Below is my response to a question over on Quora about what a 30 year old failed entrepreneur is supposed to do with themselves now. Having failed by first business in my early 30s, I thought I’d share my experience.
When I was 32 my first business (a skateboard shop in Las Vegas) failed and nearly drove me and my family (wife and 3 kids) into bankruptcy. I was forced to move into my in-laws home and take a night job at a grocery store to pay off the remaining debts the sale of our home didn’t cover. Things looked pretty grimm.
From there I got an entry level job at a small local PR firm and stumbled across this whole “new media” thing. (A few months later Flickr was bought by Yahoo!) The PR agency I was at thought new media was a fad and so I left. I found a small “grassroots” marketing agency that fit well with what I wanted to do. After 6 months I became the first non-founder to become a partner. 2 years later we grew from 6 people to 20 and acquired a small web development shop. But the founders were running the company badly and having been apart of a failed company before, I could see the writing on the wall. They wouldn’t listen to me or change what they were doing, so I left to do my own startup.
My startup never got off the ground so I was consulting to make ends meet. During my consulting HP’s LaserJet business recruited me to work for them on their Web 2.0 (remember that phase?) strategy. While at HP I started a local tech blog and monthly meetup for local entrepreneurs. This got the attention of the one VC firm in town. They were a small early stage fund and they asked me to be their Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR). This was in addition to my work at HP.
A few years later I was recruited by a large PR agency in Seattle to help them build up their digital marketing practice. I joined a team of 60 and quickly helped grow it to a global team of over 200. I did social media for Microsoft, HTC, T-Mobile, Verizon, GE, and dozens of other companies. They then asked me to move to London to lead our digital efforts across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
After leaving the agency, I came home to the US and tried to do a startup again. I was never able to put all the pieces together and was, instead, hired by Amazon because of my unique mix of retail, digital new business experience.
And while I’ve yet to be a successful startup founder, I would never call myself a failed entrepreneur.
And to answer your question, what prospects do you have? You still have the whole world in front of you. At 30, you’re just getting started. Any successful business leaders, founder or VC, knows that everyone fails, but that doesn’t make you a failure.