The first thing you notice when hanging around technology startups is the cultural importance that Silicon Valley ascribes to snacking, with a companys snack bar often standing as a rough proxy for the scope of its ambitions.流连科技创业公司时,你注意到的第一件事就是硅谷彰显零食的文化重要性。一家公司的小吃吧一般来说可以粗略地反映出有它的雄心壮志。Square, Jack Dorseys payments business, boasts a gleaming coffee bar with a barista who hosts classes on the best ways to brew. On one trip to Facebook, I was treated to an otherworldly bag of popcorn. And just about every company has a refrigerator or two stocked with Hint, a subtly flavored brand of bottled water that seems to flow as freely in San Francisco as the tears of the people who were evicted to make room for the incoming software engineers.杰克·多尔西(Jack Dorsey)创立的缴纳业务公司Square享有一间闪亮的咖啡吧,那里的咖啡师不会讲经调制咖啡的最佳手法。


Even when a startups dreams are deferred, the snacks hang on, as I learned during a recent visit to the buses that were once owned by Leap Transit, a startup that once had aspirations of revolutionizing urban transportation.即使一家创业公司的梦想挫败,零食却不会坚持下去,就像我最近去看Leap Transit曾多次享有的大巴车时理解的那样。这家创业公司一度怀揣完全变革城市交通的梦想。Leap, which raised $2.5 million from some of the industrys best-known investors, charged riders $6 to get across San Francisco, nearly three times the price of a city bus. Its primary draw was luxury. Each bus had a wood-trimmed interior outfitted with black leather seats, individual USB ports and Wi-Fi. The buses also offered a steady stream of gourmet snacks, sold via app.Leap从一些赫赫有名的行业投资者那里融资250万美元,向穿过旧金山的乘客缴纳6美元车费。这完全是市政公交车三倍的价格。


Id come to the see the buses to find out what it looks like when a startup bites the dust. The luxury vehicles were up for auction; Leap filed for bankruptcy in July. The end for Leap apparently came so suddenly that its founders didnt have time to remove much from the vehicles. Inside each bus sitting in an out-of-the-way parking lot near Oakland, California, was a state registration form pinned to the wall, a bundle of iPhone and HDMI cables, and a display case full of snacks. Among the choices were packages of Thats It — vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO fruit bars — and organic, paleo Simple Squares.我来看这些车,是想要理解一家创业公司一败涂地不会是什么样子。所有的豪华车都被拿出来拍卖会;Leap在7月份申请人倒闭。

Leap的末日似乎远比十分忽然,它的创始人甚至没时间从车上拆除多少东西。这些车停放加州奥克兰附近一座偏远的停车场里,每辆车内部有吊在车上的州级注册表、一束iPhone和HDMI线,以及一个剩是小吃的展示柜。其中有几包“That’s It”——素食、无麸质、非转基因的水果棒——和遵循远古饮食法的有机Simple Squares零食。

Leap is one of at least several dozen tech companies that have failed this year. Their deaths are illuminating; dead startups show us which investors theories are bogus, which technologies arent ready for prime time, and which common ways founders overextend themselves. They also outline the frontiers of what the current market for tech products and services will bear.Leap是今年以来最少数十个告终的科技公司之一。他们的丧生极具启发性;破产的创业公司告诉他我们,投资者的哪些理论是泡沫的,哪种技术还没准备就绪,以及创始人一般来说用哪种方法欠下自己。它们也勾勒出有了高科技产品和服务目前的市场能忍受的边界。In particular, Leaps death suggests one emerging cause of startup doom, a problem that also did in the anonymous social-network Secret: too-close an association with Silicon Valleys tech-bro sensibilities.尤其是,Leap的破产救赎了创业公司遭到厄运的一种新兴理由,一个也经常出现在电子邮件社交网络Secret身上的问题:与硅谷的高科技兄弟氛围纠结太深。

Leap, in retrospect, was a bold idea that might have had legs. Muni, San Franciscos public bus system, is overloaded and underfunded, and the success of ride-hailing apps like Uber suggests a public willingness to try new tech-enabled options. But in its design and marketing — in its full-frontal embrace of the easily pilloried paleo-snack-bar techie lifestyle — Leap exuded a kind of bourgeoisie exceptionalism that fed into the citys fears of gentrification and won it few fans. As I stood inside the abandoned buses, it became obvious why the startup failed: Leap was created by and for tech bros. It was born inside the bubble, and it could never escape.现在回想起来,Leap是一个有可能大获得顺利的大胆点子。旧金山的公交系统Muni的装载能力严重不足且缺少资金,而优步(Uber)等叫车软件的顺利指出公众不愿尝试新的高科技交通方式。



