Becca Kuperschmid is a sophomore at Duke University and completed the New Ventures Development course taught by CEI Executive Director, Prof. Jamie Jones.
Failing sucks. I mean what entrepreneur wants to be told her startup is doomed? After spending sleepless nights working through concepts and allocating an egregious amount of emotional bandwidth to an idea, nothing hurts more than the “F’ word.
Yet, I’ve come to understand that failure is part of the entrepreneurial rite of passage.
For example, if Reed Hastings gave up after Social Net, LinkedIn would not exist and the employment landscape would look very different. More importantly, college students would not have a platform to flex their internship offer(s). In hindsight, that could be a good thing given that imposter syndrome is running rampant on college campuses across the country.
Kidding (kind of)
Even more so, if every founder was to land funding after her first Series A pitch to VCs or receive zero negative reviews after launch, there would be no content for talking heads on Twitter to tweet about.
Again, kidding (kind of)
But seriously, if the careers of some of the most famous (and successful) businesspeople of our time have been riddled with failure, why do I have such a hard time accepting failure myself?
That my friend, is the million-dollar question. To break this down, let’s start from the beginning…
Since childhood, I’ve prided myself on my ability to succeed in both academics and extracurriculars. I graduated high school near the top of my class, was accepted to my first-choice school (go Duke) and was an all-county tennis player. My family, friends, and teachers served as the perfect support system, always reminding me how I was “destined for success” in whatever I decided to do.
This was music to an ambitious high schooler’s ears. However, once I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey, that phrase became a siren’s song. Surrounding myself with people who constantly reaffirmed my startup ideas proved to be problematic. A failed business plan would often coincide with a brief existential crisis, where I not only questioned my future as an entrepreneur, but my worth as person.
In turn, to circumvent these crises, I would avoid failure at all costs. If I even got a small whiff of criticism, I would immediately pivot to another idea. Sure, this might have been great for my ego at the time but was detrimental to my development as an entrepreneur in the long run.
It wasn’t until my (New Ventures: Development) class this semester that I realized the value of critical feedback. An anonymous review ripping a product to shreds can help the founder identify problem areas that may have not been apparent before. It is for this reason the most successful
startups are the ones that place the most weight on customer interviews. Having user insight as soon as possible can save founders time, money, and can help maximize the company or product’s potential. I no longer sit idly by phone, waiting for kind messages to flood my inbox. In fact, I do the exact opposite. I seek out the haters, the critics, and the anonymous trolls because I know how much value their opinions hold.
So the moral of the story is be a good friend, tell your entrepreneur friend their idea is destined for failure. They may be offended in the short run, but they’ll be singing your praises when they grace the cover Forbes.
For more information on the New Ventures courses and other experiential learning opportunities, see our Curriculum page.