Fail Forward

Why are we so scared to fail? It seems we will do almost anything to avoid failure. We perceive things as unrealistic and constantly make excuses to talk ourselves out of trying something we desperately want to do. Why? Because we fear failure! The thought of failing far outweighs the slim chances of success. Thus, we give up on our dreams and ideas before we even attempt to make them a reality.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again”

On the 8th of November, 2016, I attended a conference in The Helix called Get Started, where six self-made entrepreneurs shared with us their businesses’ success. The one thing I found in common with all their successful businesses, was failure! Maybe it was just a coincidence that they all happened to succeed after failing, or was it trend? I began to research the idea and found out the average millionaire goes bankrupt at least 3.5 times! so why do we fear failure so much if constant failure leads to success? That’s something we must ask ourselves before we pursue anything with an element of risk. The predominate message of the conference was, you must learn from your failure to learn how to succeed. Furthermore, each speaker gave an uplifting account of why we don’t have to be afraid of failure and rather why we should embrace it, so we can learn and create a successful startup.


The first speaker Phillippe Brodeur, founder and CEO of OvercastHQ, talked about what he learned was necessary to succeed in a constantly changing market. He stressed the importance of differentiation! He informed us if we plan on creating a business, we need to differentiate ourselves to better our chance of success. With so many new products, apps and services constantly entering the market this statement couldn’t be more true. What is going to make your idea stand out? What will make people take notice? This reminded me of a Ted talk where Seth Godin talks about “How to get your ideas to spread”. He mentions making your idea remarkable. Making it worth something to talk about. He gives the example of a company called Silk locating a product that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, next to the milk in the refrigerated section. This tripled their sales! Why? Because everything in the fridge was milk but that product. Hence it stood out. It differentiated itself from the rest, so people noticed the product. The Statistic Brain Research Institute compiled statistics showing the percentage of startups still operating after four years in certain industries. As you can see from the graphic below, its only about half that survive. So, what are you going to do to make your startup stand out from the rest in order to survive in an extremely competitive market!


Passion and learning

Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly founders of CitySwifter, were two young entrepreneurs attempting to enter the transport industry. In doing so they had become quite familiar with failure. Their first business was a complete failure and their next business wasn’t exactly perfect either. (They had to search for their passengers in the rain on O’Connell street). What they emphasized about these failed attempts was the amount they learnt from it. “You have to do something wrong to know how to do it afterwards”. Like I mentioned before constant failure leads to success, and CitySwifter is an excellent example of this.

Brian and Alan also displayed the passion and work ethic necessary to be a successful startup. With Dublin Bus strikes fast approaching, it was a massive opportunity to get thousands of customers in a short period. With limited time and funding they rented out a house, removed the furniture and devoted their life to the firm for the next couple of days to seize the opportunity. Such devotion paid off and created the platform for CitySwifters success. This type of passion and drive is so fundamental to creating a successful business and was extremely motivational.


Complimentary skills

One of the most interesting startups on the day was a site called GirlCrew founded by Elva Carri. Unlike the other startups, Elva came across hers be accident. One evening Elva wanted to go dancing but none of her friends were available. She came up with the quite bizarre idea of changing her gender on the popular dating app, tinder, so she could match with other girls. Elva changed her profile picture to a message asking girls if they wanted to go dancing with her. Within a few hours she had over one hundred responses.girl-crew Not being able to message them all individually, she sent them all a link to a Facebook group chat where they could organize to go dancing. Overwhelmed with the response, she left her computer for an hour or two, only to come back to the group having arranged to meet up in a cocktail bar without her even organizing it. Elva realized she had found a gap in the market and created GirlCrew, an online forum where women can socialize and meet up with other women in their local area. GirlCrew gained a lot of traction and now has over 50,000 members! Although the site has become very popular, Elva said the growth of the site was greatly restricted because they hadn’t a tech person on the team. She went on to stress the importance of building a team around you with complimentary skills. Before this conference I hadn’t thought about this idea that much and never realized the importance of networking with people who have complimentary skills. But from listening to Elva and the other entrepreneurs it has become obvious how essential it is.


Gavan Walsh founder of iCabbi was next to speak. Gavan was an extremely impressive speaker who’s ambition and passion was felt by everyone in the Helix. What struck me the most about Gavan was his desire to succeed on a much larger scale than the other Entrepreneurs at the conference. iCabbi was essentially just a dispatch system for taxi companies. However, Gavan had a bigger vision for his company. He wanted to be a global leader in dispatch technology. This idea may have seemed a bit absurd coming from a small taxi dispatch company but he soon began to display iCabbi’s potential. iCabbi expanded worldwide and entered several different markets.visionGavan talked about the importance of having a clear vision of where you’re going and to never limit your vision because “you can only grow as big as your vision”. Gavan’s strong emphasis on vision was important to hear at the conference as It is a key element to success! You can have the best plane in the world but if the pilot doesn’t know where they are going, the plane will just go around in circles and never reach its destination. No one has ever been successful without intent and Gavan made that clear to us DCU students.

Prototype fast

Like all the other speakers Adrian Mihai, founder and CEO of, had a fantastic idea. He developed software that can read CV’s and cover letters as well as matching candidates to jobs that will suit them. Such software is designed to greatly reduce the time spent in the recruitment process. Although the idea is fantastic and revolutionary, what really caught my attention was when he said “don’t over polish, prototype fast”. This brings us back to the quote from Brian and Alan, founders of CitySwifter, “you have to do something wrong to know how to do it afterwards”. They all know you must create a poor product/service in order to create a good one. I felt it was important to know this before attempting to create the perfect product/service the first time around.

Making a difference

It seems that nowadays everyone is overly concerned about profits and not so much about make a difference in the world. However, Iseult Ward, founder of FoodCloud, restored my faith that there are people out there still trying to do good. Iseult’s idea is simple. She wants to connect those who have too much food with those who have too little by redistributing left over food in supermarkets and restaurants to local charities. Her Original solution to this problem failed. But like the rest of the entrepreneurs at the conference she persevered and started again. FoodCloud was her new solution, an app that allowed supermarkets and restaurants to upload a notice about the food they had left over and allowed charities to claim the food and get in contact with the supermarket. Iseult has partnered up with Aldi and Tesco in Ireland and is recently expanding to Tesco in the UK. The app is simple and effective and has serious potential to make a difference worldwide. Iseult is an excellent example of how we can use business to help people globally.

The Conference ended with Andrew Keogh urging us to think about making our startup ideas a reality now, rather than in the future. why? Because it means we have more time to fail and learn. Each entrepreneur discussed different fundamentals they felt were essential to have or do when starting a new business. Not only was this conference informative, it was motivational and inspiring. And right about now I wouldn’t mind creating a business that is a complete failure!



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