Though tech startups rely on origin myths and mantras like 'Fail fast, fail often,' the psychic toll of unrelenting failure simmers just beneath the exuberance
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Shikhar Ghosh, a Harvard lecturer, says venture capitalists 'bury their dead very quietly'.
It is probably Silicon Valley's most striking mantra: "Fail fast, fail often." It is recited at technology conferences, pinned to company walls, bandied in conversation.
Failure is not only invoked but celebrated. Entrepreneurs give speeches detailing their misfires. Academics laud the virtue of making mistakes. FailCon
, a conference about "embracing failure", launched in San Francisco in 2009 and is now an annual event, with technology hubs in Barcelona, Tokyo, Porto Alegre and elsewhere hosting their own versions.
While the rest of the world recoils at failure, in other words, technology's dynamic innovators enshrine it as a rite of passage en route to success.
But what about those tech entrepreneurs who lose - and keep on losing? What about those who start one company after another, refine pitches, tweak products, pivot strategies, reinvent themselves ... and never succeed? What about the angst masked behind upbeat facades?
Silicon Valley is increasingly asking such questions, even as the tech boom rewards some startups with billion-dollar valuations, sprinkling stardust on founders who talk of changing the world.
"It's frustrating if you're trying and trying and all you read about is how much money Airbnb and Uber are making," said Johnny Chin, 28, who endured three startup flops but is hopeful for his fourth attempt. "The way startups are portrayed, everything seems an overnight success, but that's a disconnect from reality. There can be a psychic toll."
It has never been easier or cheaper to launch a company in the hothouse of ambition, money and software that stretches from San Francisco to Cupertino, Mountain View, Menlo Park and San Jose.
In 2012 the number of seed investment deals in US tech reportedly
more than tripled, to 1,700, from three years earlier. Investment bankers are quitting Wall Street for Silicon Valley, lured by hopes of a cooler and more creative way to get rich.
Most startups fail. However many entrepreneurs still overestimate the chances of success - and the cost of failure.