Partner at Norwest Venture Partners Sean Jacobsohn poses with objects from his Failure Museum collection. Jacobsohn, Sean
Partner Norwest A year ago, Sean Jacobsohn began gathering items from shuttered businesses.
He has since gathered over 500 objects, all of which are displayed in glass cases at his workplace.
He claimed that in addition to being a fascinating pastime, it has also helped him comprehend why startups and companies fail.
In a way, Sean Jacobsohn describes himself as a “scholar of failure.”
By day, the Bay Area venture capitalist at Norwest Venture Partners, with a concentration on early-to-growth-stage enterprise SaaS enterprises, assists startup founders in realizing their company’s vision and navigating the day-to-day difficulties of company building.
However, Jacobsohn enjoys gathering relics from periods when those plans didn’t quite work out.
Being a lifelong sports enthusiast and collector, he constantly gets a thrill from discovering uncommon mementos associated with his preferred teams. However, when he went to a Golden State Warriors game in November of last year, the facility managers began giving out bobbleheads of player Jordan Poole, which were sponsored by the then-collapsing FTX.
“I thought, this is a collector’s item, how cool is this!”
Business Insider was informed by Jacobsohn.
That freebie turned into the first item in Jacobsohn’s now massive collection of over 500 artifacts from sports teams, toy lines, failed businesses, and product launches. His collection is kept in rows of glass display cases in his office. “I’m surrounded with my museum — I need to find more space,” he quipped.
Known as the Failure Museum, he maintains a website that lists every tangible object in his collection, including the three-headed puppet mascot from Pets.com and the long-gone Mattel “Allan” doll that became well-known due to this summer’s Barbie film.
Ken’s “buddy,” Allan, was discontinued by Mattel but gained notoriety thanks to Michael Cera’s role in the “Barbie” film. Jacobsohn, Sean
Some of the goods may just be failed ventures, like Harley Davidson’s misguided attempt at cologne.
However, some may be unique mementos that symbolize entire businesses that were unsuccessful. An unopened, branded bottle of champagne from the 1999 IPO celebration of Webvan, an early grocery delivery service, is one of his most valuable possessions. After suffering millions of losses, the startup declared bankruptcy at the end of 2001. “That might have been the only one not opened, and I own it!” stated the man.
About one-third of his collection is biased toward tech and startups because of his day work as a venture capitalist, he added. Highlights include a Bird “Birdie” scooter—the company’s kid-sized, kick-powered scooter—a Juicero juicer, an Elizabeth Holmes official business card, and a lab coat from Theranos. According to Jacobsohn, for a failure to be accepted into the museum, it must be a tangible object. NFTs are not permitted. According to him, he gets the majority of his stuff from donations that he requests, but he also buys some stuff on eBay.
A Juicero juicer from the collection of the Failure Museum Jacobsohn
Many of his startup souvenirs are related to the top tech news stories of the day, much like the bobblehead sponsored by FTX. The day the news broke that WeWork was going to file for bankruptcy, Jacobsohn shared a photo of his WeWork water bottle, mug, and real WeWork summer camp koozie on LinkedIn.
In addition to the picture, he included advise for any of his followers who might be considering launching their own company in the future.
It’s crucial to delay going global until you’ve had consistent success with your offering and/or expanded your geographic reach. Additionally, inadequate financial planning and a high burn rate may cause one to finally run out of money,” the author stated.
On the Norwest blog, he frequently shares further failure lessons and thoughts. There, he dissects the specific reasons behind each product or business’s failure and offers advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “It does inform how I make some of my investments,” he stated.
He also added that as a result, other founders have been in touch with him. Some even offer to add items from failed businesses to his network. “It has grown my pipeline significantly,” he stated. “A lot of people reach out and say, ‘Hey, I used to work at that company,’ and will donate an item, and then tell me about their company.”
Even though his passion for collecting fits in perfectly with his current position as a venture capitalist, he considered going back to Harvard Business School to impart some of his knowledge. He indicated that he had a guest lecture booked on the topic for the class “Avoiding Startup Failure.”
It’s also anybody’s guess as to what startup-branded item would be next on Jacobsohn’s wishlist in the much-predicted mass extinction era for companies; therefore, if you’re a founder hoping to connect with him, it might be a good idea to hang onto whatever startup mementos you have.