25 things with Ben Kepes: Five things I've learnt from observing failure in business

Ben Kepes is a technology analyst, commentator and consultant. His commentary has been widely published in such outlets as Forbes, Wired and The Guardian, while he has also been an investor in a large number of early-stage technology start-ups across three continents and has had successful exits to listed and privately held companies in Canada, the US, and the UK. He currently sits on the boards of a number of non-profit, privately held and listed companies in New Zealand and the UK and has won a number of accolades, including being a recipient of the Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award in 2016. Here, he shares five things he's learnt from observing failure in business.

Five things I've learnt from observing failure in business

  1. We shouldn't be ashamed of failure, but at the same time we shouldn't wear it as a badge of honour. Failing sucks. There's this weird Silicon Valley cult of failure – don't buy into that crap, we shouldn't aim to fail.
  2. In start-ups, failure is the norm rather than the exception so don't beat yourself up. It's not the intended outcome, and clearly you shouldn't be aiming for it, but life goes on.
  3. If you come out of a failed start-up not having learned anything, you've failed twice. Everything is a learning opportunity.
  4. It's really hard not to take failure personally, to not blame others or to have failure affect relationships – a good reason not to mix business and pleasure. You know that old saying about doing business with family, right?
  5. Banks, lawyers and accountants might not be as understanding about your past failures as your technology buddies. Go figure.

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