ast October, entrepreneur Mike Arsenault got up in front of a ballroom full of people in San Francisco and told them about all the mistakes he had made in launching Spreadable, a word-of-mouth marketing tool for entrepreneurs. At the
time, he was working as a new-product manager for the Grasshopper Group, a Boston-based virtual phone-system company. Standing before the assembled audience, Arsenault recounted how Grasshopper invested $550,000 into launching Spreadable and how the product quickly bombed
— the company shut it down after only six months. He detailed the mistakes that he and the Spread- able team made along the way. Then he sat down. The crowd applauded appreciatively.
42 PCMA CONVENE FEBRUARY 2013
Despite the confessional nature of his presenta-
tion, this was no self-help meeting for recovering techies. This was FailCon 2012, an annual one-day conference where technology entrepreneurs, investors, designers, and programmers gather to hear stories of failure. It’s not ironic or tongue- in-cheek. People really want to hear how and why others failed, and they want to use those lessons to increase their own chance of success. Arsenault’s session had a straightforward title: “How NOT to Manage Product.” Many startups fail. Everyone knows that. Yet
most of the how-to events and programming for aspiring entrepreneurs have focused on the path to success, rather than the bumpy road of failure. FailCon represents something different: “Stop being afraid of failure and start embracing it” is the message featured prominently on its website.