Business failure is Personal Failure

The Handelsblatt Global Edition from April 23, 2015 reported: Philipp Gloeckler’s business idea was a failure, and he doesn’t mind admitting it. He had what he thought was the perfect concept, an impeccable business plan and great press coverage. Yet, his app, Whyownit, was a disaster.

This is how he found himself at the F***UpNight event in Berlin, a get-together where failed start-up entrepreneurs pick through the bones of their mistakes in the hope that they can do better next time.

“Business failure is often equated to personal failure in this country,” said Rolf Sternberg, a researcher at Leibniz University in Hanover, who recently co-authored a study on young entrepreneurs. “We would win a lot if we would accept failure as a new chance,” he added.

Other than SAP, the software giant founded in 1972, no German tech company has made it onto the global stage. Instead German entrepreneurs are better known for their pursuit of perfection, and finding success within established structures, such as the car industry.

“I am convinced we need to talk about mistakes,” said Béa Beste, whose toy app, which allowed users to subscribe to a toy delivery service for kids, collapsed with the loss of all her investor’s capital as well as her own €300,000 ($322,000). “The worst mistake is being afraid of mistakes,” Ms. Beste said.

Venture capital is scarce in Germany’s risk-averse, conservative economy, so entrepreneurs usually turn to bank loans for funding. But if their business fails and debts are called in, they must go through a lengthy insolvency process which can demand up to six years of “good conduct” before the slate is wiped clean.