FailCon Shows That Taking Risks Is Worth It

If failure is a badge of honor for entrepreneurs, then the FailCon 2010 conference is an awards show to honor those who try and try again.

More than 400 entrepreneurs and investors came to FailCon yesterday at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco to hear various entrepreneurs and other panel speakers—many of whom who have been there and done that before—talk about their thoughts on failure.

Among those in attendance was Christine Herron, a principal at First Round Capital and former entrepreneur herself.

When I asked Herron whether failure can be beneficial, she said that separating “failing” from “being a failure” is the number one lesson she hopes budding entrepreneurs take away from FailCon.

“FailCon is all about creating, and sustaining, a warm, safe space for taking risks,” she said. “For entrepreneurs, it’s a wonderful gift to have someone hold your hand as you jump off a cliff. You might still hit the rocks below, and it certainly hurts, but at least you won’t feel alone.”

Indeed, FailCon (put on by Cass Phillipps, who also hosted the FailChat talks I wrote about before) may be on to something; perhaps the secret sauce for entrepreneurial success. As the leadership coach Olivia Fox, who I met recently at a different event, said to me earlier today: “It’s important to know how to fail successfully. Only the best leaders and the best innovators know how to do that.”

Among the entrepreneurs who attended FailCon was Shelly Roche, who “demoed” her startup Wordchuck, which offers language translation for apps and is already backed by Vancouver-based angel investor Eric Woodward.

Roche (pictured) says she finds it difficult to embrace her mistakes. But one thing she heard more than once at FailCon was that if and when mistakes happen, her customers will usually forgive her if she’s open and honest with them.

“That’s pretty powerful for someone like me who is just starting out, taking big risks, and bound to make mistakes along the way,” she said. “It’s been scary to put myself out there to this extent, and it’s hugely comforting to know others have taken similar risks, made mistakes and survived.”