Silicon Valley’s Failcon conference is about to take another stab at getting Europe to talk openly about failure.
The word “failure” may not rhyme with “loser”, but, on this side of the Atlantic, it might as well. Talking to European entrepreneurs and investors about their least-favourite f-word can provoke violent reactions – which is perhaps why many avoid the subject altogether.
But, over in the US, American entrepreneurs are getting together to celebrate their scars. While neither Yahoo!’s Jerry Yang nor Carole Bartz has stepped up to offer their personal failure stories yet, companies like MySpace, Foursquare, Etsy, Uber and Zappos have. In fact, since 2010, the FailCon conference has brought together hundreds of people to listen to some of the tech industry’s biggest success stories share their worst failures.
Proudly displaying one’s shortcomings isn’t a big deal for over-optimistic Americans: some of Silicon Valley’s biggest stars, including Y Combinator’s Paul Graham and 500 Startups’ Dave McClure, have not hesitated to remind entrepreneurs that most of what they do is in fact dealing with, and overcoming, failure. Even those who succeed, like hotshot chief executives of companies such as Zynga and Fab.com, often have failure built into their story.
But in Europe, and the rest of the world, openly discussing failure is still taboo. It’s for this reason that the arrival of FailCon in Europe is quite notable.
The first international edition of the FailCon conference was held in Paris last year. Several hundred attendees showed up to hear less-than-happy stories of entrepreneurs from Zipcar, Sprouter, Avanquest, Eventbrite, Jiwa and more. But this was actually France’s second attempt at discussing failure: the first local conference on the subject – organised by Microsoft France – attracted many big names from the French tech scene, but speakers struggled to share their personal shortcomings.
Since last year’s French conference, other countries have grown keener on the idea of hosting similar events. Brazil just hosted its first FailCon, which also happened to be the first in Latin America. Other European countries – including Germany, Switzerland and the UK – have also got teams hoping to put together a local event, but with no official dates in place for 2012.
France plans to host its second official FailCon this autumn on 25 September at Microsoft in Paris, with speakers from several different countries, including France, Germany, Britain and America. Confirmed speakers include Partech’s Philippe Colombel, Criteo founder Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, Profounders’ Sean Seton Rogers, SoundCloud’s Thom Cummings and our own Milo Yiannopolous.
Editor’s Note: FailCon France is co-produced by Kernel columnist Roxanne Varza. You can purchase tickets here.