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posted by LaminatorX on Saturday October 04 2014, @06:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the Need-help?-In-the-U.S.,-call-1-800-273-8255 dept.

Nellie Bowles writes in Recode that three of the most prominent high tech entrepreneurs involved with Tony Hsieh’s project to build a startup city in Downtown Las Vegas have recently committed suicide, sending the tight-knit community into a tailspin. In January 2013, Jody Sherman, the 48-year-old founder of Ecomom, one of the most prominent Vegas tech-funded startups, shot himself while in his car. His company had been going south. In January 2014, 24-year-old Ovik Banerjee, who was part of the first Venture for America group in Vegas and an integral member of the Downtown Project team, leapt from his Town Terrace apartment in downtown. In May 2014, Matt Berman, the 50-year-old founder of Bolt Barber, the flagship shop at the center of the Container Park, was found in his home in an apparent suicide by hanging. Whether or not the suicides are statistically significant, the deaths have clearly shaken the entrepreneurs.

According to Alyson Shontell, in a social media age where word of success and failure travels fast, entrepreneurs say it's harder than ever to run a company — and it's harder than ever to fail. "It was a hell of a lot of work for not a hell of a lot of return," says Dave McClure, an investor in Ecomom and the entrepreneur behind investment firm 500Startups. "And then there are days when you sit in a corner and cry. You can't really do anything else. You don't have a social life. You don't really want to interact with family and friends because there's just not much context for them. Your world revolves around your startup and it's all about trying to survive and not look like an idiot in front of employees." "In the past, failure was very contained," another entrepreneur says. "When you failed, you felt bad around your family, the people you raised money from, but it wasn't as public. Failure in an era of social media and social video and global events is a very public thing. Jody [Sherman] put himself out there this time and became very respected for what he was doing. That possibility of very public shame is something that didn't exist before." Brad Feld writes that if you are ever considering committing suicide, reach out to someone and ask for help. "It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to lose. It’s ok to be depressed. If you are contemplating suicide, get help. If you have an entrepreneurial friend contemplating suicide, do your best to get them help."

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Saturday October 04 2014, @07:47PM

    by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Saturday October 04 2014, @07:47PM (#101748)

    Yes, this is a tragedy, and I don't mean to belittle it. But I'm not getting the technology connection. The biggest thing at this "high tech community" is a barber shop? I didn't know what Ecomum was, but imagined some kind of high-powered, fiber-optic commodities trading platform. The first google hit says Ecomum "specializes in providing eco friendly and organic products to moms" - this is high technology? These may be startups, but they're not technology startups and seem to have the most marginal connection to technology, if any connection at all.

    Do we even know the suicides were connected to technology, or even startups? Has a direct causation been established? I'd read the article, but I can't. When I click the link, a page of gray gradient and no text comes up.

    (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04 2014, @08:19PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04 2014, @08:19PM (#101765)

    Most new businesses fail (90 percent first year, 70-80 within 10). That is a fact. The 'new shiny' way of calling them startups or 'tech hubs' actually just glosses over that fact. It even feels like someone else has figured out a business of scraping money out of them and has put a pretty spin on it.

    People fall in love with the idea of 'be your own boss'. Yet they fail to realize they would suck as a boss. A good boss is one who is a bastard once and awhile and sets good guidelines of what is expected. A bad boss hovers and makes sure every last little detail is just perfect. Then overspends on to make sure the front room is that perfect shade of egg shell matte white with a hint of rust red no that OTHER red no the OTHER ONE. Then is not sure how to get foot traffic in the door because they have no advert budget because the front room has that perfect color.

    It is why leach businesses like amway succeed. Not because it is actually a good business. But it sells people on the dream of being rich and powerful. Most have no idea what they would do if they got the 'power' anyway. [] He has an interesting take on it. Most of the very successful ones are actually not that good at first.

    To succeed long term you have about a 1 in 100 chance of doing it. Most people do not realize how *bad* those odds are. To show people how bad it is. Ask the to play the lottery once a week. After 2 years come back and say the number of times they one. It would on average be about 3 times as the odds are 1 in 32 of winning anything even though they played about 100 times. Now Succeeding in a business is even worse than that. It would be like starting up 2 new businesses every week for a year. After 10 on average only one would still be standing.

  • (Score: 1) by tftp on Saturday October 04 2014, @09:43PM

    by tftp (806) on Saturday October 04 2014, @09:43PM (#101798) Homepage

    The first google hit says Ecomum "specializes in providing eco friendly and organic products to moms"

    That is a stupid business idea to begin with. A business generally wants to cater to 100% of the market, not to 1%. Specialty businesses have to charge you, the 1%, a hefty premium simply because you are so special.

    Eco-friendly (?) and organic (?) products are sold by Whole Foods, which is a pretty large grocery chain. I am not sure how a tiny newcomer can compete with them. Looks like the whole business was ill-advised. When it inevitably crashed and burned the same people were unable to deal with it.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by PizzaRollPlinkett on Saturday October 04 2014, @10:20PM

      by PizzaRollPlinkett (4512) on Saturday October 04 2014, @10:20PM (#101810)

      Even the niche is crowded. [] [] [] []

      my favorite: []

      ... and I gave up after that - there are pages and pages of the stuff. Who knew that organic mom products were so popular? Not me, obviously.

      I still don't see anywhere that the suicides were connected to these awful business ideas. There's got to be more to it than that. You'd expect this business to fail, and the guy behind it probably lived it up for a few years off of investors' money.

      Now I want to collect all five designer organic diaper bags.

      (E-mail me if you want a pizza roll!)
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Sunday October 05 2014, @11:53AM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 05 2014, @11:53AM (#101981)

        the startup scene is waaaay too full of people who know their business idea is idiotic, but they are sure if they're just crazier more extreme jerks than the other 11 guys with the same idiotic idea, that they'll "win" by doing the best job of it, last to go out of business or whatever. It is a sports mentality. Lets make our business model, "carrying a ball across a line on the ground". And all that matters is our team does better than their team. Yeah I guess that is kinda a useless business model, but all that really matters is beating the other teams.

        Another aspect not often discussed is some (not all) are kids, and we've been training our kids to fail by participation trophies for all, no experience with failure, etc. No great surprise they first time they really screw up, instead of bouncing back like people should, they start doing flight tests and eatin bullets. They were set up to fail. Not WRT their idiotic business ideas, but set up WRT handling failure and bouncing back.

  • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday October 04 2014, @09:48PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday October 04 2014, @09:48PM (#101801) Journal

    Actually the whole article and the summary was such a cobble of concept words that I had a difficult time figuring out exactly what the hell they were talking about:

    build a startup city in Downtown Las Vegas: No wonder this failed, there was already a city in the way of their planned city?
    Vegas tech-funded startups: Tech doesn't fund stuff. They must mean []
    Container Park: Maybe include a reference to exactly what that is: []

    This whole thing just looks dodgy the more you look into it. Like a bunch of hippies trying to elbow into big-money territory.

    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04 2014, @09:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04 2014, @09:52PM (#101803)

      Even after looking at your links, which did clarify things somewhat, I'm still pretty damn confused about this whole ordeal.

    • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Saturday October 04 2014, @11:16PM

      by Dunbal (3515) on Saturday October 04 2014, @11:16PM (#101827)

      Lol Vegas high tech - isn't that the town with the really expensive monorail that no one rides at all?