Here's What A 1000 Entrepreneurs And 500 Startups Taught Us About Failure

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While veteran entrepreneurs talk openly about their past failures, at times even celebrate them as integral steps on their journey of success. Somehow, that doesn’t make failure any more pleasant or palatable for most upcoming entrepreneurs. In fact, they do their very best to avoid failure.

There are hundreds of reasons why nine out of ten startups fail. But when presented with that statistic, entrepreneurs think only about why their startup will be “the one” that doesn’t.

It’s understandable, after all, who doesn’t love to win big, achieve grand goals, and be the entrepreneur that builds the next big thing!

Unfortunately, aside from being an impossible mission, avoiding failure is very costly. It will take a huge toll on your energy, time, finances, physical and psychological state.

Through our work with more than 1000 entrepreneurs and over 500 early stage startups that collectively raised over $100 million dollars, at Launch Academy, we learned a lot about what makes a successful entrepreneur and the building blocks of a successful startup.

One of our biggest discoveries is that it’s dangerous to embrace all failures!

Failure is an essential part of the process of success, and it’s impossible to avoid, that’s why in our Lean Entrepreneur Acceleration Program we train entrepreneurs how to systematically engineer failure into their strategies, and use it to build a successful startup.

But, while we teach entrepreneurs how to fail fast, fail better, and fail forward, our program is really about one thing; how to avoid the most dangerous failure of all; expensive failure!

An expensive failure uses all of your time, energy, and money, and leaves you with very little or no learning what so ever. Fuelled by ignorance, arrogance and stubbornness, an expensive failure is like a hurricane that has the power to destroy everything in its way, your startup, your team, and even your life.

So what does ignorance, arrogance and stubbornness look like in startup land?


Ignorance

You can never know everything, true. But when building a startup you can’t operate like a specialist, you must be a generalist and learn as much as possible about your customer, your market, the problem you are solving, the technology you are using, the competition, the business model, the cost structure, the metrics, the marketing channels…etc. Literally EVERYTHING!

It’s shocking to meet entrepreneurs who know nothing about the technology they are building and proclaiming that they are an “idea entrepreneur” and they are “none technical.” And to make matters worst, they have no interest in learning, they are comfortable with their ignorance, they will just hire a few developers online and get the technology built because it’s all about their “groundbreaking idea,” technology is simple to figure out!

Being even slightly ignorant about matters related to your startup is simply unacceptable, and will most definitely cause you to suffer an expensive failure.

In anything that has to do with your startup, you must at least start with knowing what you don’t know, and then seeking to learn enough about it to be able to run your startup successfully.


Arrogance

Being cocky and acting like you are the next big thing, may work sometimes and pass for confidence, high self-esteem, and belief in oneself. But continuing to behave like you are the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, and acting like you are waiting for the world to recognize you for how remarkable you are, is just arrogant, and it will send people running to the hills.

People don’t like to work with assholes. People like to work with people they know, like and trust, with people that inspire them, adds value to their life, uplift them, and help them achieve their goals.

The very definition of an entrepreneur is someone who is building a product or business that solves a big problem and serves customers. Great entrepreneurs find brilliant ways to add unbelievable value to the lives of their customers. They make the impossible possible. Be that person.

And remember, you may very well be building the next big thing, but consider that there might be a slight chance your startup will fall flat and fail. That’s the time when you will need the people you cultivated with your humble demeanour and genuine value-adding relationship building, to stand next to you, support you, and build the next startup with you.


Stubbornness

If there is one cornerstone entrepreneurial quality everyone agrees on, it’s passion. We want entrepreneurs to be passionate, driven, and unstoppable. But there is such a thing of having too much passion and very little critical and strategic thinking.

Stubbornness is usually a result of binary thinking; having an ‘either-or’ approach, thinking that you are either passionate or not, you are either 100% in or not. Binary thinking is a sure formula for expensive failure; it gets you stuck with two options instead of being grounded in reality, where life offers a range of options, where things are relative.

The reality is truly a ‘this-and’ realm. You can be passionate about your startup 'and' be realistic about the fact that even after your marketing push only a few customers signed up.

Too many times entrepreneurs mix passion and drive with stubbornness, they ignore the data, the results, the hard facts and insist that the customers, the market, and the world will come around if they only stay the course and persevere long enough!

An open ‘this-and’ approach to your startup and your work will give you the space to be realistic, rational, results-oriented, 'and' remain passionate, driven, and unstoppable.

Building a startup is exhausting, consuming, challenging ‘and’ at the same time thrilling, exciting, and great fun. Make sure you manage failure and on your way to success. Stay in the know, remain humble, be flexible, and avoid expensive failures at all cost.

Would love to hear from you, your ideas, feedback, experience, and questions on this topic and this article.

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About Launch Academy:

Launch Academy is a tech incubator that provides the mentorship, resources, network and environment entrepreneurs need to launch, fund and grow their startups.

Since 2012, Launch Academy has incubated over 500 companies that have collectively raised over $100 million and created more than 1000 jobs. As a nonprofit leader that’s focused on community impact, Launch Academy aims to train and support more than 100,000 entrepreneurs by 2025.

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