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6 lessons these entrepreneurs learned from a business failure [Failfest]

At the heart of entrepreneurship is embracing failure. We asked six founders about lessons they learned from coming up short in building a business.

DON’T DWELL ON THE PAST

Gabriel Weinberg, founder, DuckDuckGo

“When my first company failed, I took it really hard. It was the first time I had failed at something big. The company didn’t end though. I let it linger via my nights and weekends for another year and half or so. Continuing to think about it and tinker with it was preventing me from moving forward onto bigger and better things. It was essentially a complete waste of time.”

(Weinberg has encouraged entrepreneurs to learn from failure)

DON’T PUT EVERYTHING ON ONE BET TO START

Steve Barsh, founder, Packlate

“If you pivot, make sure that you have enough cash on board that you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket and you preserve optionality. Packlate could only afford one basket and that basket did not grow quickly enough. We realized we had to make our one basket work or die trying.”

DON’T BE AFRAID TO VEER FROM THE ORIGINAL MISSION

Mike Krupit, CEO, CDNOW

“We should have gone head to head with Amazon,” Krupit said. The 1990s-era CDNow should have diversified its product and sold more than just CDs, Krupit said, but it didn’t want to stray from its original mission: music. It’s one reason the Fort Washington-based music retailer crumbled four years after it went public with a $342 million valuation.

DON’T BE FOOLED BY A GREAT RESUME

Lucinda Duncalfe, founder, Real Food Works

“When I fail to have confidence in myself in a certain area, I tend to hire people who have great resumes rather than following my normal pattern of looking for up-and-comers. I did that with my first salesperson at one of my companies and again with a head of human resources, and neither worked out.”

EMBRACE YOUR MISTAKES

Robert Moore, CEO, RJMetrics

After launching a redesign, RJMetrics discovered its new logo looked like underwear to its British customers. It quickly ran consumer tests, tweaked the logo and wrote a blog post about it. “There is no excuse for not testing something as significant as a new logo on a large, global audience,” Moore said.

DON’T LET PASSION TRIUMPH LOGIC

Jameel Farruk, cofounder, Inhabi

“It’s so exciting being an entrepreneur that it’s easy to miss the signs that your business isn’t working. Sometimes businesses are just doomed — and it has nothing to do with how smart or how capable the entrepreneur is. But when you’re so passionate about something, it’s hard to accept that.”

Companies: CDNow / Inhabi / Packlate

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