Monday, February 16, 2009

Lively a Ghost Town? How to Fail Fast.

Google announced a short while back that it was discontinuing Lively, a virtual world in the mold of a Second Life. It also discontinued Notebook, a note taking tool for web sites you have visiting; Catalog Search, for searching catalogs; Jaiku, a Twitterlike product and Dodgeball, a cellphone service.

That is a lot of products being shelved. (though I read that Jaiku is becoming open source)

One of the maxims that we discuss in the Entrepreneurship class is "How to Fail Fast". It is a tricky concept because while the one hand you are discussing the virtues of admitting when something is not working and moving on to other potential successes, you also run up against Thomas Edison who said ,“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Seattle is known for it's large number of start up companies. Back in November of 2007 Seattle 2.0 listed a startling 200+ start up company names. Today their list of start up companies sits at 343 companies and sites. So if you here that Seattle has the largest number of failed start ups, you can understand why. It is a numbers game.

Personally I hate the word "fail", as something that has found enough interest to launch and operated for any length provided value during that run.

So the importance of failing fast is to recognize when something will never achieve the value that you had planned for it, or that the continued operation and dedication to the project will never yield a value equal to the cost. That can be a direct cost or an opportunity cost to try something else.

Google is a very entrepreneurial place, and it allows it's developers to dedicate 20% of their time to projects and products of their own interest (and I would imagine invention).

Therefore, like a microcosm of Seattle itself, it likely has many internal start ups and therefore many "stop ups" as well. With Lively I am a bit surprised because they put a lot into it's launch and it has been operating now for about 5 months. Could continued support have allowed it to gain critical mass? Was their no practical revenue stream on the far horizon? I would have to guess "no in both cases.

More on the end of several Google projects as well as Lively's demise.

The New York Times

Search Engine Land

My introductory post on Lively.

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