Failing Forward – an initiative of Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen, UNIZO and Startups.be – consists of a four-year campaign that kicked off at the beginning of 2017. Its goal? To make Belgian entrepreneurs less afraid of failure. Frederik Tibau, content director at Startups.be: “In the US, bankruptcy is not exactly praised, but it is highly respected, because at least you tried. We want to work towards that kind of attitude here as well. Failure is part and parcel of any learning process, and experience is the sum of the mistakes you made.” During the 3rd edition of Failing Forward Faalfolie at Telenet’s headquarters, three entrepreneurs shared their stories.
David Kesteloot, entrepreneur pur sang, was declared bankrupt – twice. His first telecom business was a huge success, but he got bored: “With our first company, we were flying. So, when I ventured into something new, I took a dangerous combination of confidence, ambition and money with me.” Introducing a new spa concept in 2008 and aiming for no less than 10 wellness centers, he was so preoccupied with the building that he didn’t stop to think about who his customers were and whether they would be willing to pay for luxury in a time of crisis. It turned out they didn’t. David filed for bankruptcy and went back to his IT roots. “I didn’t start from zero: I started below zero.” Things went downhill again, because his new company carried too much weight from his previous business. Luckily, David is out of the rough sea now with a completely new company, and with many lessons learned. “I’m not saying failure should trivialized, but it shouldn’t become a stigma either, and it definitely shouldn’t keep you from getting up and trying again. Entrepreneurs are so afraid of making mistakes, but failure can also be the start of something new.”
Sylvain Niset was the business development lead at Take Eat Easy when the company went down despite its massive growth and success. The competition with Deliveroo proved too fierce. Sylvain: “When you work so hard and you fail, you have two options. Either you take your failure as proof that this type of business is too risky, and you go work for a more established company. Or you regard failure as a part of success and you continue until you succeed. I took the second path.” Sylvain is convinced that failure is a prerequisite for success: now he is back in business with Doctoranytime Belgium, which he cofounded. “When a baby tries to take its first steps,” he concludes, “you can’t expect it to succeed right away. Entrepreneurship is a complex matter, so unless you are super lucky, you should be prepared to fail.” Interested in joining us at the next Faalfolies? Check the Failing Forward website and register now!