Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Failing Forward’s 3rd edition

Failing Forward – an initiative of Agentschap Innoveren & Ondernemen, UNIZO and – 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 “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.

Elien Defraeije: “Human2human instead of B2B marketing”

Elien Defraeije, CEO of Cre@ctiv, decided to start her own business in 2012. “I didn’t think I could do better, but I was sure I wanted to do it my way.” She rented an office next to a web developer and eventually teamed up with him. Yet after a while, it became painfully clear that he did not share her ethics, and valued money over authenticity. Elien got out, but turned out to be liable, so when her partner filed for bankruptcy, she had to deal with social security, tax authorities and desperate customers, while her ex-partner drove around in his fancy car. She worked hard to get back on her feet: “That’s when I realized that people supported me and my values.” More than ever, she is convinced of the importance of honest and open communication and team decisions. “In hindsight, I realize I was incredibly naïve back then. If you’re thinking of founding a company with someone else: listen carefully to what he has to say and don’t focus only on the advantages. Also, get your agreements in writing.”

David Kesteloot: “Going from impossible to I’m possible is great, but don’t get overconfident”

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: “Don’t expect to succeed the first time round”

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!