How to Fail for Success: Three Key Startup Mistakes

Cass Phillipps (Webwallflower Events), Janice Fraser (LUXr), Kevin Systrom (Instagram), Manu Kumar (K9 Ventures)
Workshop 2005
Please note: to attend, your registration must include Workshops.
Presentation: external link
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(4.67, 12 ratings)

While the allure of success if what drives entrepreneurs, a new
venture will fail in dozens ways: design, scaling, customer service,
team development and more. Yet it’s incredibly difficult to learn from
and replicate the success others have had. Much easier is avoiding and
preventing the mistakes they’ve made. Every year, FailCon brings
together founders, investors, and advisors in the startup community
who are ready to speak honestly about their own mistakes, what they
learned, and how they recovered. For this Web 2.0 Expo workshop, the
FailCon organizers bring us a mini-Fail event.

Five lively speakers will share the five most common mistakes startups
make in their first year. This three-hour session will also include
round-table discussions (featuring the people listed below), and opportunities to talk with the speakers
and other attendees.

  • Dan Martell, Co-Founder of Flowtown
  • Solana Crawford, Founder of DesignAboutTown
  • Marcy Swenson, Founder of Startup Happiness
  • Gagan Biyani, Founder of Udemy
  • Dale Larson, Startup Adviser and Consultant

Cass Phillipps

Webwallflower Events

I am an event producer for the Bay Area Startup Community, having managed shows including SF MusicTech Summit, Inside Social Apps, Unleashed Conference, SF Beta, and Finance4Founders.

I am also the creator and executive producer of FailCon, a one day summit focussed on helping startup founders identify, prepare for, and learn from the most common mistakes made. This year’s event attracted over 450 people, and will probably be traveling to New York, Paris, and Montreal next year.

Photo of Janice Fraser

Janice Fraser


Janice is an entrepreneur, designer, and advisor to early stage companies. She has raised capital, founded both successful and failed startups, and consulted to both large enterprises & tiny startups. Along the way Janice has learned a lot about what makes some teams thrive and others wither. At LUXr she’s answering the question, “How can regular, smart people do predictably good user experience work in an agile or Lean Startup™ environment?” She believes the answer lies in the operating practices and behaviors of the team. Janice is a guest lecturer at Haas, Stanford, Northwestern, CCA and the Presidio Graduate School of Management. Prior to starting LUXr, Janice was a founding partner of Adaptive Path and served as the company’s first CEO.

Photo of Kevin Systrom

Kevin Systrom


Kevin is CEO of Burbn, inc. – the company that makes the popular iPhone app Instagram. Originally from Boston, Kevin moved to the Bay Area to attend Stanford to study Finance and Decision Analysis. Very quickly, he got wrapped up in the world of entrepreneurship and landed a gig at Odeo as an intern working with Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey. After a two year stint of working at Google on the Gmail team and Corporate Development, Kevin worked at Nextstop which was purchased by Facebook. Kevin then decided to take the plunge and start Burbn, inc. with a focus on creating a new way of communicating and sharing in the real world. Their first product, Instagram was an instant hit – shooting to the top of the charts and gaining over 100,000 users in the first week.

Photo of Manu Kumar

Manu Kumar

K9 Ventures

Manu is the founder and Chief Firestarter at K9 Ventures. Manu previously founded, grew and sold two successful ventures. He was the Founder, President and CEO of SneakerLabs, Inc. – a company which developed software and services for web-based customer interaction. After the successful acquisition of SneakerLabs (March 2000), Manu served as the Vice-President of Interactive Technologies for E.piphany. He then served as the Chairman and CEO of iMeet, Inc. – a provider of web-conferencing services. Manu completed his Bachelors in Electrical and Computer Engineering with University Honors from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was inducted in to the Electrical Engineering Honor Society – Eta Kappa Nu, the National Engineering Honor Society – Tau Beta Pi and the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi. He holds a Masters degree in Software Engineering with a concentration in Business from Carnegie Mellon. Manu also holds a Masters and a Ph.D. in Computer Science (Human Computer Interaction) with a Distinction in Teaching from Stanford University. Manu serves as an investor and/or advisor for several technology startups including Refocus Imaging, Dolores Labs (CrowdFlower), Twilio, DNAnexus, HighlightCam, CardMunch and others. His interests include discovery, creation and commercialization of new and innovative technologies.

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Picture of David Greenholtz
David Greenholtz
03/29/2011 5:07am PDT

Great! Thanks!

Cass Phillipps
03/29/2011 3:10am PDT

@David – we hope to place all of the slide shows up online.

Right now, Manu Kumar has placed his slides up online at

As we get the other 2, we will place them up on our Facebook group –

Picture of David Greenholtz
David Greenholtz
03/29/2011 3:00am PDT

Hey, is there a shared link for this presentation? Thanks!

Picture of Alvin Mullins
Alvin Mullins
03/29/2011 12:31am PDT

Moved by Janice’s story but yet heartened by the fact she kept true to her integrity through it all. Great principles about how to learn by failure and great round table with a lot of take aways by Marcy.

Picture of Frank Morris
Frank Morris
03/28/2011 11:42pm PDT

Good mix of experience and anecdotal reflection. It would be even more intersting to have a similar session covering the same ground but by a key investor / mentor / staff-member of the same initiatives.

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(415) 947-6306

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