Like success stories, flops are a normal part of life. When it comes to entrepreneurship, failure is not just normal, it’s healthy. No one should be ashamed of having tried to create a business and failed. There is no stigma attached to this, or at least there shouldn’t be.
Over 90% of innovative business ideas fail within the first 3 years. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Entrepreneurship is a tough game, one that proceeds by trial and error. The many mistakes that are responsible for failures are the most valuable lessons on entrepreneurship that anyone could possibly have. No business school will ever teach you a lesson as valuable as the ones you learn by trying and failing.
Curiosity: Have you ever heard of Traf-o-Data? Probably not, seeing that it failed long ago. Traf-O-Data was the first company set up by Bill Gates, with Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert, when he was just 16 years old. It read and analyzed data from roadway counters and created reports for traffic engineers. Between 1974 and 1980, Traf-O-Data ran up net losses of $3,494 and was then shut down. Looking back on that experience, Paul Allen said: “It hadn’t occurred to us to do any market research”. A failure that laid down the foundation for Microsoft. Not bad, eh?
This is taken for granted in the United States and other more dynamic countries, where a flop is viewed as an asset enhancing the credibility of an entrepreneur, who can be counted on to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It is not taken for granted in Europe, where a flop still carries stigma and where an entrepreneur who has failed is unlikely to earn respect and a second chance.
We at FlopAcademy think this must change, and quickly. We believe that the culture of flopping needs to be embedded in the entrepreneurial process and to be accepted and recognized as an asset by all the players involved in the European entrepreneurship support ecosystems. Yes, entrepreneurs should be proud of their flops and the business community should recognize flops for what they really are: a valuable asset.
Flops are nothing to be ashamed of: they are not failures, but a necessary step towards success.