Bumbling around and failing every which way . . . lessons for success

Vinod Khosla is one of Silicon Valley's most successful VCs. I was at the recent SDForum Visionary Awards where Mr Khosla was one of four winners of the 2009 awards.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Vinod Khosla is one of Silicon Valley's most successful VCs. I was at the recent SDForum Visionary Awards where Mr Khosla was one of four winners of the 2009 awards.

His acceptance speech was short and very good. Excellent advice for entrepreneurs.

Also, he talks about failure, which I have long advocated is Silicon Valley's strength.

A couple of years ago I met with a delegation of Russian diplomats, VCs, and government officials. They were visiting Silicon Valley and wanted to meet with me as part of their tour. They were looking for ways to create several silicon valley-like regions in Russia.

During our meeting, I told them I would tell them the secret of Silicon Valley. I paused. They all leaned in a little closer...

I said the secret to Silicon Valley was failure. Silicon Valley tolerates enormous amounts of failure. That's the secret of Silicon Valley's success.

You cannot export this culture of tolerance of massive amounts of failure. It is unique to Silicon Valley. That's why SIlicon Valley will continue to reign as the world's engine of innovation. You will still have innovation happening elsewhere, but not at the rate it happens here.

Here is the video:

Here is my transcript.

It's sort of embarrassing to be called a visionary. But I guess it is a little bit better than being called a "Past Visionary" as the (name) tags of previous awardees said... I'll enjoy it for this year.

Vision is great especially if you can do it with 20/20 hindsight.

In 1986 I was asked about the vision of Sun and I said the best thing to do is to pray to lady luck. Because, frankly, you never know vision when you see it, and I still don't really believe in vision.

I believe in bumbling around long enough to not give up at things. And eventually success comes your way, because you tried to fail in every possible way, the only way that's left is the one successful way, and always, for entrepreneurs, seems to come last. It's so obvious when it comes.

This bumbling around, is really to me, what vision is about. And it's the best way to be a visionary. You just keep failing and failing enough and not giving up.

So, very quickly, I will give you my little recipe for vision.

I like to say that I've had one luxury in my life and that is the freedom to fail, being in an ecosystem here in the valley that allows me to fail. And get up and try again.

And this ability to fail, this freedom to fail, is what has, in my view, given me the ability to succeed. It's given me the ability to explore ideas.

There was a recent article that called me a "risk junkie" but it's easy to be a risk junkie if the consequences of failing aren't that high. And they aren't in this ecosystem and that's what makes the valley such a great place.

So, I like to say that vision is about more shots on goal, more at bats at the plate. That's really all I want to say...

One last piece about vision is to not look back. I was just sitting there, thinking these are great awards, but one thing I've done in my life is never kept an award.

There isn't a single award, a lucite, a public offering document that I own, because I never want to look back and so I get rid of all of them.

So I was wondering what to do here. Thank you all very much.

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Please see:

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