If You’re Not Falling You’re Not Skiing Hard Enough

I’m not sure where I got that line, but it’s a pretty good bet it was my brother (who’s one of the best skiers I know). The same formula applies to startups: if you haven’t had a blowup yet you’re probably not trying hard enough.

I was reminded of this by a couple of posts recently, including Brad Feld’s post this morning titled “It’s Better To Fail Quickly“, and the Mitchell Ashley piece he points to, “Fail Early Fail Often“, which includes the line: “if you aren’t seeing some failures along the way, it’s a pretty good idea you’re not stretching, challenging and really going for it.”

It’s no fun to fail, as I was recently reminded via Judy’s Book. But it’s also one of the most powerful learning experiences I know of. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that Andy and I have spent a bunch of time talking about what we did wrong at Judy’s Book, and applying those lessons learned to what we’re doing next. For example, one promise we’ve made to ourselves is to only bet on ideas that can get to cashflow breakeven within the first 12-18 months. Our first company out the door, Cooler Planet, is on track to meet that goal, and the next one (to be announced in March) should have the same properties, but in an entirely different industry.

In a gesture of friendship after a spate of snarky comments on John Cook’s post about Askablogr, my friend Matt posted this morning to suggest that Seattle is a weaker environment for startups than Silicon Valley because our local culture reacts to failure with criticism. My response to Matt was that it’s really just the guys who’ve never done it who feel the urge to throw rocks. As Brad and Mitchell’s posts reinforce, whether they’re in Seattle, Silicon Valley, or Boulder, anyone who’s actually out there taking risk knows that blowups are just part of the game.