Upon completing my fellowship with the DO School in April, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at programming for the Disruptive Innovation Awards’ Anti-Summit started by Tribeca Film Festival’s co-founder Craig Hatkoff. I represented the DO School and DESDE at an event focused on embracing failure by sharing one of my own failures in the start-up journey. Completely mortifying!
Tribeca adapted an event from the DO School, called F-Up night. The DO School continued this event originally started by a Fellow alum to encourage a different attitude in talking about failure. A genius idea, especially for a target audience of people, who will inevitably have to face failure with frequency before finding success: Entrepreneurs. The idea of the evening is that you throw a great cocktail hour celebrating failure. Entrepreneurs share some of their greatest failures, and then all attendees network, hangout and share each other’s failures together. Beyond the event the point is to create a supportive community and to breakdown the fear of talking about failure because in truth, everyone fails. Instead of celebrating it, we prefer to hide it!
On the early outset of trying to launch DESDE, during my DO School Fellowship, I remember my first F-Up Night, hearing from three different entrepreneurs and a fellow Fellow about their biggest failures. They talked about some of their biggest mistakes and were in a place to laugh about it. I remember wanting to leave the networking event at the time, with the opposite reaction the event was supposed to inspire! Afraid that I would fail with DESDE-- there were so many things I still needed to do to try and launch, to mark our effort as successful. Fast forward 10 months to the Tribeca Innovators Award Failure Festival, when the DO School asked me to share a failure with groups of attendees including the Co-Founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, I was ready.
Something had changed-- I realized I’d faced a lot of failures in our first eight months of recruiting communities, some bigger than others. It was just a part of trying to start something new and in some ways unheard of in the communities we are working with. I’d learned that pivoting from these failures, or what I started to see as barriers was commonplace.
That night 250 people showed up to celebrate failure. A good reminder that if you’ve ever failed, you are not alone! The failure I shared focused on the first product I was initially hoping to launch with in Panama. Legal and bureaucratic proceedings kept us from being able to take the final step of producing it with artisans. In the middle of these proceedings we had to begin new product development processes with our four other communities, and after almost a year we still didn’t have any resolution with the first product. Although it felt like we were set back, it was an opportunity to produce more products and build stronger relationships with more of our artisans.
The truth is that fear of failure is consistent, in startup ventures and in life. What changes is how you approach it. That in and of itself, I’ve found is a constant learning experience—but what always helps is to remember you are not alone; and being able to journey with a strong network of support who will help you be resilient.