How to decide to fail fast vs sticking with your idea?


Many say you need to launch fast and then decide whether your idea works or not and then fail fast if needed. But how do you decide when to fail ( fail = stop working on current idea and start working on something new ) vs sticking with the idea for a longer time?

I have failed fast a couple of times and realized that it was a big mistake. But it is too late.

What's your take?

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asked Oct 24 '09 at 01:05
Web Thinker
430 points
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4 Answers


I thought the concept of failing fast was in order to find success sooner. Too many startups, especially web based startups, never launch because they want to get it perfect. Launch early and let your site fail fast. That will allow you to have real connection with your customers and make improvements that will get you to success way faster than if you had waited in fear of failure.

I don't think "fail" in this sense is utter failure and quitting, it's just making some mistakes along the way to success. "Fail fast" means not being afraid to make mistakes. Let people know you're in startup mode and that the site is Beta. The early adopters will love being a part of shaping how the site works.

See this blog post by one of the founders of this site. As Chris said, it takes a long time to build a business and you have to commit for the long haul. If you spend a ton of money and time building a web site that hasn't had any customer interaction (or failure), then the business will be more likely to fail when it launches and isn't what any real users want or need.

The beautiful thing about Web 2.0 is that you can launch a new idea in a weekend, wire it up to UserVoice, let all your "friends" on Facebook and Twitter know about it, and then find all the week spots. There will be at least one feature that you totally loved, but no one else cares about. The bigger failure would be to waste time working on that feature.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 02:15
Coder Dennis
691 points


Dennis' answer hits it on the head.

"Fail fast" is not about having the company go belly up quickly.

It's about making small failures that don't kill you, and then learning something relevant from all of those failures.

I think "fail fast" is a bad label. A better way to think of this concept is as a series of experiments. Try stuff. See what works and what doesn't. Try to figure out why. Then try stuff that's a little different to try to improve.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 02:38
422 points
  • This is one of the best one-liners I've seen for fail-fast, thanks! "It's about making small failures that don't kill you, and then learning something relevant from all of those failures." – Jrullmann 12 years ago


So many of the questions in this forum are tough to answer because there are so many specific circumstances that will impact advice.

In this case, the funding you have, your personal financial situation, market opportunity, risk, overall business plan and so much more play into it.

But to your question, I think we've gotten into a "quick hit / quick miss" frame of mind and that we lose sight of how long it typically takes to build businesses. The Twitter phenomenon invades the media, invades VC's, invades everyone and we forget that it takes time in most cases. Your "failure" might just mean you need to modify your direction and that will lead to success. On another answer I mentioned my experience at a startup. Our original direction wasn't succeeding. We had a cash flow crunch. Brutal. But because of a great group of people (especially the founders), we all figured out how to modify our plan and direction and were extremely successful. If we were focused on launching fast and deciding fast whether we were a failure, we probably would've closed shop.

Key to my point above is having the right person/people that can figure out how to analyze your situation and modify the direction ahead.

Again though, so many circumstances that affect the decision.

Best of luck whatever direction you go.

answered Oct 24 '09 at 01:16
4,214 points


Life is full of uncertainty, and you can never know for sure when it is time to call it quits and move on to the next venture...

Some companies survive hit after hit only to end up doing very well on a project that has little to do with what they initially developed, others never recover.

The most important factor is the team. If you have a wining team, you should not hurry too much to quite, but if your team has a fundamental problem, then you need to be on your way out. An A team with a B idea is more likely to make it then a B team with an A idea.

Once you know you have a winning team, then moving on to developing new products is a matter of whether the product is working in the market or not. If you can figure out why not and fix it, go for it, but if the product has no market, leave it behind and move on to the next big idea.

If you know that you have a winning team, and the product makes sense in the market where you are trying to sell it, then it might still make sense to close the company and start over, if the company has lots of debt and is no longer serving its purpose. You can always start another company with the same people, this time with more experience then you had the last round.

One more thing from personal experience - patents - Unless you hold a patent for a chemical or a drug, it is not worth spending more then the bare minimum getting a patent, and then looking for investors to finance filing the patent in more places. If you cannot raise money for that in the 30 months that the PCT2 allows you for global filing, then it is more then likely it will never be worth it.

By the way, in what way were your failures a mistake (other then the obvious lack of success :) )

answered Oct 24 '09 at 01:20
Ron Ga
2,181 points
  • Started doing mobile data sync work ( Startup name FineSync ) and after a launch - thought I can't reach big player because of lake of Marketing skills and lake of funding ( Cell phone testing is expensive ). started around same time got VC and good market for that functionality. It was mistake because if I had continued for little longer then things might have been different. Other idea was expense tracking by email,SMS. Not like but just a easy way to track expenses. Didn't pursue it for long enough. I think now i am gonna pick one and will stick to it for long long time. – Web Thinker 14 years ago

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