Failure is a choose-your-own adventure for startups

Hello and welcome back to Equity, a podcast about the business of startups, where we unpack the numbers and nuance behind the headlines.

This is our Wednesday show, where we niche down to a single topic, think about a question and unpack the rest. This week, given a parade of headlines and news that Fast shut down, Natasha and Alex asked: What are we missing when we talk about startup failure?

The question comes after one of Natasha’s recent Startups Weekly columns, where she looked into the complexity of startup failure, the fallacy of takedown stories and the importance of diversity in newsrooms. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s the argument that startup tensions are inevitable and common, so should we spotlight every time something bubbles to the surface, especially at the cost of an underrepresented founder who may just be doing their best? There’s also an argument that the business is messy, so we should report on the issues as we hear about them; and there’s the narrative of the female takedown story, in which people believe that women are targeted by the press more than men due to unreasonably high standards.

In today’s episode we discussed our own definitions of failure in the past (Theranos and WeWork), current examples of rising tensions and what this means for early-stage startups and historically overlooked founders. There have been more layoffs recently, some notable valuation cuts and the implosion of Fast to weigh against 2021’s strident startup optimism. That makes this the perfect time to dig into the topic of failure, and how to cover it from a startup perspective.

Finally, as promised, here’s a look at our artsy depictions of the startup failure cycle:

Don’t forget that Equity is live this Thursday, and you can you come hang out with us on Hopin (free, and you can ask questions) or Twitter Spaces (free, but you cannot ask questions) if you’d like! See you then!

Equity drops every Monday at 7 a.m. PT and Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m. PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify and all the casts.