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CNN Today

Web Site Reaps the Fruits of Failure

Aired January 5, 2001 - 4:14 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Time was failure in business was deemed an embarrassment, not something for your resume. Well, no more of that, certainly not in the once-promising land of dot.com.

As we hear from CNN's Garrick Utley, losing, now more than ever, may be a lesson in learning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is an idea whose Internet time has come: A Web site devoted to failure, with failure coffee mugs and failure tote bags for sale, and special features such as this day in failure. Is there a market for this?

JASON ZASKY, CEO, FAILUREMAG.COM: One of the reasons that so many people in it is that it's a universal experience. Everyone can relate to it. It's inevitable. It's like death and taxes.

UTLEY: And nowhere is failure flourishing more than in the vanishing dreams of dot.com companies. When the founders of theglobe.com went public in November 1998, it was a time to celebrate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: So, what's your wealth.

STEPHEN PATERNOT, FOUNDER, THEGLOBE.COM: About $50 million.

QUESTION: Each.

PATERNOT: Each.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UTLEY: Today Stephan and his partner, Todd Krizelman, are not giving interviews. Their stock, which reached $97, is now worth less than a dollar. Failures in the dot.com world may be financially painful, but they no longer carry the depressing indelible stigma that failure once met.

JOHN WALICKA, REDPOINT VENTURES: Actually, failure is a badge of success on a lot of resumes. That means you've experienced the downside.

UTLEY: In other words, failure today, at least in the material, rather than the moral sense, doesn't necessarily mean failure.

(on camera): For example, a quarter century ago, fewer than 200,000 Americans filed for personal bankruptcy each year. Last year, more than 1.3 million did. How is it possible to redefine failure and look at it in a different way?

(voice-over): From the beginning, the idea of America was about success. Immigrants learned that quickly. Failure was not an option for those who had to settle the land and provide for a family. But times and attitudes change.

Bernard Simonin came to the United States from France to teach business. He thinks failure, and how to handle it, should be taught.

BERNARD SIMONIN, FLETCHER SCHOOL OF DIPLOMACY: We can do much better with classes like Failure 101, has a lot of promise. Ultimately, the problem is how to grade them. Is an F for failure a sign of success in that class? I don't know.

UTLEY: Of course, what appears to be failure can also be seen as the price of taking risks, experimenting until you get it right. More than ever, we like the stories of comebacks; a candidate who called himself the comeback kid in his quest for the presidency. A movie star whose star dimmed for several years, and then reignited. It is perhaps a unique and important achievement to have turned failure that is ravaging the dot.com world into something that is socially acceptable, even to turn it into a business.

(on camera): If your Web site fails one day, your reaction would be...

ZASKY: I think that would a sad day just because this is a great idea that really deserves, you know, to make it in the marketplace.

UTLEY (voice-over): But then, all great ideas deserve something more than failure, which is why, it seems, we keep trying.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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