As Canada goes through a startup and entrepreneurial renaissance, there is a lot of bullishness and excitement. These are important characteristics, because entrepreneurs need to believe they will be successful.
At the same time, failure is a distinct possibility. Far more startups fail than succeed. It’s the dark side of the startup ecosystem but a fact of life. Not every business is going to attract enough customers, revenue or financing to make it or be acquired for millions of dollars. Many startups will quietly disappear as quickly they appeared.
This reality was thrust into the spotlight last week when Thoora Inc., an online service that helped people discover and share content from blogs and traditional media, said it was shutting down. The three-year-old company was part of Rogers Ventures, the venture capital arm of Rogers Communications Inc.
Thoora, co-founded by Chul Lee, Kyu Lee and Byron Ma, decided to suspend its service indefinitely after failing to attract enough users or more capital.
For Thoora’s employees, it is obviously disappointing to see a business disappear but it was certainly not for a lack of effort or a bad idea.
The reality is that some startups just don’t resonate with consumers for whatever reason. It may have to do with timing, execution, competition or other factors, but it is what it is.
The silver lining to failure is that it provides entrepreneurs with opportunities to gain valuable experience, insight and perspective about how to operate a business. The lessons gained from being involved in a business that was not able to gain enough traction to become viable can be as crucial as the lessons from being successful.
While disappointed, Thoora’s employees will have gained invaluable experience working for a company that developed interesting technology. In time, this experience will no doubt be something they will be able to apply in a positive way – whether at another startup or at an established company that can benefit from having people with a different perspective.
Rather than simply see Thoora as a failure, it is important to recognize that silver lining, which could be a key ingredient in the success of other companies in the future.
Entrepreneurs have to avoid thinking that failure is a bad thing. As much as we like to put the spotlight on successful businesses, we need to stop treating failure as something that only has negative connotations.
The key is the ability to leverage failure down the road to provide your next business with a better chance of being successful. The ability to know what not to do or what to avoid can be priceless.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.
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