Thilo Semmelbauer: Well, failure is a long topic. I’ve had my fair share of those. I think one category of failures is such interesting to talk about, it happened a couple of times in my career.
Thilo Semmelbauer: Once at Motorola in the 90’s when I launched a product that worked technically but nobody bought it. There’s no market for it, pre-cursor of what came later as smartphones but way too early for its time.
Thilo Semmelbauer: Sometimes you could have a great plan and you can have great people and great execution and you still don’t get any sales.
Thilo Semmelbauer: It happened to me also in ’99 when I was working with Sotheby’s to launch their online auction business. Now, many years later, the stuff is largely working. But at the time, again, the site, the capabilities were there, the dealers were lined up and the business just wasn’t there, It was timing.
Thilo Semmelbauer: So I think failures of timing are interesting failures. I think that they’re just to be expected. It’s something that I really look out for now and in my recent jobs.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I think we try to be more careful about selecting to be part of things that were the time is right because that’s an important element of success and hard to control, except to select or deselect.
Thilo Semmelbauer: I think other failures have come from external events. I mean, one of the best things that ever happened to Shutterstock was when hurricane Sandy hit. And we were at a downtown office, right by the stock exchange. The office was flooded as what’s most of downtown, everybody knows what happened. And we had to scramble and find other space in midtown and people had makeshift offices in Brooklyn, in New Jersey.
Thilo Semmelbauer: And it was a failure of lack of preparedness at the end of the day because we didn’t anticipate something like that and the tech team was scrambling to put services in the Cloud.
Thilo Semmelbauer: It all worked, we never missed a beat in terms of serving customers and having the website running and even moving our projects forward, but during something like that, you really learn about the people on the team and who gets creative and figures out a way through that hardship and who kind of checks out and doesn’t show up for work.
Thilo Semmelbauer: It’s a very interesting learning experience so I think crisis can actually be very helpful for a company.