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The risk of not failing

Thursday, 19 May 2011 | By Niki Scevak

The risk of failure in co-founding a start-up is mostly imaginary. Even when you lose, you still end up ahead.

The odds are that the “million dollar idea” you have in your head will fail. When you build your product no one will care. Your team will disagree on the direction of the company and break up.


You'll be outcompeted by someone who wants it more. But even when you do start a company, you'll still end up ahead of those who don't.

One of the biggest misconceptions I see when talking with would-be entrepreneurs is the perceived risk of failure. The consequences will be dire; No one will want to talk to you, your career will be over and investors will never back you again.

Here is a little secret: If you conduct yourself in an honest way and demonstrate your tenacity in times of toughness, you'll be more employable than if you hopped on the corporate ladder at the same time.

Launching a start-up shows huge courage, a willingness to be accountable for your actions and will force you to be brutally focused on the customer.


If you join a large corporation, you'll learn bad habits taking needless meetings all day, convince yourself of your contribution to what already is existing business momentum and get fat and lazy in honing your business instincts.

As a young professional, starting a company is a huge shortcut even to moving up the corporate ladder because decisions on you will be measured according to merit and not years of experience.

For developers and product managers, Facebook, Google and Zynga have all identified founders of failed start-ups (or too-early-to-tell-the-success-of start-ups) as one of the best segments of hires.


And so they now attract guaranteed bonuses, more stock and senior positions. Compare that to those that join those same companies as graduates and their long political fight to the same level.

Obviously successful start-ups shower large riches and a satisfying work life on the founders, but the point is that even in failed circumstances the outcomes are likely to be much better than simply joining a large corporation and talking about how you “had that idea” over a beer with your mates.

Starting a business is a huge uphill battle and requires large sacrifices of short-term financial pain, the hugely scary prospect of having what you do directly accepted or rejected by the market and a relentless desire to never give up.


But even when you fail you'll have learned in a year what normally takes five in a “normal” job and at the end of it the same companies will be lining up to bring you in at a more senior level.

So what are you waiting for?