Sunday, October 15, 2006

Titans; Not Wallflowers

This morning’s New York Times (and its syndicate) had an article about the founder of Friendster, characterizing him as a “Wallflower at the Web Party” and describing how Friendster went awry. Whether or not that’s true, what is true is that there’s no shame in trying. Most companies aren’t Google, YouTube, MySpace, or the like. The ones that succeed, albeit in smaller ways, have as much or more to be proud of; and the ones that try and struggle, but ultimately don’t make it may have even more to be proud of. It’s all part of the natural lifecycle of start-up companies. And, for the most part, even the ones that don’t make it ultimately move the “state of the art” forward.

There is one school of thought that says that entrepreneurs with a number of failures under their belts are better executives. That certainly has been my experience. Imagine how much you learn when you have to fight for every victory – however small.

Just this week, I thought of this three times: a very good friend of mine is one of the best entrepreneurs I (and many VCs) know. He has started three companies and is always at the front end of knowing where the world is going. He has put together companies that have done well, but . . . And, by the way, the challenges of each of these companies were harder than YouTube and MySpace.

And then there’s another friend, a CEO who has always been one of the nicest guys I know. He has been with the same company for four years – during which time he has had to slog along selling a complex product to resistant customers. Today, they are finally making some headway. And he is the first to admit that he’s far more effective today than he was when he started. And he got that way because it’s just plain been really hard.

And finally, there’s the executive who founded and built a company a few years ago – only to watch it go up in flames surrounded by VC politics. The next company has had zero dollars in venture capital and may be the most successful bootstrapped company I have seen in the Silicon Valley.

It’s ok to try. And, in fact, you’re not a wallflower at all. You’re really a titan!