In February 2015 Christian Lindner, the head of the Free Democatic Party (FDP), gave a speech in Dusseldorf, the capital of the German state Northrhine Westphalia.
“Entrepreneurship is a signal of confidence in a culture’s future. When people start new companies, they are not only creating a better future for themselves, they’re creating jobs for others.”
Hardly into his speech a state representative from the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) called out smugly that Lindner, indeed, had had personal experience with startups.
Lindner pounced on the opportunity. “Aha, look here. You say that I have experience. It is true, dear colleague. During the highpoint of the new economy I founded a company. It was not successful. But the leader of your party, the premier of this great state, in her speech today stated clearly that Germans should not stigmatize those whose startups fail.”
Lindner continued: “There you have it, in your own caucaus, Madame Premier, a colleague who doesn’t listen to you. This is exactly one of the reasons why so many people prefer to work as civil servants, instead of starting a company. For if they are successful then you Social Democrats want to tax and reallocate their profits. And if they are not successful, then they are derided.”
Auf YouTube wurde die Rede bereits millionenfach angeklickt. In DIE ZEIT vom 19. Februar 2015 schreibt Feliks Eyser, ein Gründer, der im zweiten Anlauf erfolgreich war, in einem Artikel mit dem Titel „Wer wagt, verliert“:
Within hours the speech was uploaded to YouTube and clicked on over a million times. A week later DIE ZEIT, a respected political weekly, published an article by Feliks Eyser, whose first startup failed but whose second succeeded.
The article’s title was „Wer wagt, verliert“ – those who risk, fail. This is the opposite of the well-known German figure of speech “Wer wagt, gewinnt” – those who risk, win.
“Failure is a part of entrepreneurship just like sore muscles are a part of sports. Those who start a company run the risk of failure. Courage is essential. Perhaps more people in this country would have that courage if a busines failure were not seen as human failure.”
Interestingly, Eyser wrote scheitern not seen as versagen. Both terms translate into failure. Could this mean that Germans see in failure human or personal failure?