Half of New Zealanders in business think failure is not an option, according to Callaghan Innovation.

The government agency supporting business to succeed through technology set out to investigate whether a fear of failure is holding business back.

Callaghan Innovation asked entrepreneurs in New Zealand and in the United States to tell their stories of times they had failed.

Just Water founder Tony Falkenstein, Scott Houston, who sold his startup Green Button to software giant Microsoft, and crowd-funding entrepreneur Anna Guenther shared tales of times their business ideas went awry, and what they learned from it.

Scott Houston told Callaghan Innovation "the learning curve of what didn't work is sometimes more important than what has worked".

That's an attitude that has made Silicon Valley the dominant tech startup region in the world. Silicon Valley venture capitalists Keith Teare and David Hornik both say company founders pitching for funding must have a track record of failure to get investors to take them seriously.

Author and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Gary Bolles, who visited New Zealand in May as part of Tech Week, says the act of falling off the proverbial horse, but getting back on it again, is crucial to every leading entrepreneur's back-story.

"The fact you pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep on going is one of the most critical characteristics you can possibly have to be a successful entrepreneur."