How do I bounce back after the failure of my startup?

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Embarking on the startup journey is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. It can also be lonely and, if failed, extremely soul crushing. Entrepreneurs invest their hard-earned savings, time, energy, and resources and put themselves through the wringer. Therefore, it is no surprise that when the startup fails, it leaves one exhausted and defeated. But, failure is an essential and integral part of the startup journey.

According to a study, India is the world’s fifth startup-friendly country, following the US, UK, Canada and Israel. Despite this, a study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics notes that about 90 per cent of Indian startups fail within the first five years. So, if your startup has failed, you are in good company.

The study further identifies a lack of innovation of business models and technologies as the primary reason for startup failures. However, other factors need to be considered when reflecting on why a startup failed, including an ill-conceived product, weak management, paucity or misuse of funds, and lack of resources, among others.

The failure can leave an entrepreneur in abject dejection. But, it is imperative to look beyond the loss and realise how priceless the adventure has been. This journey of bringing an idea to life, executing it, and seeing it fail would have made you richer experience-wise, and it is crucial to use this phase to your advantage, says SoME Founder Rakesh Godhwani.

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In the latest edition of Conversations with Rakesh, Rakesh encourages entrepreneurs to reflect on what went wrong, document the process, and help other entrepreneurs navigate the seemingly unforgiving terrain of entrepreneurship. Get back to work and join companies that see you as a valuable resource because of your ingenuity and determination, he adds. And, invest time in movies, podcasts and books that speak of unsuccessful entrepreneurs and realise that you are in excellent company.

Watch the video to learn more:


The following is an edited transcript of the video.

Here’s today question, “I am an entrepreneur and had a startup. Unfortunately, it didn’t do very well, so I had to shut it down. Now I don’t have a job and feel very low. What should I do?”

I am an entrepreneur and started School of Meaningful Experiences three years ago; I can relate to the pain you must feel because your venture did not succeed. It is hard to see your startup failing and shutting down.

But don’t lose hope, and here are some suggestions for you to overcome this particularly trying situation.

  • Reflect and document: It is vital for you to study and reflect on why your venture failed. Was is it an issue of sales, revenue, product fit, supplier, or people? Was it an execution issue, or was is it an idea whose time had not come? To do that, please get in touch with all the people you were connected with on this venture and get their feedback. Document it and reflect on it because the day is not far when you will start all over again – I am confident you will – and this will prevent you from making the same mistakes again. Once you document your journey, publish it as a blog. There are so many other entrepreneurs who would love to read your experience to make sure they avoid similar mistakes. One of the biggest problems of the Indian ecosystem is that we are too success focussed and don’t know many stories about failures. When you are an entrepreneur, even one mistake can be extremely costly. Your documentation of how your entrepreneurship did not succeed can help thousands of entrepreneurs save their ventures. It will also help you learn, reflect, and prepare you for the next innings.
  • You will be a valuable resource: Your candidature will be very lucrative to many companies. They would love to hire an entrepreneur who tried and failed at entrepreneurship and is now available to do a job because those skills will be vital for the company. Choose mid-sized companies that are funded and display solid growth patterns, and apply there. Or, you could apply to newer startups, for they will also benefit from your experience.  Finally, you could apply to one of the many incubators in the country. Choose an incubator, startup, company that does work close to what you were doing. Join them, learn, contribute, build relationships, and find mentors. All these will help you immensely when you start over again.
  • Podcasts and movies on startups: Go through various podcasts and films about failed entrepreneurship. You will find that you are not alone. Failure is an essential part of startup life. Don’t give up. There’s this lovely Indian movie, probably the only one depicting sales and startup from a truly non-melodramatic perspective, Rocket Singh: Salesman of the year. It was produced by Yash Raj Films and starred Ranbir Kapoor. It is a small feel-good movie about this young, bubbly guy full of ideas and dreams. He enters a job as an intern, becomes a salesman and decides to start his own venture.

But his venture – selling computers – collapses, and his dreams shatter. After his failed entrepreneurship attempt, he walks into a chroma store and, in a heartbreaking scene, is seen ferrying computers and microwaves. But that’s the whole process, these moments bring humility and builds character.

There’s a podcast, How I built this, and it is full of examples of entrepreneurs who failed numerous times but never gave up. And, somehow, finally, made their startup dreams come true.

So don’t give up, start again, reflect on all the failures, and fine-tune your strategies. And, when you are ready, start your second innings.

Watch the video on YouTube



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