Failing fast-the silicon valley mantra, is total BS.
So this is the new chapter here and I’ll start with a disclaimer: Firstly, I will say that Asia is massive and every country is wildly different. Secondly, to me, there is 1st world Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore), and there is 2nd world Asia (everywhere else in some degree and variation). I also want to record all the amazing adventures and experiences I have had before I forget, and also those of other awesome people I already know and am continuing to meet along the way.
The fun, crazy, improbably and highly unbelievable stories usually come from 2nd world Asia, so that is where we will begin on this new, and hopefully more interesting record of some of the battles lost and won setting up and running businesses out there. So are we clear? until otherwise stated, all current and future stories will be based on my definition of the 2nd world, good.
So a lot of people (for their love and desire to be Silicon Valley), love to post about failing fast and getting onto the next failure or success, and while that might make sense in the US/valley and as the latest cover story of Forbes magazine next to the photo of the latest unicorn CEO in a tech company, that theory simple isn’t true for most start ups and businesses out here.
I used to be president of EO in Shanghai (don’t get too excited, it is an elected but an unpaid role and also because no one else wanted to put in the time and effort to do it properly, so I guess I won). EO is a global organization of entrepreneurs around the globe, and there are some good things in there, but its also human/member run, so with that comes the inevitable politics and questionable uses of member fees.., but that is another story altogether. The point is, that I knew a few hundred entrepreneur’s well, and about 20 very very well. The only guys crushing it at the time (and very very few were) made stuff cheap in China and sold for “not so cheap” to the western world (where you are more likely to get paid). They had also mostly been at it for 10–20 years each, with countless war stories about being screwed out of payments/product, corruption/extortion, been under the bus a few times for their investors, staff and company etc, you name it and they have been through it. BUT they didn’t fail fast, shut down and go start another business. Actually they stuck at it for years(decades mostly), persevered through thick and thin (and at times seemingly stupidly so) and stuck it out longer than everyone else that gave up along the way.
That is the main reason why everyone I know doing business who is successful, is successful.
Another example about how false this “fail fast” concept really is to most businesses, let’s take a look at the real estate industry. I am not sure how you can possible fail fast exactly, maybe as an investor buying a public real estate company stock or REIT that falls off a cliff in value overnight. But if you consider the cycle of real estate development which takes years, being involved in the supply chain for any of those services or products required, means you are tied to the timelines of the project, so failing fast doesn’t make sense here either unless you run out of cashflow half way through the project.
Another massive factor why being able to survive and sustain for a long time in business make more sense, is that it takes years and years to build good relationships. Many of those relationships want to see you building momentum and track record before anything tangible really comes out of it. Failing fast and changing your game every few months, only makes you look like you do not know what you are doing, don’t have the stamina and are simply a failure more than a revered silicon valley evangelist.
What formula we see that seems to work is simply: ridiculous levels of hard work and persistence, putting your skin in the game, an undying belief and faith in your ability to break through to the other side, and being smart and having enough income/revenue (from anywhere) to keep the lights on and key staff members paid, while you work out how to work it out. The economic and global landscape is changing so rapidly, often you just need to hang on long enough for something to change in your favour and for the gale force winds to stop blowing in your face and for it to start coming from the side or behind.
Putting failing fast or slow aside, starting any business seperate’s the women from the girls and the men from the boys, so if that is what you are doing good luck, keep at it and try to stay sane.
Enough already, that is my 2 sense for the day, catch up again soon