TALKING about fear of failure is the British disease

By October 15, 2007From mobile

Posted by mobile phone:
The following was printed in yesterday’s Sunday Times (I’m on my Blackberry, so no link):

“Nearly half of all adults in Britain have considered setting up their own business, but one in two of them are too scared of failure to do anything about it, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by Orange Business Services.

The Survey of 2,481 adults found that fear of failure is the No. 1 barrier to people starting up on their own, followed by a lack of confidence.

All the talk about how us uptight Brits are afraid of failure really annoys me, and I hear it a lot.

Of course people are afraid of failure – they should be. Starting a company is fraught with risk and the stats show that most don’t succeed. Thinking you might fail is a good and rational reason not to start a business. If we didn’t have people thinking like that there would be more bankruptcies.

So I think the Survey doesn’t tell us anything.

What it does do is reduce our confidence as a nation of entrtepreneurs and perpetuate a poor excuse for why we don’t produce as many great startups here as they do in California.

That is what irritates me.

The startup ecosystem is still young here and it needs nurturing. That is why I’m a big supporter of initiatives like Saul’s Seedcamp and OpenCoffee and other events like Chinwag and Mashup. It is also partly why I write this blog.

Talking to my Father-in-law last night I was reminded that being a bankrupt used to carry a social stigma that was never present in the same way across the Atlantic, so I will admit that the notion of fear of failure does have a basis in history, but I really think that is changing. Certainly here at DFJ Esprit we wouldn’t regard it as a black mark in and of itself. Rather if an entrepreneur had presided over a business failure and had learned something from the experience we would regard that as a postive.

So, and I hope it isn’t too much of an imposition to make a request of you on a Monday morning, next time you hear someone talking about how fear of failure inhibits us here in the UK I urge you not to nod sagely, but to push back and try to move the conversation onto more constructive ground.