Monday, June 9, 2014

A Barnyard of Entrepreneurs 6: Failure is Success

Rooster was surfing the Web when he stumbled upon a picture of Black Rat.  Rooster clicked, clicked again, and suddenly froze.  "Black Rat is an entry in Wikipedia?!"  

Brown Hen walked over to peer at the screen.  "Well, he did found two start-ups," Hen suggested.

"But neither was ever funded," said Rooster.  "They both failed."

"He was an Evangelist for Nosehole, too."  Hen grimaced.  That wasn't going so well, either.

Rooster responded, "That's it?  Is that enough accomplishment to be listed in the world's online encyclopedia?"  He read on.  It turns out Rat had also done a famous TED Talk.  "Once You're Unlucky, Twice You're Serial: The Immutable Laws of Failure," he read aloud.  "He gave a lecture about failure?" Rooster asked.

"Failure is good," Hen smiled.  "Fail fast, fail often," added Speckled Hen.  "I read that all the time on LinkedIn."  White Hen perked up.  "I think of my failures as a gift!  That was in the Harvard Business Review so it must be right!" she added.

"Failure is practically a cottage industry at TED," Speckled Hen pointed out.

Rooster slumped.  "Two failed start-ups and a 9-minute lecture about failure.  Could that really be enough to get Black Rat into Wikipedia?"

"Well," Brown Hen answered, "Rat's invitation to TEDBarnyard last year was lucky.  I think the organizers had a last minute cancellation," she recalled, "and had to choose between Rat's lecture on failure and two ducks playing a duet on the spoons."

"Anyone would have chosen Rat," smiled Speckled Hen. "At that point, he deserved it."

"Then Black Rat's talk was covered by RE/code, TechCrunch and Pando," Brown Hen continued.  "I saw it re-blogged everywhere.  Blogs," she added, "are reliable sources, and Wikipedia is built on reliable sources."

"And then," White Hen said, "I heard that Rat had his buddies take it viral.  You can imagine," she said, "how many rats there are in the barnyard.  All those tiny smartphones.  Like.  Like.  Like.  Black Rat became an online celebrity!"

"Like Psy and Gangnam Style!" said Speckled Hen.  "Like cats riding on roombas!" Brown Hen added.  "Like LeBron James having leg cramps," noted White Hen.

"Of course," White Hen went on, "going viral and becoming a celebrity is the best way to raise more money for your next start-up."  She scratched the dirt.  "So maybe failure is like success!"  Speckled Hen agreed.  "Better than success!"

Rooster grew more perplexed.  Failure. More failure.  A TED Talk on failure, engineered to go viral.  Blog posts on a TechCrunch article on a viral video on a TED Talk on failure.  Critical mass.  Instant celebrity.  It made his head spin.  "Is that really what it takes to get into Wikipedia?"

"It's just an algorithm," declared Brown Hen, "and algorithms don't lie."

"It sounds like an algorithm written by a Hollywood agent," groaned Rooster.  "In the old days Rat wouldn't have had enough success yet to afford a set of encyclopedias. Now he's the entry in one?"

"The market speaks," said Hen.  "And really, isn't that so much better than having a bunch of scholars and professional editors determine what's important, like the old Encyclopedia Britannica?" she asked.

"You're right," White Hen declared, "We're so lucky that we don't have to live with that kind of bias any more."