Lessons from Konga, Chipmaker AMD and the Stupidity of the Fail-Fast Mantra in Building Startups

Lessons from Konga, Chipmaker AMD and the Stupidity of the Fail-Fast Mantra in Building Startups

A stupid mantra in the world of tech startups is the Fail-Fast mantra. It begins with thinking on the constructs that it makes no sense to waste efforts when things are not working out, very fast. So, you either scale very fast or you just exit and die as a company. Nothing in between; there is no need to be patient as the future can bring opportunities which may not be available today.

It does happen, often, in venture backed companies as once the metrics are not looking well, they will cease to inject more capital. Just like that you have to fold if you cannot find more alternative capital. To avoid that trap, the startup must ensure it is constantly executing and firing on all cylinders so that it can attract more funding. Otherwise, it has to fail and make way. There is nothing wrong with that, if that execution can happen, very fast.

Many consulting companies like EY had noted that  Fail-Fast could drive innovation in startups when used as a business innovation process. Of course, a whole company can be seen as a complex process, and that means EY thinks that fail-fast applies to a whole organization, by extension.

The success of many digital startups originates from innovation, game-changing business models or a customer experience that significantly disrupts the traditional business models. The “fail fast” culture of startups and their speed of innovation give them sustainable competitive advantages against the traditional businesses that struggle to adopt a similar pace of innovation.

More organizations are now adopting the “fail fast” experimental delivery approach for customer experience using techniques like A/B testing on their websites, mobile applications or social media. This change has helped organizations to reduce the time-to-market of enhancement on customer experience.

But there is another way of looking at this. One, Konga, an e-commerce pioneer in Nigeria, had seen turbulent moments with its numbers. A simple strategy would have been to close the firm, long ago. But the owners did not choose that path. However, over the last few months, the company seems to have figured out some new ways to stay in business. It recently raised new capital and if not mildly profitable, is on the way of being profitable. What is happening here is a company that struggled for years to break more than 200,000 active users but persisted, nevertheless, and could be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It refused to fail-fast.

Another, at international level, is AMD, a global chipmaker and a competitor to Intel. What is happening with AMD is huge and inspirational. In such, underdogs everywhere should find inspiration in the quiet redemption of Advanced Micro Devices, the semiconductor industry doormat for years that has made a massive comeback against longtime foe Intel. Who can believe that AMD will share the phrase “unprecedented performance” in the same press release?

This week at the Game Developers Conference, Fallout and Elder Scrolls publisher Bethesda announced a “long-term strategic partnership” with chip-maker AMD. Bethesda said fans can expected to see “unprecedented performance” from new technologies as a result of the partnership.

A press release from AMD explains that the partnership is for multiple games. Bethesda and AMD will “collaborate to develop and accelerate the implementation of new technologies, including the full potential of low-level APIs, such as Vulkan, and the computing and graphics power of AMD Ryzen CPUs, Radeon GPUs, and AMD server solutions across existing Bethesda franchises,” the release says.

In the technology world you can be down for years without being out. But that is if you can find a way to hang around. AMD has been hanging around for more than a decade and right now it is going through a great moment. Its new chip Ryzen is huge and could change the market dynamics.

Using the fail-fast mantra, AMD will not be here, for any reason. Its stock has moved from less than $3 to move than $15.

This is a huge lesson, the fail-fast has become an excuse not to try harder. It has become a way to just give up fast. It makes it easy to demonstrate no patience and find what works. It is a very bad thinking for startups especially in Africa where finding and executing a winning strategy takes time, owing to the non-homogeneity of the markets and lack of data to drive pre-market strategy. Most times you learn on the fly, refining your business, because pre-market assumptions are way-off.

Do not fail-fast. It pays to not give up easily!

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