Failure is Not Fatal, but Failure to Change Might Be

Only a couple of weeks ago, as part of our monthly newsletter, we listed the Punakaiki fund as one of the ‘hot’ things in the New Zealand ICT sector. The ambitious fund that set out to invest in early stage New Zealand technology, internet and design companies, fell disappointingly short of its target.

And while it was saddening to watch the campaign peter out, it was brilliant to watch Lance Wiggs stand up and address some of the fund’s shortcomings at the annual ICT conference. He seems like a good guy, and a highly intelligent one at that. What’s more, Lance is full of resilience.

He was very gracious and pragmatic in his assessment of what went wrong and reiterated these thoughts in the piece he wrote for the NBR last Wednesday. While he blames himself for failing to earn the confidence of larger investors, his message was loud and clear. It’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.

Too often, in many aspects of life, people are afraid to try due to the fear of failure. There’s a rather cynical old saying, “If you don’t try you’ve got nothing to lose”.

Lance has suggested he will give something similar a crack somewhere down the line and NBR readers tend to agree that he should. The articles feature comment sums it up nicely;

“Lance - great that you are resilient and determined. Tough game, but you did have 300 people who believed in you and would back you again. Why not raise a fund privately and put the money to work?”

Great idea.

However he also believes that the problem will not be resolved unless we can stir the interests of others the next time someone tries something so bold.

New Zealand has long been touted as the new Silicon Valley, an epicentre for technology down under if you like. But how on earth are we supposed to emulate the region if we can’t even attract the interest of investors. Have we been overhyped? The Xero’s and Vend’s and even the climbing stock value of Dunedin-based GeoOp, would probably suggest this is not the case.

So how do we encourage others to do something similar? Will people see Wiggs’ failure as a deterrent from initiating their own efforts? If someone else is to have a go, hopefully, they will use the learnings of Punakaiki to their advantage.

Wiggs spoke of ‘the rising tide’, the third wave of companies coming through. “We need to fund to create the next Xero, the next Trade Me, and the next Wynyard.”

He’s spot on when he says that we don’t just need the Punakaiki fund in New Zealand but 14 others just like it. It equates to 1 billion dollars each to match the ratio to funding in the USA.

“There’s an incredible amount of opportunity here, it’s unbelievable”.

Lance is in his own words, “from the US school of failure as experience” and you can back your bottom dollar that he’ll be back for another shot.