Colorado Innovators to Celebrate Risking and Recovering from Failure

8/26/13Follow @MichaelXBD

Failure in the business world is a funny thing. Entrepreneurs who take risks and build innovative companies against long odds are celebrated, and their failures become part of their legend. But for a huge number of talented people with great ideas, fear of getting labeled with the other F word holds them back.

“Failure has been stigmatized in our society, which keeps people from taking risks,” said Mitra Best, who is PricewaterhouseCoopers’ innovation leader for its U.S. unit. Part of Best’s job with the consulting firm is to identify the traits shared by innovative companies and use them to help reshape the firm’s corporate culture.

Best has spent a lot of time studying how companies deal with risk and accept that they could fail. She’s also studied how companies and individuals recover. That’s turned her into something of an evangelist for the virtues of failure.

“I strongly believe if you haven’t failed in achieving your goals, you haven’t really pushed yourself hard enough,” Best said. How to accept risk, confront failure, and overcome it is something that “should be in every textbook, every business book, and every elementary school book,” she said.

Entrepreneurs who accept the risk of failure understand that, and even wear their failures as a badge of honor—even if they still sting a little. But other parts of the business world, government, and society at large still fear being labeled a failure.

Dispelling that stigma is part of the Glorious Failure Challenge, a business plan competition that’s finishing Thursday as part of the Colorado Innovation Network’s (COIN) annual summit.

Four companies from Colorado are competing for a $50,000 grand prize and $25,000 in in-kind services for the winner, which include office space, legal assistance, and cloud storage. The companies in second and third place will receive $13,500 and $11,750 worth of in-kind services.

Best will judge the event along with Foundry Group managing director Seth Levine and Matt Beal, an executive vice president and chief technology officer at CenturyLink.

Like any business plan competition, they’ll be looking for companies with innovative ideas, business plans that make sense, and market opportunities. But they’ll also look beyond traditional indicators of success and reward companies for tolerating and managing risks and the possibility of failure, according to the judging criteria.

The competitors

Talking with the founders or leaders of some of the companies, failure is something they acknowledge, but they keep it in perspective … Next Page »

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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