Failing isn’t a career killer in Silicon Valley

The ever-quotable investment manager Eric Jackson may have had the best quip about Quibi, as post-mortems about the failed startup led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman poured in this weekend. “Maybe there is nothing to be learned from Quibi,” he tweeted on Saturday morning. “I can’t remember a time when the conventional wisdom has been so dead on.”

It’s a fair point. So instead of rehashing the $1.8 billion Quibpocalypse one more time, let’s revisit some other failed startup leaders and see how they’re doing.

Travis Kalanick got dumped by Uber amid myriad legal probes. Now he’s on a real estate acquisition spree for his delivery food startup CloudKitchens with $400 million from Saudi Arabia. Parker Conrad was booted from HR startup Zenefits amid a scandal over insurance sales. Now he’s back at the helm of Rippling, a similarly focused startup with at least $100 million of backing from top VCs. They say Jawbone founder Hosain Rahman ran through $1 billion before shutting down the smart speaker maker. He’s raised $65 million for his health-oriented next act, now called all.Health. And Kevin Gibbon, whose failed startup Shyp helped people deliver stuff they sold on eBay, is back with Airhouse helping e-commerce companies deliver stuff they sell online. Gibbon is warier of VC backing this time around and said he’s raised under $5 million.

Some former founders are making it back without quite being CEOs again. Juicero founder Doug Evans squeezed through $120 million; his new venture is a book on healthy eating. Former Anki CEO Boris Sofman shut down his toy robotics company that burned through $200 million; he was snapped up by Waymo to head its self-driving truck effort.

And then there are the failed leaders who have yet to turn up, like Essential’s Andy Rubin, Chariot’s Dan Grossman, or UBiome’s Jessica Richman.

What fate awaits KBerg and the Whit? Time will tell.

Aaron Pressman


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