Nonetheless, one of our favorite examples of a company owning their failures comes from financial services. Bessemer Venture Partners is a well-respected, 100-year-old venture capital firm that has gotten in on the ground floor of some stellar-growth companies. Their website predictably features their “Top Exits.” What’s refreshing and not so predictable is that one click away from these mega-successes is a catalog of miscues and failed foresight Bessemer calls their “Anti-Portfolio.” As Bessemer explains, their “long and storied history has afforded our firm an unparalleled number of opportunities to completely screw up.” One of their partners passed over a chance to invest in the Series A round of PayPal, which sold a few years later for $1.5 billion. The firm also passed--seven times--on the chance to invest in FedEx, currently worth over $30 billion.
Why would people want to keep a failure resume? The Kelleys, as well as Professor Seelig, argue that we need to "own" our mistakes if we are to improve and move forward effectively. Acknowledging mistakes is a crucial first step in the learning process. Moreover, I would argue that being able to compare those failures the successes on our actual resume is a crucial way that we can identify the drivers of high vs. low performance. The failure resume also humbles us a bit, and it reminds us of the role that good fortune played in some of our successes, and bad fortune in some of of our failures.