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Rebounding From Start-up Failure

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3 Steps You Should Take To Rebound From Failure.

Illustration depicting a green roadsign with a fresh start concept. Blue sky background.

You’ve failed.  You did the right thing and did your best to make sure your employees, suppliers and investors salvaged some value from this whole endeavor.  That’s great.  But what about you?  Your dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur came to a crashing end.  You feel angry, lost confidence, don’t have any money, and it feels like everyone’s pointing fingers at you.

Yes, you have failed.  But it’s not the end of the world.  No matter how cliche it sounds, failure is not the end, but the start of a new beginning.  The best end to a failure is a successful rebound, and the following are some steps you can take to make sure you do.

1. Take time to get it out of your system. You’ll probably feel all sorts of emotion after experiencing failure.  Don’t be afraid to express your emotions.  Talk to a friend, a partner, or someone who you trust to hear you out and not pass judgement on you.  No matter how cool you think you’ve handled your failure, there is negative energy built up within you.  Just make sure you take time to let it out.

2. Be open about your failure and reflect.  You will not be condemned for your failure.  More than 90% of all start-ups fail, and as long as you’ve handled the failure professionally, there is no need to be ashamed.  Reflect back and try to assess what went wrong.  Start with external factors as it is much easier to pinpoint and handle.  Then explore internal factors, including your vision, team composition, process and execution.  Finally, reflect on yourself.  What did you do wrong?  What could have you done better? Don’t just reflect on your own, but go out and talk to former investors, advisors, employees, partners, and customers to hear from them their point of view.  Write a memo on what you’ve learned on a piece of paper or post-it, put it somewhere where it is visible or carry it with you.

3.  Get back in the game.  In the article by Carmen Nobel, Why Companies Fail – and How Their Founders Can Bounce BackProfessor Ghosh is quoted as saying “In Silicon Valley, the fact that your enterprise has failed is actually a badge of honor.”  Your failure has not closed future opportunities for you, but if you “failed well,” there may be more opportunities awaiting you.  Through your failure, you have gained i) more experience, ii) a deeper understanding of business and the market, and iii) a broader network of people.   These are core assets that you can leverage if you plan to take on the challenge of starting a new venture again.  If your risk appetite has changed, there will be opportunities to take on leadership roles in other start-ups as many investors and entrepreneurs will value your understanding and experience.

Failure can be as bad as it sounds if you dwell on the fact that you’ve failed.  However, if you know how to go through failure and take steps to rebound, it can be the first paragraph of your success story.

1 thought on “Rebounding From Start-up Failure

  1. Hi Tae, I wanted to share a recent article by CB Insights. They compiled 143 postmortems from startup founders since 2014 (https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/startup-failure-post-mortem/#2015update). The candor with which people reflect, the clear demonstration that there is in fact a community of startup founders who have wound down their business (including companies like Quirky and Homejoy), and the desire of others to learn from these mistakes/acknowledge that the founders of these companies have knowledge to impart, really support your advice above. Thanks for sharing your advice here.

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