The “F” word Asian entrepreneurs hate may actually set them free.
It’s a word that stirs up feelings of shame and humiliation among Asian culture. However, Asian entrepreneurs’ attitudes towards it may be the underlying reason why the net values of their startups are limited.
Failure is accepted in Silicon Valley as a rite of passage to success, but it’s seen as a debilitating setback to Asians in the startup world. In Asia, failure discourages rather than motivates entrepreneurs to continually pursue new and innovative, high-stakes companies.
According to Forbes, Asian millennials have been successful in launching sharing economy apps, solar energy firms and venture capital firms. However, when it comes to valuations, they tend to lag behind the West.
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One reason for that is because when a startup fails, Asian entrepreneurs are unlikely to try again. Instead they “usually disappear in shame rather than lionizing the experience,” like Americans do. The result is a limited net value of startups.
The older Asian generations typically associate startups with risk. Tom Kim, co-founder of Inspire Ventures, which assists new businesses, says that the majority of youth-run startups in his region that include Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila, are failing. Kim explained:
“Southeast Asia doesn’t have a culture of accepting failure. Six months later they’re done. The businesses did not have a chance. They’re just kids. There’s no infrastructure to support them.”
The fear of failure in Asian culture is clearly apparent in the educational system of East Asian countries including that of China and Korea. Tim Chae, a partner in the California-based venture capital firm 500 Startups, said during the Forbes Under 20 Summit in Singapore:
“Silicon Valley is obviously a place where people aren’t just saying it’s important to fail and you learn by failing — they get hired back. In Korea, starting from education day one, failure is not something you’re trained to love. You’re scared of it. That’s why you see people so willing to be middle of the road, the best college and a job at Samsung.”
Perhaps, it’s time to embrace failure as a learning experience on the road to success.