Entre­pre­neur­ial fail­ure is an inte­gral part of even­tual suc­cess and an impor­tant oppor­tu­nity for learn­ing, or so goes the con­ven­tional wis­dom (hence in some part the quote—commonly attrib­uted to Lisa Amos—that entre­pre­neurs aver­age 3.8 fail­ures before success).

Ignor­ing the anec­do­tal success-after-failure sto­ries that stick in peo­ples’ minds, a team at Har­vard Busi­ness School decided to quan­ti­ta­tively study entre­pre­neur­ial fail­ure and suc­cess rates and dis­cov­ered that, con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, entre­pre­neurs don’t seem to learn from fail­ures, and suc­cess is the only expe­ri­ence that made a dif­fer­ence to per­for­mance.

First-time entre­pre­neurs who received ven­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing had a 22 per­cent chance of suc­cess. Suc­cess was defined as going pub­lic or fil­ing to go pub­lic; […] results were sim­i­lar when using other mea­sures, like acqui­si­tion or merger.

Already-successful entre­pre­neurs were far more likely to suc­ceed again: their suc­cess rate for later venture-backed com­pa­nies was 34 per­cent. But entre­pre­neurs whose com­pa­nies had been liq­ui­dated or gone bank­rupt had almost the same follow-on suc­cess rate as the first-timers: 23 percent.