Of course, great stories are never that simple. None of these companies became the triumphs their founders had hoped for.
Yet all six entrepreneurs -- a bit wiser, but with no less enthusiasm than the first time -- are bouncing back. They're creating new businesses, and there's hardly a regret among them. Says Varsha Rao, whose online cosmetics retailer, Eve.com, was sold and shuttered: "In hindsight, on a relative basis, I consider it a success. We generated great return and had a great experience."
Like Rao, these entrepreneurs all look back on their first ventures with clear eyes and cool heads. They know what worked and have few illusions about what went wrong. They're happy to share their hard-earned lessons, and with their new companies, they live them every day. They conserve cash, they don't try to do too much too fast, they delegate -- and they follow their hearts.
Now, at last, timing may be on their side. The economy is picking up, and with it, investors' willingness to take chances. Venture-capital investment is rebounding, even if many entrepreneurs now prefer to avoid that route. Says You Mon Tsang, co-founder of software maker Biz360: "Entrepreneurs can actually start dreaming again." Dreaming -- and doing. By Amy Cortese