Thursday, December 11, 2014

Startups rising from failure - part 9

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again- this time more intelligently.” — Henry Ford

Startups can learn much when they do not succeed

Success stories have always been a source of great encouragement for struggling entrepreneurs. It seems easy enough to romanticise accomplishments.

After all, there seems to be no shortage of stories on budding entrepreneurs who worked hard to develop great products that were later acquired for hefty price tags.

Perseverance pays: Grove says he learnt the value of persistence when the bursting of the dotcom bubble drastically altered the company’s fortunes in 1999.

In reality, the path of entrepreneurship involves plenty of speed bumps, potholes and dead ends.

Entrepreneurs who have made it often recount how they lacked time for anything other than work, how they had to fumble through everything on their own and how some of their ventures failed before they became successful.

Additionally, entrepreneurs are making a big bet by putting their money into something that has no promise of returns on top of not having a secure income for what can be extended periods.

But serial entrepreneurs persevere through their failures.

Patrick Grove, co-founder and chief executive officer of Catcha Group, understands the importance of picking up the pieces and persisting after a failed attempt.

Grove established Catcha Group, which holds a portfolio of online assets, in 1999 and had plans to list the group on the Singapore Exchange the following year.

But shortly before the exercise, the Nasdaq crashed and brought the end of the dotcom bubble.

Subsequently, Grove and his partners were saddled with debts of US$1.5mil (RM5.2mil).

Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, he slashed his headcount, diversified the business and persisted.

Grove refers to that period as “the school of hard knocks.”

But in the end, Catcha got its groove back and Grove went on to list four online companies.

“I learnt the value of persistence… because we were humbled early on, we don’t forget that,” Grove said in an interview with an Australian publication, adding that it is alright if entrepreneurs fumble.

MyTeksi technical head Aaron Gill is likewise no stranger to failure. Before joining the Malaysian startup that has grown regionally, Gill had three failed ventures under his belt.

His ventures had started off with ideas good enough to obtain government pre-seed funding from the Multimedia Development Corp and Cradle Fund. But the companies did not survive.

However, Gill says that his failed attempts taught him a lot about running a company and managing a team.

Additionally, he learnt the importance of being focused when running a business and the need for structure in the face of expansion.

Grove and Gill are only two of many more entrepreneurs who have encountered hardships before finding that one successful startup. The road taken by entrepreneurs is often long, winding and certainly stressful.

But fear of failure shouldn’t stop entrepreneurs from taking risks. There are rewards to be reaped from thinking outside the box and pushing boundaries.

The lessons learned from failures can be brutal. But taken the right way, these lessons can bring you one step closer to success.

Entrepreneurs describe themselves as people who hop from one failed business to another until they hit a jackpot. To them, failure is a part of their experiences.

■ This is the ninth article in a 10-part tie-up between Metrobiz and the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creative Centre (MaGIC) to explore startup ecosystems.

By Joy Lee The Star/Asia News Network

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