Fail fast. These are wise words if you want to grow your startup, but ask any entrepreneur, and they’ll share that the constant failure, even when part of intentionally designed experiments to better solve problems and find a market, can wear you down.
At the Social Capital Markets conference, I had the chance to connect with 14 award-winning entrepreneurs who shared some wisdom on how to best recover from failure, learn from it, and get better.
Failure really is part of the startup journey
“Failure is part of the growth journey. Every failure is a lesson learnt that better prepares you for your next challenge. Be willing to fail and purpose to never stay down no matter how bad it hurts. Wear your scars as monuments of your resilience and tell your story in ways that enables others to learn from your short comings.”
-Noeline Kirabo, of Kyusa. Follow Noeline’s work on Twitter at @kyusa_uganda.
“The only thing that we know as social entrepreneurs is that we are working on important problems that people have worked on for a very long time. Before us has come much failure or else the problem would be universally solved. So risk -taking and experiments are the only path to success.”
-Jonathan Levine, of Folia Materials. Follow Jonathan’s work on Twitter at @foliawater.
“The best ideas, best opportunities, and best creations come as a result from failure. Never be afraid to fail and keep going on.”
-Patricia Maldonado, of NANAY
“If you aren’t failing, you aren’t working outside of your comfort zone – failure just guides you toward the right answer.”
-Katherine Clayton, of OmniVis. Follow Katherine’s work on Twitter at @omnivistech.
“For me the most important thing is to be clear about your mission, always think of the why. The what and the like will change a lot in time, they will fail, they will have to transform, but the why does not change. Always focus on the why and move on.”
-Abraham Abramovitz, of Doktuz. Follow Abraham’s work on Twitter at @Doktuz_Espanol.
“Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Often, you will learn more by spending 10 minutes with your customer/user, then you will in 10 hours of isolated research or desk work. It can be uncomfortable, don’t let that stop you. Build the muscle, put yourself in spaces where people think differently from you and learn their worldview, how they view the problem they are living that you are seeking to solve, and how they react to any potential solutions you’ve built to serve them.”
-Seth Saeugling, of The Rural Opportunity Institute
“Give yourself time to experiment without the pressure of needing to find something that works, and in the early days, when in doubt between focusing on your business viability or on building something delightful and impactful for your end users, always choose your users!.”
-Puja Balachander, of Devie
How to learn from the failure
“Keep track of your metrics, listen to you clients and users often, but don’t take their word literally, really analyze their meaning behind their words”
-Javier Graterol, of Cuantix. Follow Javier’s work on Twitter at @cuantix_is.
“Don’t just fail fast, fail productively and make sure you learn from your mistakes.”
-Sydney Gray, of Mama Maji. Follow Sydney’s work on Twitter at @mama.maji.
“Learn from the mistakes of other organizations/companies. If you are thinking of testing a new product or service, it is likely that someone has done something similar before. You’ll be surprised to see how many social entrepreneurs are willing share their knowledge…even if they happen to be one of your competitors. One of the best ways to learn from failure is to also learn from the failures of others.”
-Shehzad Lokhandwalla, of OKO. Follow Shehzad’s work on Instagram at @oko_insurance.
“Create and maintain a healthy zone of self-care. Balance the focus on your mission with a greater sense of your purpose and the context in which you are working. And know what success truly means in the context of your personal and professional spheres.”
-Petra Wünschová, of Centrum LOCIKA. Follow Petra’s work on Instagram at @centrumlocika.
Some extra inspiration to help you through the hard time
“Explore, adapt and stay hungry in the dark.”
-Kobe Nagar, of 374Water. Follow Kobe’s work on Instagram at @374bluebox.
“The only thing that changes the world in a meaningful way are the efforts of individual people. Choose the path that inspires and motivates you…everything else will fall in to place as it should.”
-Lawrence Lewis, of OneFeather. Follow Lawrence’s work on Twitter at @onefeatherApp.
“Resilience. That is the word that resounds more in my daily struggles to keep going. Resilience is being able to sometimes fail, to be frustrated, to get stuck and learn from it, stand up and keep the dream alive!”
-Miguel Sagastume, of Amigos de la Aldea. Follow Miguel’s work on Instagram at @amigosaldea.org.
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Mark Horoszowski is the CEO and cofounder of MovingWorlds.org, a social enterprise that operates leadership development + social impact programs for individuals as well as global corporations. Mark also serves as adjunct faculty at the University of Washington Tacoma’s Center for Social Responsibility and Leadership.