In the early part of the scientific revolution, Francis Bacon said:
Man cannot do what has never been done, except by means not yet tried.
My understanding is that there are two parts to this; the means and the ends. Succeeding means getting both parts right. The fact that a field is littered with failed attempts doesn’t mean that the aim is unobtainable, or not worth obtaining. Nor does it mean that unconventional thinking is the key to success. It can just as easily be the key to new varieties of failure.
What it does mean, I think, is that taking conventional approaches to unsolved problems is a sure way to fail before you’ve even begun.
17-year old Nick D’Aloisio’s news reading app Summly was acquired by Yahoo last month for $30 million. Matthew Bishop interviewed D’Aloisio at DLDMunich in January of 2012, a little over a year before the acquisition.
Why can’t Google, with their vast team of engineers, simply knock off what you’ve done and drive you out of business?
There aren’t really any real competitors in the summarization space yet. They all keep getting bought out. I’m not worried about Google doing it themselves. For the money they could spend to buy us and implement us, it would be much more worthwhile than hiring 50 PhD guys. We’re already in the front so they would have to play catch up. So, what’s to say we don’t sell to their competitor and suddenly it gets implemented overnight into all these devices, Google’s lost out. I think they realize that if they want to get into the space, they may as well look for other services; either us or one they feel is most appropriate for their business needs.
Later, he added:
The bigger the corporation the less the innovation. It’s really true.
Despite the contradictions in his statements throughout the interview, it seems like D’Aloisio was hoping for a bidding war between Yahoo and Google for his company from the beginning.
You failed, it sucks and it wasn’t your fault.
Investors saw an opportunity the same way you saw one, that’s their game, its a numbers game for them. They invest in lots of promises, they win some, loose more but the wins cover the losses so don’t worry about them.
You did your best and that’s all that matters; the rest was beyond your control.
People fail like you every single day. In fact, almost every successful entrepreneur has a CV of failure much longer than you would have guessed, but no one ever talks about these failures; by the time they hit their big win, the failures are long forgotten.
Only the successes ever make it to TechCrunch and hardly anyone ever gets there on their first try.
So stop beating yourself up; get up, dust-off your shoulders and get to work on your next gig. When you reflect on this experience as you work on your next startup, you’ll be able to see just how much you’ve learnt from this failure and maybe even be able to appreciate it.
Keep tossing the coin and your win, your success, will come soon. You haven’t failed until you quit.
Best of luck.