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Failure in a Start-up

Every start-up has some objectives. Success, though subjective, is one of the core reasons why many start-ups come into existence. While it is useful to have well defined targets as success factors, it’s hard to actually achieve them. It typically takes year(s) to build a start-up, and in most likelihood its plan / course of action / targets change quite a bit over that period of time. Whatever the result, an entrepreneur should focus on enjoying the challenging journey; with lots of hard work, strong skills and some luck, one gets closer to his objectives.

Failure is a frequent result in case of start-ups. Being willing to fail can take the fear of failure out of your mind and you would most likely execute your plan a lot better with full positive energy and optimism. It helps increase the chances of success. It is paramount to acknowledge that failure is a subjective term.

Some potential failures are described below:

– You may fail if you do not meet the objectives you set at the outset. Your objective maybe to become the largest player in some market, or to make a billion $ exit in 5 years, or something similar. It’s not often many start-ups achieve what they plan to do when they start, many fall short of it, some would pivot in their plan, and rare ones will actually beat their target.

– You may fail if the return on investment is not positive for all the investors who invested in different rounds of funding. You as an entrepreneur may still do fine for yourself, relative to where you started, but some investors may not get adequate or any returns.

– You may fail because you are unable to launch your business due to the lack of customers, inability to create a team to execute the plan, or create the products or services, etc. This is likely to happen within few quarters of you starting a business and discovering along the way that you cannot get the customers or create the product / service you thought you will manage to create. In several societies, failure is a taboo. It is looked upon quite negatively and many people are afraid to try something due to fear of failure. It’s unfortunate but true in several parts of the world including India. Whereas in the entrepreneurship world, failure is considered as an honour. Venture Capitalists are more likely to fund you if you have failed at least once; theory is that you tried and failed but learned the rules of the game, and now you are ready to play the game better.

I think start-ups are the best way to learn. Imagine that you are a graduate with a few years experience and you are considering to do an MBA. It will cost you at least 1-2 years, and maybe upto $100k or more. Why don’t you instead invest that money into some start-up idea of yours, that you feel passionate about, and run it for a year or longer and see how it goes. You will most likely learn lot more than you will ever learn in any academic institution. You will nurture your entrepreneurial skills and learn how to create inspire and retain team, sell to customers, sell to investors, deal with finance & accounting, run a Board, and various other administrative processes. The learning you will get in this process will be incredible, invaluable and will make you a lot more mature person. Start-ups typically would lead you to

Success- you get partial or full success and you live happily ever after doing whatever you like doing. or,

Failure – this may range from partial to complete failure.

Either ways, it’s likely to lead you to – another start-up – you may chose to pivot or go after another opportunity altogether with deeper experience and stronger conviction – another job – you go back as a lot more productive and mature person at some job with a much broader perspective. To sum it up, an entrepreneur must be optimistic in his approach, but realistic that he may fail but still, it’s going to be worth it.

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