Another year, another fuckup, we sometimes think. But what a night we had on May 16th 2019! At Theatre 11, 1500 people gathered to hear about the unfortunate experiences of some amazing story-tellers.
Admitting to failures in our lives can be a rather difficult exercise. It is difficult to confess that we made a bad choice, and sometimes even harder to admit that this bad decision led to bearings that got completely out of hands. One of our speakers, Edith Schmid, CEO of Kenzen AG (company which makes wearable laboratories in the form of electronic patches), had to face this situation when her company agreed to become a Swiss branch of a group held by entirely American investors. With a slim connection to these foreign investors, the decision was risky; but risk is something that you often only realize when you are already in front of a complication. And so, with the unfortunate loss of the sole human contact to these foreign investors, Edith Schmid realized that the two branches had entirely different visions. Her team and she chose to protect the company’s original dream. Because of that, and despite the fact that the technology was operational and ready for mass production, Kenzen AG lost its funding. The verdict then came like a deadly bullet: the company had to face liquidation.
Another one of our speakers, Marianne Janik, CEO of Microsoft Switzerland, also saw the company she worked with face a similar fate. A few years ago, she quit her corporate job to join a financial consultancy company that had just gone public. Brought to improve its success, she was unable to bridge the gap between two different mindsets: that of the traditional business on one side, and of a newly created dynamic team on the other. Meanwhile, the company’s stocks dropped and that trend became irreversible. Once again, dreams were shattered.
Edith Schmid and Marianne Janik responsible for the collapse of their
company? Maybe. Maybe not. The most important is that, while we should
not blame our failures on others, we should accept that things are sometimes out of our control.
Failure is one thing, but living in a toxic environment full of our own guilt can become a real nightmare. It is often not the failure itself that we fear, but the impact it could have on the people that surround us. We feel guilty for not living to our expectations and our ideals, but also to our responsibilities. However, should that really be the case? If we must fail, we must do so fast. And move forward.
Shattered dreams are the most difficult weight to carry. But in failure there is always an opportunity. In Jean-Claude Biver‘s
case, his (said) failure was what most parents are worried about in our
early age: failure in school. But those who think that being
unsuccessful in school means that one’s career will be unfruitful should
see what Mr. Biver was able to build. Loosing the support of his family
and the reassuring environment it provided, he decided to follow an
entirely new path and join a hippie community. An uncommon leap, but a
leap that allowed him to discover his passion, or as he said more
exactly, to decide that he would be passionate about watches. Now
Chairman of Hublot, a watch company sold for 490 million euros to the
luxury group LVMH in 2008, no one would be bold enough to deny that Mr.
Biver is a successful man. But who would have made that guess 30 or 40
If failure provides an opportunity, then one must remember to seize that opportunity. Sometimes, these will seem counter-intuitive (such as joining a hippie group and choosing one’s own passion rather than finding it), but this does not mean that they won’t bear fruits. As Mr. Biver said, don’t be like the dead fish that just follows the current. Use your hardships to turn against the current and bring about your own unique path. Embrace your difference, because that is what makes you special.
And in any case, isn’t it because speakers had some unique stories to share that more than 1500 people were present on that day for the Fuck Up Night?
As a friend once told me, every decision is either a blessing or a lesson. If you are proud of the decision you made, then you won. And if you failed, then embrace it. Embrace your failures, because mistakes come with experience, and with experience comes learning.
And for those filled by an entrepreneurial spirit, remember that being an entrepreneur is like saying that you are not afraid to fail. Or even better, that you forgive failures. That is exactly what Christian Grossman, CEO and co-founder of Beekeeper explained to us that day. First-hand adept of that practice, his team and he experienced the failures of 2 of their businesses before starting Beekeeper. But each one of them led to a better idea, and a new business. Out of an anonymous flirting platform which had difficulties meeting users’ needs and a location-based chatting platform that could not scale up, Mr. Grossman and his team realized they needed to focus on the users rather than the idea, to direct their efforts towards a single objective rather than become too scattered, and of course, to make sure clients paid (which is usually more easily said than done).