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Lessons From Failed Businesses

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Businesses are started everyday. Some grow and succeed while others fail miserably. And while it may not sound appealing to air your failures on the web for all to see, it’s certainly a viable way to learn and share valuable lessons with others.

Niral Patel and Matthew Davies launched a new website, Autopsy.io, that not only lists out a slew of failed businesses, but includes a historical summary of each startup. The website format is such that interested visitors can see the failed company name, founders, premise to the business, why it failed, and an article explaining its demise in full.

At first, the idea of this site may seem a bit jarring. I admit that my initial reaction was one of sympathy. I couldn’t ignore the empathetic side of things when it came right down to it. I thought to myself, “Man, talk about kicking someone when they’re down!” But, it took all of ten seconds for me to then realize just how useful a tool this site really is for anyone who is contemplating the road towards starting their own business. Not to mention, many of the failed companies submitted the information willingly to the site in hopes of educating others!

In fact, co-founders Patel and Davies stress the importance for the site itself in a recent article highlighting their new website venture:

We want the site to be a place you can go to learn from others . . . We want to keep it positive.

Hopefully people will see the patterns. That seems to be the main thing people are talking about so far. We’ve seen lists of the ten things that everyone does right, and we’re hoping that this will be equally as valuable.

inventions from failure

© Flickr user James Bowe

The truth is, creating a viable business from the ground up is no easy task. For some, the business idea may be there but the financial know-how is lacking. For others, the technical and creative sides are flourishing but the market trends simply aren’t in synch. Perhaps you’re even at odds with your partners and can’t find common ground. Whatever the reason, failure can come from anywhere and at any time whether you’re ready for it or not.

According to Patel, what some companies were listing as problematic was surprising, but nonetheless detrimental:

What stands out to me is how many companies say they failed because of a ‘lack of market fit’. There are just so many people building things that they don’t have a customer for. It’s like, this is ridiculous! When you see them all at once, I can’t believe this many startups got funded.

Naturally, the choice to NOT be blindsided by complications is everyone’s hope when they step into the entrepreneurial arena. But it’s simply not a realistic perspective. And that’s where Autopsy.io is valuable. It brings failure to the forefront, beams it in red like a Vegas show sign, educates us on what’s important to do (or not do) and equips us with firsthand experiences that can guide us better in our own business plan.

Why Embracing Failure Is Important

Being afraid of failure is a natural, human instinct. It’s not something that we can necessarily control. Yet, interestingly enough, the best way to fight this particular fear is by embracing it! We must say to ourselves, failure is not a weakness but a starting off point for even sweeter success. After all, mistakes are what we use to anticipate and prevent future problems. Without them, processes could never improve, products rarely enhanced. When something appears perfect from the start, we would never dare to rethink and reinvent. Instead, we would find ourselves at a standstill. Where then would our creativity and need for innovation lead us? Nowhere I suspect.

Here’s the deal: we can’t stop failure from occurring. All we can do is arm ourselves with the knowledge that complications arise and when (not if) that time comes, we are prepared with preemptive tactics for remedying the problem. Lest we forget, some of the greatest innovations in modern history came at the price of continual failure—the lightbulb being one of the most famous inventions among such a group. Let that be a lesson to us all. If Thomas Edison could repeatedly fail and still find success, then perhaps we can too.

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Ashley Lee

Ashley Lee

Ashley has been working with the AccelaWork team since 2008. She is a communications expert with a background in corporate work, and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in Public Relations. She lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her husband and four children. Ashley enjoys jewelry, fashion, and coffee.
Ashley Lee

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