Dare to Fail - Managing the 'Chasm'

The “Fail often Fail fast” mantra. Try again Try Harder...




Entrepreneurial cultures differences are related specifically to the approach to “failure”. These approaches differences can literally seem many times like day and night. The U.S. is well known for its tolerance of entrepreneurial failures, where the emphasis, correctly (as with anything in life), is always: “Try again, try harder”, and the only real loser is the fighter who remains down for the count. Indeed, the mantra has become –even understanding is an oversimplification-  “Fail often, fail fast”. 


The governing principle being that the more mistakes are made earlier on, the faster entrepreneurs learn and the better their business models become for future attempts.


From this perspective taking a risk and failing may be preferable to the biggest risk of all: doing nothing. In this light, negativity has more to do with the remaining, often unpredictable and seemingly insurmountable challenges ahead, than with the idea of entrepreneurship itself. And severe cultural challenges do remain: individuals may hesitate because they fear picking the wrong career path in an uncertain economic environment, there is a lack of intellectual capital (e.g., university graduates) in the startup scene by comparison to the U.S., and there are significant difficulties involved in raising financial capital, which are related to the deficit of intellectual capital and the fragmented ecosystem.


There is, moreover, where failure can be difficult to recognize before it’s too late, and venture capital and investors can have an attention span of days, if not hours. The idea that everything “takes off” because it’s Silicon Valley, and then the puncturing of this illusion and the dawning realization this is only one side of an entrepreneurial life fraught with challenges and failures, can be even more demoralizing for European Founders already wrestling with additional mountains of bureaucratic red tape and a seemingly half-empty investment well


The best lies are usually those containing a component of truth. “Fail often, fail fast” seems an easy way to describe the inevitable success around the corner if only one has failed enough times, with the phrase completely glossing over the suffering such an ideological approach can inflict and it being unclear what, exactly, enough times is. This being said, failure is inevitable, and it is necessary, it being the ineluctable component of any experience, and not just entrepreneurship. The benefit of failure should be seen less as a macrocosm of inevitable triumph “in the end” than as an unending series of lessons leading to a collection of smaller triumphs along the way.:


“Having an entrepreneurial mindset to failure is one of the essentials of starting a business. Release early, fail fast, and learn from it as efficiently as possible. The spread of this kind of attitude will help mold Europe’s startup culture...”


Necessity forces resourcefulness, there are no guarantees in life, and nothing is forever except the certainty of change. But it would be the ultimate failure if Europe were to miss a potential moment of its own self-realization, where startups and entrepreneurs can make a crucial difference.


*Excerpt adapted from a text from: Glenn W. Leaper