Screw failure, success is what counts

Shane Allison, co-founder

We've got a cultural obsession with failure at the moment. I'd like to call bullshit on it.

There are lots of ways to achieve personal growth and learn some important life lessons. Do an MBA. Volunteer for a cause you care about. Work on a large project for a mature company.

But don't piss millions of dollars of VC funding up against the wall and walk away claiming you've 'learned some valuable lessons' and are 'a better, more seasoned founder.' No. You've just done exactly as what should be written on the label - taken a match to millions of dollars of investors cash.

It's not just time to kill the failure fetish, it's time we called bullshit on the whole idea that failure is the best teacher generally. I'm not saying it's a bad teacher, but there's definitely a better teacher, and it's called success.

I've failed plenty of times. In fact, I've screwed up royally more times than I care to count. I have learned from these experiences, and every single one of them has made me a better person.

But the period where I learned the most is when I was building a startup at the age of 17. Because we did some things wrong, but we did more things right. And the lessons of what we did right have helped me in ways that the lessons from the failures can't. Because I can repeat the lessons of these successes ad infinitum. When I have learned from failure, I learnt what not to do.

Learning what to do from these successes have provided a blueprint for how things work well and what's needed to build enduring, successful businesses.

The question I'd ask founders is - when you're looking for a job, do you look for the company that has failed more? Or the company which is doing well?

The startup ecosystem is exactly the same. The very best companies are founded by successful individuals who attract great talent - not the third or fourth time founder who've wasted millions of dollars of other people's money.

Let's create a startup culture that celebrates success, and doesn't create a cultural obsession of failure. The message we're sending currently is that to be good, you have to have failed first.

I still remember the first time I heard a VC tell an audience that the best founders have failed a couple of companies. I nearly fell off my chair.

Because that's absolutely rubbish. Most successful people haven't blown up two or three companies before they make it. They've come up with a good idea, a good business model, raised money, stuck with it and made it work.