Why cleantech CEOs should speak openly about their failures

Drawquest and Canvas are being shut down after the company behind them failed to find effective strategies for monetizing the apps.

Founder/CEO Chris Poole took to his blog to openly discuss why the company failed and what the experience has meant to him. I think this is a good practice, one that’s rare in the exit obsessed world of Silicon Valley where entrepreneurs are advised to fail fast but beneath that instruction there always seems to be this unhealthy/unrealistic focus on being the next Instagram.

What does this have to do with cleantech?

I think folks in cleantech that have run startups that have failed would be well served in providing thoughtful post mortems. It’s a service to investors and entrepreneurs, and the overall space where much can be learned from others’ failures so that we can build a new economy based around efficiency and renewable energy.

I still recall how Solyndra’s bankruptcy was heralded as proof of the failure of solar power. It was anything but. And there were lots of lessons for other solar startups that were taking on East Asian solar giants that I’m sure those startups would have loved to have gleaned. Like what exactly are the biggest challenges of scaling production. How to negotiate a world of volatile subsidies. How to know when a technology might not work.

Now Solyndra’s execs probably couldn’t have done this since they were likely more worried about going to jail than anything else. But there are a a lot of other cleantech CEOs I’d love to hear speak openly about where they succeeded and failed, and what they learned. I hear there are these things called blogs. They’re free to set up.