Opinion

Published

The entrepreneurs who fought failures to become billionaire business icons

4 Mins

Former Dragons’ Den investor Piers Linney spoke with Real Business earlier this year and explained that he’d like to see Britain adapt to the trend witnessed on the other side of the Atlantic.

He said that even the most successful entrepreneurs will have experienced difficulties ahead of greatness, but is of the opinion those struggles make you a stronger business leader – as long as you learn from them.

“In America people prefer failure. If you turn up over there with a great idea but haven’t had an experience as an entrepreneur or with failure, you’d find it harder, whereas the Brits need to get over that,” he said.

“There’s a mantra now in the US about failing fast – get a minimum viable product onto market, try it and if it doesn’t work, move onto the next thing, but it doesn’t fit into the way of thinking here.”

From Linney’s point of view, if something isn’t working then you need to cut your losses quickly – that’s a lesson he’s learnt along the way, having made investments that didn’t go according to plan.

“I’ve been involved in businesses where we tried things, it didn’t work out, and we paid everyone off and shut it down, which is fine.

“Failure is okay, but it doesn’t mean you can raise loads of money to blow up every couple of years and take people down with you – that’s not acceptable. You’ll soon find you won’t be able to raise anything.”

Computer programmer Brian Acton is an interesting case. Having applied for a job at Twitter in May 2009, he was unsuccessful in his application, but he remained undeterred and kept his eyes open for the next opportunity.

Later in the summer that same year, he applied for a position at Facebook – but seemingly his social networking career wasn’t meant to be as he turned to Twitter to broadcast the news, which revealed he was still optimistic.

The five times sponsorship failed and blew up in the faces of brands

The optimism paid off.

Just a couple of months later and Acton had become co-founder of WhatsApp – as in the instant messaging app that Facebook bought for $19bn in February 2014.

Interestingly, fellow WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum – who worked with Acton at Yahoo – was also rejected from a position at Facebook. 

He now sits on the board of directors alongside Mark Zuckerberg, and WhatsApp reached 900m users in September 2015.

Indeed, the app is fast approaching the big one billion user milestone, a figure parent company Facebook achieved on mobile in a single day for the first time in August.

“WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide,” said Koum.

“We’re excited and honoured to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world.”

Continue reading on the next page for more individuals that secured victory, even when it looked out of reach.


Share this story

From a council estate to tech millionaire
Calling all men – we need your help to balance career and family
Send this to a friend