Day 7: Failure

At an interview with a startup incubator today, our team was asked,

“One year from now, you’ve failed. What are the reason(s)?”

I was a little taken aback, mainly by how the question was framed. There were no conditions; the statement was definite, as if failure was inevitable. They say something like 75% of startups fail . That percentage may or may not be accurate, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is why failure occurs. Because like our interviewer today implied, failure is inevitable.

Failure takes on various forms, whether it be a major disaster or a minor hiccup. It’s part of the process, though. At best, failure is market research, resulting in critical pivots which can then lead to success. At worst, its something you never bounce back from, resulting in bankruptcy. Whatever form it takes, it’s helpful to think about what could, or what will happen, if you allow it to. The best way to combat failure is through thoughtful identification of potential root causes and then taking necessary preventative measures. Even then, you will likely still fail.

I came home freezing from a long day in Philadelphia, but the cold trek was worth it for this question alone.

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One response

  1. I love this question. Startups who can’t answer it or think that the answer is “we won’t fail” are delusional and I wouldn’t want to invest in them.

    November 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

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