Tech deaths often go unstudied. Silicon Valley stands out for the way it embraces failure, and its true that the “We Failed!” startup post-mortem note has become a staple on publishing sites like Medium. Still, theres a natural disinclination among entrepreneurs and investors to discuss the deaths of their companies in much depth.科技企业的丧生往往并未获得求证。硅谷以其亲吻告终的方式脱颖而出,而“我们告终了!”这类的创业事后总结也的确沦为了Medium等网站中的主要内容。不过,创业者和投资者之间天然不存在一种不愿深层次探究自家企业之杀的偏向。

Kyle Kirchhoff, the co-founder and chief executive of Leap, was among several founders of dead companies who did not respond to my requests for interviews. Thanks to such reluctance, no one quite knows how many tech startups are dying, or why.Leap牵头创始人兼任首席执行官凯尔·基希霍夫(Kyle Kirchhoff),不是唯一一个没对此我的专访催促的破产公司创始人。正是由于这种不情愿,没有人清楚告诉有多少科技初创企业正在消失,或者其中的原因确有。“Theres a lot of fanfare when companies get funded or acquired, but people bury the dead pretty quietly,” said Anand Sanwal, the chief executive of CB Insights, a firm that keeps stats on the startup market. He added that the task is complicated by the fact that many failed startups dont actually die — they limp along for years, underperforming.“企业在取得融资或并购契约时会大张旗鼓地宣传,但安葬死者时却很安静,”阿南德·桑瓦尔(Anand Sanwal)说。他是跟踪创业市场数据的CB Insights公司的首席执行官。

他还说道,很多告终的创业公司并没确实病死——它们展现出不欠佳却苟延残喘多年——这一事实让任务显得更为简单。Sanwal estimated that the number of startup failures increased in 2015, but he believed the uptick was most likely because many more companies were founded and funded a few years ago, as the tech market began heating up.桑瓦尔估算告终创业公司的数量在2015年有所增加,但他坚信这种上升很有可能是因为许多企业是在几年前科技市场开始加剧的时候正式成立并取得融资的。“There were companies that went in at the top of the funnel, so a lot more of them are meeting that fate,” he said.“有不少公司是在细管的顶部转入的,所以遭遇这种命运的也要非常少,”他说道。

By the time of its bankruptcy auction earlier this month, which attracted only a handful of bidders, Leap was all but forgotten. In its bankruptcy filing, Leap reported that it made nearly $21,000 in the two months during which it offered service. That turned out to be less than two of its buses — which officials told me could no longer start — fetched at auction: One sold for $11,100, and another for $12,100. The buyers were anonymous.到了本月早些时候Leap展开倒闭拍卖时,只有极少数竞标人参与。它那时基本上已被人们消逝了。



Could Leap have fared better if it had a taken a less outwardly oppositional stance in its conduct and its branding? It seems likely that would have helped. The company had entered the thicket of San Francisco regulatory and civic debate without spending much time to win over fans in the community. Its onboard aesthetics and services lit up every gentrification warning sign, such that, from the start, Leap seemed designed only for those people — the tech people who give everyone else a bad name.如果Leap在其不道德和品牌上采行了较不显著的矛盾立场,它否能有更佳的展现出?这看起来不会有所协助。倒闭前,公司早已接踵而来了旧金山的监管和公民辩论的纠结中,却没花太多的时间来在社区中夺得支持者。

其车辆内部的设计和服务感受到了所有高档化预警信号。它们从一开始就指出,Leap或许只是为那些人设计的,那些给所有从业人员都带给了坏名声的科技业人士。Some companies can escape their image. Uber, a company whose endless run-ins with authorities have covered its brand in an ethical haze, is still experiencing growth because the product remains truly useful to riders and drivers. But the winners are the exceptions. Most companies cant repeat unlikely success.一些公司可以躲避自己的形象问题。


Leap tried. Despite the snacks, it failed.Leap尝试了。尽管获取了零食,它还是告终了。



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