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Outside of Silicon Valley, you only hear about the startups that make it — the Facebooks and Snapchats, the so-called “unicorns” founded by twentysomething college dropouts turned billionaires. It can start to feel like those stories are the norm, and that falling flat only happens very rarely. But 90% of startups fail.
As any entrepreneur working away on a business will tell you, not only is failure in this sphere entirely normal, it’s also a kind of rite of passage. When things don’t go right, you get to learn a lot. As one former founder told us, “With success, it’s not ever any one person, it’s always sort of a bunch of magical factors. But with failure, you can usually more clearly pinpoint what still worked and why something lasted as long as it did.”
Failure can be an eye-opening experience. It can teach you things and change your perspective in radical ways. And, most importantly, it’s not the end of the world when your company ultimately doesn’t make it.
We talked to four Silicon Valley women who survived failed startups and discovered that what they learned from the experience shaped both their careers — and their lives — for the better. Here's what they had to say.
Photo: Courtesy Sarah Kunst.
Photo: Courtesy Jessie Baxter.
Photo: Courtesy Mandela Schumacher-Hodge.
Photo: Courtesy Liane Thompson.