The Joy of Failing


Pitching at Nestholma. Photo: Topi Järvinen

Pitching at Nestholma. Photo: Topi Järvinen

I had last week an opportunity to join a startup pitching session at Nestholma Imaging Startup Program – and pitch my own business idea as well. Like in the Dragons’ Den, you know.

Well, in fact we were not in the Den yet. This was still a dry run for the real day to come, in a few months’ time. So we were a bunch of wannabe successful entrepreneurs faced with some experienced pro bono mentors.

It was great to listen to the pre-prepared five minute presentations. To see and feel the enthusiasm of the startup teams was inspiring. Most of the presenters could describe their vision, how their idea will change the future. All conveyed their passion. Some of the ideas were so practical and tangible, that I was ready to be their customers day one.

Just think these: Personal cloud. Immediate identification of nature’s objects. Interactive identity. Coding made easy. Biking made fun. Adventure into power of three. Browsing tracking into power of ten… And sending a postcard… (… what??)

* * *

Only a fraction of the startups will grow into a real business. Their ideas can be really good. Not necessary novel, but truly executable. So why they all are not excelling?

Many (most?) of the startup teams do not pivot – plan, test, fail, redesign – their idea often enough. It will stay in a mediocre level. Why? Startup founders do not ask what the users think about their idea. The customers will not see the benefit. The investors do not understand, how they could get their money back.

Not all the startup teams are mentally or materially prepared to go through sometimes frustrating, time consuming cycles of pivots, though pivoting not only can, but should be cheap and fast.

* * *

Back to Nestholma.

So what about my postcard idea? How did I pitch? What kind of feedback did I get? What did I learn?

My pitching … too packed presentation slides, too much irrelevant history, too much process, missing the point, unclear investor message, simple things made complex. Exceeding given time limit. – And a mistake to pitch a ridiculously easy, used idea, when I could tell more about other addicting photography related ideas?

Does not sound like a success, or how? That’s correct: not a triumph. Period.

But not a defeat. I learned a lot.

I know my idea is far from being new. I know I’m not very advanced with the idea. I need to move on testing and pivoting. I need my first real customers. I do not need all the fancy bells and whistles, yet. I need to make the idea compelling enough. – But first of all, I need to continue. I need to believe.

This was a perfect time to fail. Early enough.

Screw it, let’s do it! Or scrap it!

* * *

Update 21 July 2015: My own startup idea did not fly, but I made a personal pivot. I joined the social community for local unexpected adventures, MyKontiki.com, which was also participating the same accelerator program. We are now soft-launching and inviting open-minded test user. What about you, are you interested? 

About Olli Laasanen

Eyes and ears open. New and old. Jobs and hobbies. Pictures and music. Entertaining and serious. Change and stability. Nature and urban.
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