The Breakfast Table

The Success of Failure


Maybe now is the time to float my new idea for a Slate feature: Lunch Counter Intuitive, where two journalists offer midday commentary on what’s already been said about that day’s papers in the morning’s “Breakfast Table.” What do you think?

I see that we have some wiseacres over in “The Fray.” Pedro, I appreciate your suggestion that editing my work more carefully might help me afford an apartment in Manhattan. I’ll keep that in mind. If you are curious about where I got those statistics about Wall Street’s role in the New York City economy, I did give you the economists’ names and affiliations. You can find their paper at the Web site of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Dola, point taken. Trying to stir up a debate here over reasons for the volatility of the Nasdaq stock market wasn’t such a hot idea. Astonishingly, some of your Fray pals are still at it, chewing over that efficient market stuff. Please do remember, however, that comparing myself to the “solemn ass” Calvin Coolidge was my joke! Anybody out there have anything nice to say?

Meanwhile, let’s continue with the dot-com theme, since I didn’t give you a chance to respond yesterday and it seems to be very much in the news again today.

For coolest person in today’s newspapers, I nominate Nicholas Hall, a three-time failed Net entrepreneur. He appears in today’s Page One Wall Street Journal story about the funding drought for Web start-ups. His latest effort: According to the WSJ, the site “features an active chat board in which failed and failing entrepreneurs vent their frustration and share tips.” The site offers “coaching” from an online adviser. Overwhelmed by requests, Hall is looking to hire new advisers and already employs five assistants. He plans a kind of FB2B exchange, in which failed business people sell their equipment and ideas to outfits that are still afloat. This is the stuff that makes America great! Talk about resilience! Problems? Opportunities! (Did you also notice that publisher Steve Brill has hired free-speech lawyer Floyd Abrams to help win permission from probation authorities for cyber-thief Kevin Mitnick to write a column and give lectures?)

Some quotes from “You are probably aware of these statistics: Only six of every one-thousand business plans ever receive venture funding. Of the companies that receive funding, sixty percent go bankrupt. Forty percent of businesses fail in the first five years of operation. … Our purpose is to take the stigma out of failing.” The site features a “Your Failure Feedback” page. Hall is currently seeking funding–presumably, forgiving funding.

If you’re tired of talking about dot-coms–a bit of a busman’s holiday for you–I’d love to know what you think about the Microsoft decision, or the news that George W. Bush owns a good bit of Mr. Softee himself.