What Kevin Rose thinks of the new Digg

August 16, 2012: 6:55 AM ET

Also: what makes for a great startup and the nuances of failing.

kevin_roseFORTUNE -- Kevin Rose isn't the entrepreneur he used to be -- and that may be a good thing. Earlier this summer, the 35-year-old startup maker behind content aggregator Digg announced he was joining Google Ventures (GOOG) as a partner and venture capitalist. Rose said he was ready for a change of pace -- and to draws on previous experience to help fund early-stage startups. In a recent conversation with Fortune, Rose weighed in on the current state of Digg, what he looks for in startups, and why failure doesn't faze him. Here's a lightly edited transcript of the conversation:

What do you think of the new Digg? Thumbs up? Thumbs down?
I really like that they were able to take a break from the old design and reboot it altogether. I like the clean, larger images. The clean, lightweight layout. If you strip away the large functionality, and I think, given they've only had six weeks to code this, it's been an amazing first effort. I would probably give a little more prominence to the social activity around the stories tucked away right now. I think restoring history of their Diggs is important, and that's [something] they are working on.

What do you sort of look for in the startup itself and in the startup founder?
In the startup itself, it's not just an evolution of a pre-existing idea. I look for something that's a breakout idea. Something that's new and shakes up an industry or vertical. Something that is not just a 'me-too' feature. Real, original never-seen-before potentially disruptive ideas are my favorite.

I feel that oftentimes, I'm attracted to people who are crazy product visionary type. For me, when I make an investment, it's partly on the idea, but also on the entrepreneur. I've met entrepreneurs in the past where I can just tell that maybe the idea they're working on is not going to succeed. But based on what they bring to the table and how excited they are about ideas in general. At some point in time, they'll create something amazing. I really like the attitude out here in Silicon Valley, that you're really not failing. Everyone's got something deep inside them, and sometimes, it just takes a little while to come out.

Amazon's (AMZN) Jeff Bezos has said that in order to succeed, you need to fail. But it doesn't necessarily sound like you believe in failure, or the notion of failure, per se.
I don't believe in the concept of negative failure. I have no problem with failing. The issue that I take with failing is the shame that people associate with it. Traditionally, if you go out and you start a business, your business is a mobile car washing business and you don't do well and that car wash goes out of business, people feel sorry for you. They think, 'Oh, that person failed' at his job and you go back to working for someone else.

And I think in the Bay Area in general, just because you went out and tried an idea, that should be celebrated. Sure, it didn't work out. Did you learn something from it? Absolutely. I've failed dozens, if not hundreds, of times at different ideas, projects, features, what ever it may be. You name it. And there's a lot of learning in there. I want to make sure that the entrepreneurs that I back don't feel bad when they fail. I'm going to say, hey, you gave it a shot, let's go try again.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we incorrectly identified Rose's age. This has been fixed. Fortune apologizes for the error. 

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JP Mangalindan
JP Mangalindan
Writer, Fortune

JP Mangalindan is a San Francisco-based writer at Fortune, covering Silicon Valley. Since joining in 2010, he has written on a wide array of topics, from the turnaround of eBay to the evolution of net neutrality. A graduate of Fordham University, Mangalindan has also written for GQ, Popular Science, and Entertainment Weekly.

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