2013 is coming to an end and I realize that I owe myself a brief public reflection on failure. What type of failure? Professional failure, that is. Luckily, I reckon there is not much to report on the personal front thus far.
It is a quasi-mantra of the start-up world that one learns more from defeat than from victory. At 39, I can say I have had my fair share of the former.
Let's see: over the last few years, and among other projects that have fared better, I have founded a TV production business, a digital newspaper publisher and I was an early investor in a live bookings software company, all of which are currently dead or in the process of going through extraordinary difficulties.
Was it all bad all the time? Not quite. In the TV production company (Rojo Vivo), we had a startling first two years, selling product to one of the country’s biggest TV companies (Antena 3). The digital newspaper (Factual) achieved 50.000 unique users (2% of them paying subscribers), 900.000 page views, and an average time-spent-on-the-site of over 20 minutes in its first month after launch. The live bookings system (O2C) closed a juicy financing round quite early on with local blue chip investors. But in all three cases things eventually did go very wrong.
What are the key lessons learned? Three main ones: 1) Being directionally right isn't enough. Timing is of the essence! 2) You cannot be too careful in selecting your partners. To project onto them your own ethics is just plainly naïve. And, 3) Taking money for granted until it sits in a bank account can horribly backfire. There is no limit to the number of reasons why cash may not hit the account in the end.
Would I do things differently if I were to have a second chance at those specific projects? No doubt. Like in the Sinatra song (well, version), it is quite possible that a bit off more than I could chew. But let there be no doubt, when I look back, I never, not once, wish I had not been involved. That is just not me.
And, since life does not work that way in terms of providing additional chances (never for the same projects), all I can hope is that those lessons stick and show their true worth in all current and future endeavors. And that is a promise… ;)