Australians judge start-up “failure” too harshly, Google chief claims

Australians harshly judge “failed” entrepreneurs, putting off many people from starting up businesses, Google Australia’s development chief has claimed.


Alan Noble, head of research and development for the search giant’s Australian operation, points to the very public failure of Google Wave as an example of an invaluable lesson, rather than cause for criticism.


The serial entrepreneur who spent 16 years in Silicon Valley says the Australian start-up community can learn a lot from such failures, especially that there’s no shame in things not going to plan.


“If you look at the very strict definition of success, which is user uptake, then by strict definition Wave was a failure,” he says of the Google collaboration tool that was mostly developed in Australia and was axed as a standalone product in 2010.


“But by almost any other criteria, there are incredible lessons that we learned from Wave – including technology lessons and execution lessons. The individuals from that project have gone on to do good things… It was a great undertaking for us and something we learnt a lot from.”


Noble believes there’s a culture of judgment in Australia that may be turning entrepreneurs off starting up companies due to the perceived stigma associated with failure.


“Australians can be too quick to judge our failed entrepreneurs,” he says. “We should be giving them the credit to acknowledge they took a chance and they can try again.”


It’s different in Silicon Valley, says Noble, where there’s no shame in having been a failed entrepreneur.


“I know many failed entrepreneurs, and I’ve come close to companies that have failed.”


He says it should be seen as a “badge of honour” to have been through a start-up, failed, and then recovered to move on to something else.


Alan Noble is No. 10 on The Power Index’s digital media list. See his full profile here.


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