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You’ve got to admire a business when it realises its time to pull the pin, cash in its chips, decide enough’s enough, or whatever other term to describe shutting shop.

So it is with, a two year old internet start up that sought to link newspaper and magazine editors looking for a story, with writers. There’s a sticK January 2011 story on AATS here.

At the time of its launch, co-founder Julie Starr reckoned the site was always going to be an experiment. Starr, like everyone else in the world, was, and still is trying to figure out how newspapers, journalism and writers are going to play out and pay out in an, often free, internet world.

AATS was an attempt to find a middle ground in this constantly evolving space – satisfying editors, rewarding writers and allowing the site to clip the ticket for the connection. The site goes offline at the end of February, and here's the extremely well-worded notice of goodbye.

As Starr notes in a letter to its numerous stakeholders, while there’s a demand for this kind of content and marketplace, overall the opportunity isn’t compelling enough to take any further. In other words, there’s not enough money to bother carrying on.

And in this case, it’s not failure, its experience.

Starr says its been a “very affordable education”, and having learned and enjoyed the whole experience, will be much better prepared for the next internet play she’s involved with – even if she’s not sure at this stage what it will be.

The awareness and willingness to shut up shop, early, is part of what the Innovation Excellence website headlines as ‘Sustainable Failure’ in ‘An Innovation Roadmap’ article. See the story here.

It’s worth repeating this sustainable failure notion.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is crucial to understand that if you seek to innovate you will fail – repeatedly. So rather than swing for the fences every time, you have to be able to sustain failure.

That means that you can’t marry your ideas. You start small. See what gains traction. Be prepared to reverse direction once you realize you are headed down a blind alley. You have unlimited bites at the apple, as long as you don’t try to swallow it whole.

And that’s the great thing about innovation. It never has to end, but is a path that you can continue down for a lifetime. If you’re lucky, others will carry the torch for you even beyond that. We do, as Issac Newton remarked, stand on the shoulders of giants and if we are true to our purpose, others can stand on ours.

In that sense there are no limits, except of course, the ones we build for ourselves.

sticK looks forward to Starr’s next venture.

Better to have tried, than died wondering – AATS calls it quits

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