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How do you keep yourself motivated when your first startup fails?

Failure is disastrous in all terms. This is especially more harsh when you have seed funded your startup with the help of your family and friends. Because they are not going to be with you in your next venture.

20 Replies

Alan Clayton
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Alan Clayton Advisor
Roaming Mentor @ SOSV
Just remember - life is short - there are only sticks and carrots to motivate you. Best is a really big juicy carrot - sticks wear out. Maybe the REAL carrot you were after in your 1st venture is still out there.

Shel Horowitz: Shel AT GreenAndProfitable com
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I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing
Start thinking 1) Is there a way to reuse the ashes of this business in another venture? 2) What can I do for immediate income that will enable me to pay back my investors (because of course you DO want them along next time, and if you pay them back, they will not hold your failure against you--and also because you certainly don't want to hurt your friends and family financially). This might mean working out a payment plan where you pay a bit as you can, every month. 3) What kinds of businesses can I start that won't require any capital invested (and there are plenty)?
Daniel Drew Turner
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Interaction Designer, Xerox PARC
WAIT. The whole point of trying and failing is what can you learn from failing. Your work isn't over just because you failed.

This is a point that often gets passed over in the whole "fail big, fail fast" -- yes, failing can be a good thing, but only if a) you don't hurt people along the way and b) you learn from it. That's the value in failing -- today, it seems, people are lauded just because they failed. That's crap. Failing and learning is value (again, as long as you don't screw over employees, investors, users, the public, etc.).
Arthur Lipper
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Arthur Lipper Entrepreneur
Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.
Failure can be a learning experience which increases the possible success of future efforts.
Daniel Drew Turner
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Interaction Designer, Xerox PARC
Sure, it canbe. My point is that you have to do the work and make an effort to learn. Too many people just put on the "I failed!" badge and try again, making the same mistakes.
Jim Jordan
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Jim Jordan Entrepreneur
Investor / Board Member at Sparx Hockey

I borrowed the below from a guy named Sean Whalen, but his comments provide a good perspective on your question.


Perfection doesn't exist. Being successful 100% of the time does not exist.

The most successful people on the planet often "failed" their way there.

They simply found what didn't work, changed things and kept going.

You're gonnamess up and sometimes andfail.

That's not a problem. In fact you should expect it.

Because no plan is perfect.

No business is perfect.

Stop looking for perfect, and you'll find everything you ever wanted.

Philip King
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Philip King Entrepreneur
Founder at Culinary World Tour
In my experience there is no such thing as total failure, it just hurts at the time when things don't go according to plan. Sooner or later you'll realise there was a valuable lesson in there. Perhaps your next venture will be a success, then you can repay investors. Until then just stay positive and keep working hard.
Jonizia Jones
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Jonizia Jones Entrepreneur
Performing Arts Professional
You simply have to know when failure is or is not a option. I've pitched my business idea to multiple venture capitalist and angel participates. After 2 years I realized my business didn't need any funding and that I should alter my business plan. I brainstormed my "nitch" and customer and realized I was targeting the wrong people. Sometimes your business is a failure but the "idea" is not and when the idea is great patience and consistency is key.
Daniel Drew Turner
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Interaction Designer, Xerox PARC
Okay, here's what I don't understand about the fetishization of fail in the startup culture. Trying and failing is perfectly fine and okay -- but that's as long as you are conscious of that "what did I try, can I figure out why it failed, and what can I change so as not to fail next time?" That is, failing alone isn't admirable; it's the learning from failure that is.

Jonizia showed above (though I'd love to learn how she learned these things) certain specifics that she learned and changed. For instance, she learned that working with UX people, specifically user researchers, before moving ahead with a product idea and coding could have saved her business.

Way too often I see startup founders fail, and then take that as a badge of honor, and go and make the same errors over and over. To be specific about your question: use the work of running a post-mortem, really digging in honestly about what mistakes you made, to motivate you to do better next time. Maybe work with UX professionals.

Arthur Lipper
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Arthur Lipper Entrepreneur
Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.
Failure is a learning experience. I keep urging entrepreneurship educators to offer courses in "How to terminate a business with honor and dignity". If the entrepreneur does it right the same investors who lost money with the entrepreneur are likely to be open to the possibility of back another effort. If done badly the entrepreneur will have difficulty in the financing of new efforts.
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