Despite the impending arrival of super typhoon Nepartak, Steve Chen, Co-founder and former CTO of YouTube, braved the storm and sat down with Tim Culpan of Bloomberg Gadfly for a fireside chat along with a panel of up and coming Taiwan startups: Health2Sync, PamilyApp, SkyREC, and UXTesting.
Close to 500 more courageous souls fought the strong winds and heavy rain to join us at the top of Syntrend in downtown Taipei eager to hear the perspective of a successful entrepreneur who has been at the heart of some of Silicon Valley’s most iconic companies including PayPal, Ebay, Facebook, and YouTube.
From dropping out of college, to leaping at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join PayPal, to launching his most recent venture NOM, a live-streaming, interactive video platform about food, Steve shared a few thoughts on how risk-taking and failure play in the life of an entrepreneur.
Failure is par for the course
While there has been much recent discussion in Taiwan of how Fear of Failure (FOFA) has been a strong cultural force preventing more Taiwanese from taking the startup plunge, Steve underscored how critical the role of failure plays in the life of an entrepreneur.
“The greatest entrepreneurs, they come back and do it again. I think that is what makes them successful entrepreneurs,” said Steve while referring to some of his early role models, the founders of PayPal such as Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, and Elon Musk.
“It’s impossible that every startup that you’re going to be behind is going to be a success. It’s just statistically impossible.”
In fact, Steve went on to emphasize that many entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley “take pride in the number of companies they have worked at that have failed.”
Often it’s these kinds of struggles that leave the strongest impressions, allowing us to achieve more success the next time around.
Steve recalled that one of his more memorable challenges involved leading a 20+ member team as part of PayPal’s foray into China. In early 2005, few people in China used credit cards and most payments required a visit to the post office.
While “it was a great idea, [that] never amounted to much,” he still gained invaluable experience learning how to deal with underperforming staff. For Steve, sometimes this would mean having to “tap [a team member] on the shoulder and say, ‘Can we talk for 30 minutes?’” and have those tough chats.
Difficult as they may be, first-time experiences like these “paid off dividends later on [for Steve] at YouTube.”
Sometimes life just happens
But, perhaps an even stronger argument for taking chances and overcoming the fear of failure is the uncertainty of what life may bring.
After the monumental achievement of getting YouTube in the spotlight during the 2007 Democratic presidential primary debates, Steve suddenly suffered a seizure while aboard a plane returning home. For two years he dealt with the anxiety and uncertainty over his condition before finally deciding to go ahead with invasive brain surgery. In his physician’s assessment, the procedure was a “6 out of 10” with 10 being the most dangerous of surgeries.
While such a close call might have convinced some to follow a more conservative lifestyle, for Steve this fueled his passion to continue taking on the risks and excitement of starting a new venture.
Words of advice
Steve often encounters founders who ask him what they should do next. Most of the time, he finds that everything is in alignment. It’s just that the founders are reluctant to take that big leap. Steve acknowledges that the “hardest part about creating a successful startup is to create it.”
“If it fails, you learn something, or maybe you just do it differently the next time….but [the hardest part] is going out there and taking that first step.”
So, not surprisingly, what’s Steve’s biggest tip for startup founders?
“Just do it!”
Do you agree with Steve? Have your failures become sources of your success? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page.
當「害怕失敗（FOFA, Fear of Failure）」近年在台灣常受到議論、說這形成了台灣人從事創業的強烈阻力，陳士駿也進一步強調，「失敗」在創業家生活中是扮演多麼重要的角色：「偉大的創業家，他們會捲土重來、東山再起。我認為就是憑藉這個精神，才讓他們得以成為成功的創業家。」他也提及早期心中的模範代表－Paypal的創辦人們，像是 Peter Thiel, Max Levchin 和 Elon Musk 。