a start-up at which you’re working should do well. And, it hopefully, economically and emotionally, will make up for past strike-outs.

Perhaps this is a naive view, but I can point to many, many examples of people who were labeled as “losers” one year, only to be tremendous “winners” down the road.  I see this pattern all the time.  I saw it when the markets imploded in the spring of 2000, and thereafter, when green shoots emerged from the pile of rubble.

So, I’m on a personal mission to give entrepreneurs hope and perspective right now.  As the Series A Crunch continues, many companies are hitting the wall. The key is to keep playing the game. With enough at-bats, and if you work with great people, you increasingly put the statistical odds in your favor.

I hope the CEO I met today doesn’t give up on himself.

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