kga245 (kga245) wrote,

On Failure

Don't be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.

John Keats

A few weeks ago, I quietly disclosed that I was no longer continuing full-time operations of a company I started. While I did not say I was shutting Dandelife down, it was reported (by the Times and others) that the project was a failure. Interesting conclusion. I would argue the opposite. And so I shall. 

Two-and-a-half years ago, I quit my day job at a company I helped found in order to found another company. The difference being the former was an agency and the latter a dot-com. Instead of working for clients and toward their goals, I was now in a position to make a product directly for consumers. I did this with the help of two close friends who helped me take the leap. Practically speaking, starting a company takes real concrete help, not just encouragement. I got a few months of money and a development partner. I got five great advisors. And within two months of taking the leap from a steady income and a loving work environment, I was in the solitary world of building a new company from the ground up. I told my wife that if the new company wasn't bringing in enough money to replace the old income in three months, then I'd quit and find a real job. It didn't make money. I didn't quit. I didn't find a real job. But that didn't matter. To make it work, I tinkered.

Tinkerers do so in so many different ways. My father-in-law has a garage full of junk parts, tools from a forgotten age, two refrigerators and a black-and-white TV. There is a clear path from the door to the fridges in an otherwise unnavigable space. My dad has an office with ash trays filled to the brim, a desk full of letters, stacks of magazines and newspapers in the corners and bookshelves on every wall. I can remember a basement in Cleveland that my best friend's dad inhabited throughout our childhood; he'd disappear for weeks only to re-emerge bleary-eyed and incoherent but holding a beautiful model airplane ready to fly, crash and repair.

Prior to starting Dandelife, I tinkered with code and graphics and built things in my free time that only I had any use for. My desire to build things could not be staved off.

When I started Dandelife, I found that those computer skills were great to have, but if I was going to survive on my own, I had to extend myself in new ways. I had to become different and I had to discover my other abilities on-the-fly. In short, I hacked at myself. I found ways to leverage my experiences for others. I consulted. I traveled. I spoke. I networked. I tested. I strategized. I learned as much as I could from as many people as I could. I made new friends. All of this was a part of discovering what my weaknesses and strengths were. Skills that were weak, I rebuilt. Those that were strong, I put pressure on.

In retrospect, I realize that I had done this kind of self-building (albeit under considerably less pressure) in all of my previous jobs. It was an onconscious thing. However in the fishbowl of foundership, self-improvement is always, always at the forefront of one's thoughts.

Such is life. By all outward measures, Dandelife has not been the success I set out for. I never got VC funding (tried, got very close), never got acquired (got even closer) and never made millions (not even close). Failure, as Keats intimates, is a factor for success. If in no other way than expanding and deepening one's own ability. What's more, I'm (still) having the time of my life.
Tags: dandelife, entreprenuerism, failure, start-up, success

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