Failure Smailure! All Experiences Provide Lessons
“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” • Thomas Edison
Kansas City’s first ever Fail Night hosted by Kauffman Labs brought 60+ entrepreneurs together to share stories of startups gone awry. Bright colored flowers and three lit candles adorned the table where the microphone lie in wait. Guests were welcomed to Fail Night, a celebration of great successes masked by “failure," by Nathan Kurtz, manager in entrepreneurship for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Nobody was lost in the irony when the first mic failed. Ah, but the second mic worked like a charm.
Thom Ruhe, Kauffman’s vice president of entrepreneurship, started the sharing. He first told of European countries hosting Fail Weeks, then delved into some of his past unsuccessful business ventures.
What may have started as an “Aww, that’s too bad, but I know what they’re going through” type of evening, turned into a night of life lessons learned.
Here are a dozen lessons to chew on:
- Failure sometimes happens as a bi-product of life
- Need to test not just the problem, but also the solution
- Beware of shiny object syndrome (translation: To do two things at once is to do neither well)
- “If I build it the customers will come.” - NOT!
- Treat a business like a business, not a hobby
- Beware of “it’s only” when it comes to money
- The opposite of lean = A very bad idea
- Stick to your core competency. Don’t become a jack of all trades and master of none
- Location. Location. Location . . . and timing
- Don’t “shift allegiances” by responding to customer whims (rephrased: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)
- Having a child IS a pivot
Summed up, Fail Night was an evening of sharing, support and take aways. A take away that will resonate with every Kansas Citian came from Sarah Hebert, digital communications manager at Sprint and a transplant from the east coast - “Kansas City is a great place to collide - In KC, it’s WE instead of ME”.
Witnessed and written by Monica Arredondo, KCSourceLink Project Coordinator. You can follow her musings at @mgdondo.