A company’s failure is something that people don’t usually speak of, as if it were a bad omen or a skeleton in the closet. But, as FailCon ’10 made clear, failure happens to everyone, including those used to always being on top. The conference, held Monday in San Francisco, made failure appear to be a badge of honor. In the world of start-ups, failure is a way for one to learn lessons and to succeed as a result of failing in the past. FailCon ’10, now in its second year, was launched by event planner Cassie Phillipps of WebWallfower Events and took place in the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco.
The opening speaker was serial entrepreneur and business school professor Steve Blank who was also available to sign his book, The Four Steps to the Epiphany. It’s about early stage start-ups and the four stages of growth any start-up goes through in order to become a real company. Right on target with the theme of the conference. His talk was based on the key task of any start-up; creating a working business model. He also provided some practical advice such as, “Don’t expect the VC’s to be lined up waiting for you to hand you money when you get off the plane in Silicon Valley.”
Blank was soon followed by a number of speakers from very successful companies who spoke about what they learned from their mistakes. The line-up included Chad Dickerson of Etsy, Chrysanthe Tenentes of FourSquare and Cathy Brooks of OtherThanThat, who asked her usual probing questions when interviewing former Digg CEO, Jay Adelson. Adelson did not share too much with the audience that wasn’t already news, such as his departure from Digg as CEO, but he did share his thirst for being a part of the start-up process, whether it is successful or not.
Hotel Kabuki is a convenient venue, not only for its great restaurants in Japantown but ideal for a conference thanks to its numerous rooms that provided both speaker presentations and workshops. How Not to Fail at SEO presented by Vanessa Fox, formerly of Google and now of Nine By Blue, provided a great presentation of do’s and don’ts for SEO that one can find in her book, Marketing in the Age of Google.
A number of start-ups provided demos of their products and services in the “Demo Room” including: Footfeed, Near2There, FoodSprout, Wordchuck, SurfMark, Doochoo, CardMunch, Soup.me, MogoTix, hiyakoo, MyNextCustomer, R/A Profit$, and Bee.TV. Throughout the day they offered demos of their product or service for those that wandered into the demo room during sessions and breaks. The audience texted their favorite using Poll Everywhere and the three favorites of FailCon were MyNextCustomer, CardMunch and MogoTix. MogoTix, the winner of the popular vote, provides scannable tickets on your mobile phone and for the event organizer, instantaneous viewing of who has arrived. Perhaps they will have some small failures in order to ensure that they will be successful in the end.