3 x successful failure with entrepreneurs

October 16th, 2023

Once you become more successful, you are quick to forget your failures. But why would you do that, when there are so many lessons to be learned from your mistakes? We share the failures of three well-known entrepreneurs who did not give up despite their mistake(s).

Paul Iske

Entrepreneur, Chief Failure Officer of the Institute for Brilliant Failure and professor of innovation at Maastricht University. Anyone hearing Paul Iske’s title does not immediately think of blundering. Yet, it also happens to a brilliant head like Iske. His failure? He started the forerunner of LinkedIn in 1996: In Master. In it, he and an associate had created a system for Shell in which employees recorded their specialties and skills.

Image: Cruxx

He was allowed to take it to market, but ufortunately: it was too early. After two years, they threw in the towel, only to be faced with the launch of LinkedIn six years later. “Too early is also not on time,” said Paul Iske. He has since made the beauty of blundering and failing his expertise.

Harald Swinkels

Entrepreneur and director of energy company NLE, also knows that entrepreneurship involves trial and error. His failure: uncontrolled growth. He founded CareerFever as a twenty-something, which introduced a game element to the job application process. In a kind of 3D environment on CD-ROM, applicants could interview at different companies. If the person was through, it went online and you could send in your information to apply for the job.

Image: Chio Rotterdam

The business was a success, but grew too fast. “The first product wasn’t even on the market yet, when we already started opening offices like crazy,” Swinkels says. “Everyone did that at the time, but opening offices was easier than closing them. Recruiting budgets at companies went into lockstep and bankruptcy followed after two years. I’m still willing to make risky decisions, but make sure I maintain control.”

Steve Jobs

No introduction is necessary and perhaps the story is already familiar to you, but a reminder of the error of perhaps the greatest man in tech is never wrong. Honoring mistakes was his expertise: when he was fired from Apple in 1985, Steve Jobs founded company NeXT. In doing so, it competed with Apple’s Macintosch. The plan was to earn millions a year, but only 20,000 sales were ultimately made. In 1997, when he rejoined Apple, he acquired NeXT. Apple’s successful Mac OS X operating system is based on the system of NeXTSTEP. So his failure was not in vain.

Image: WIkipedia

The bottom line is: mistakes sometimes lead to really cool discoveries. If Thomas Edison had not made dozens of mistakes, the light bulb would never have been invented. If Sean Red didn’t keep getting rejected by the ladies, the popular dating app Tinder wouldn’t have been created. And if John Smith Pemberton’s headache drink hadn’t been so gross, he never would have added carbonation to it and invented Coca Cola. So as long as you learn from your mistakes, you’re good. The biggest lessons from these entrepreneurs: watch your timing, don’t rush into a growth spurt and, above all, don’t give up if you’ve made a mistake. We all mess up from time to time, and then it’s best to use it as a lesson.

Ready for trial and error? Then take a look at our programs and maybe we’ll coach your startup to the next level! Risk of mistakes included, of course….

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