Failure is the norm

June 11, 2020
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News cycles live from negative press. It sells. We are geared towards the danger and emphasise the possible risks. This survival mechanism works in the opposite direction when we are talking about new ventures.

Paradoxically we are not seeing tons of negative press in the startup ecosystem. It has a large survivor bias. Everybody knows the big success cases. The founders are treated as celebrities and superheroes whether they agree with the notion or not.

Wolt’s co-founder Elias Aalto states in his episode of Talks with Petri the following:

I would never bet the farm on any single company. Because you always hear these stories where a guy triple mortgaged their house and then made it. But you never hear the stories that are much more common where they triple mortgage their house and fail and then they live their lives in misery because of that.

The opposite of success is not failure but not trying again. The startup culture is getting better with acknowledging the struggle but it’s still hard to keep this in mind while you’re in the middle of it.

It’s a fine line to know whether something is going to work out or it’s time to try something else. Tomi Grönfors in his episode states:

I’ve always felt it in my stomach. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling that somehow you notice that this isn’t going anywhere.”

When you’re operating in unchartered territories the success rate is very low. You can improve your odds by adding numbers and that’s the VC model. From a founder’s perspective, the game is different and you need to embrace this.

There are other factors at play that are out of your control. Some times the opportunities are opening and closing from your perspective randomly. That is something to keep in mind as well. You better love the mission you’re advancing since the destination may not end up being what you have imagined in the first place.