Telling the Tales of Failure

Telling the Tales of Failure

Storytelling. We all enjoy storytelling. But what happens when the dwarves are not off to work, the pig with the bricks is embezzling money out of the company, and you have to sell the pumpkin carriage because the wife wants to keep the glass slipper?

This is the theme of The Failure Sessions, put together by The Entrepreneurial Special Interest Group of Digital Rochester. Organized by LaunchNY‘s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Ed Bizari, as well as the rest of his team, The Failure Sessions are designed to talk about why failures happen in start-ups and learn how these and other failures can be prevented in the future. In the flavor of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” the three speakers are not announced before the evening. Each speaker has experienced failures in the past. The format of the event allows each speaker to recap his or her story, be questioned by three panelists, and then be questioned by the audience.

Attending The Failure Sessions #2, I listened to three entrepreneurs’ roller coaster rides in starting a business. From the evening, I took away a few lessons to keep tucked in my mind when the time is right for me to make my move into small business development.

Cash is a must…

“We’ll go raise more money is a hilarious delusion,” said the first speaker. As part of a company that hosted one huge event to fund the beginnings of business, the team had no opportunity for additional growth. “We had a plan, but no money to execute the plan. I was always saying, ‘If we could just get this one feature out…” but we never had the money. We launched a minimum viable product that didn’t have the components to know if it was worthwhile to move on.”

Echoed the second speaker, “Cash flow is critical. Never spend your last dollar, even if it means paying out a little late. Business is about people, and you can always work something out.” At least one advantageous cash expenditure he did make right was paying for business coaching to learn more about the operation of business itself. One of the keys to avoiding failure is to recognize when you are set up to fail because you do not have the skill set required to execute a plan.

…but is not the answer to all problems

The third speaker was part of a venture-backed company that took off like a rocket. They were conducting product development for outside companies and bringing money in hand-over-fist from venture capitalism. But the rate of spending and growth in the company was too slow. Venture capitalists push their investments to either create a scalable business model quickly or fail quickly and be removed from the portfolio. The pressure is on to find that one successful business model. All the money in the world will not fix a company that cannot generate revenue.

You cannot have success without failure

Truth. As a graduate student, if only 70% of the experiments I have running at any time are failing, it’s been a good week. Any entrepreneur needs perseverance to keep going, otherwise businesses would crumble immediately. As stated by one of the night’s speakers, “You’re not going to be a great skier if you don’t crash and burn. You can sit on your couch all day and say you didn’t fail, but you didn’t do anything, either.”

So far, Digital Rochester has hosted two successful Failure Sessions. We have now listened to six speakers but are hungry for more. The next Failure Session will be in September, at a time and venue to be announced.

Digital RochesterAbout Digital Rochester: 

Digital Rochester was founded in 2000 and is made up of professionals and companies working together to strengthen the Greater Rochester Area’s technology business community. DR events and community services include a wide array of educational and networking activities designed to support the growth and success of the Rochester business community. 

In 2010, the organization grew with the inclusion of the Association for Women in Computing (AWC) and eBusiness Association (eBA). In 2012, DR entered into a strategic alliance with Greater Rochester Enterprise (GRE). This alliance enhances DR’s ability to support the Greater Rochester Region’s business community.

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