Start-ups shared their Lessons Learned
Failure is not the end; it is a stepping stone towards success. At yesterday's Fuck Up Stories - Start-up Edition at the digitalCHURCH Aachen four founders shared their stories about how they failed and what they have learned along the way. They all encountered setbacks, either by driving their own ventures to the edge or by having to depart from promising start-ups due to personal reasons and wrong decisions. The founders emphasized that failure is not something to be ashamed of, but rather an opportunity for growth and self-improvement. By acknowledging their mistakes, they were able to adapt their strategies, refine their ideas, and ultimately find success in subsequent endeavors.
From the Soccer Field to Tech Entrepreneurship
Fabian Veit is a former professional football player with a passion for founding and scaling technology start-ups. While pursuing his master's degree in entrepreneurship in the US, he worked on his first start-up idea, an innovative shoe insole equipped with sensors that could detect irregularities in a person's gait and prevent injuries. By the end of the seed phase, the project was successful, but then external legal factors led to its failure, as it involved the collection of health data. The founding team had completely underestimated the legal hurdles and external influences on their idea. Despite their initial optimism, they had to put the revolutionary shoe insole on hold. Fabian emphasized the importance of analyzing external factors before embarking on a start-up journey and how he is using these insights as a competitive advantage in his current SaaS start-up, Welcomy.
Be prepared on paper first
The journey of Urban Ray demonstrates that start-ups need thorough planning and a well-coordinated team to attract investors. Fabian Binz is one of the co-founders of Urban Ray that aims to revolutionize package delivery through the use of drones and requires the support of experienced and well-connected investors. He recounted how, before the start-up was founded, the team tried to attract potential investors for their project - and failed. Fabian highlighted the reasons for the failure: the financial model was not yet mature enough to approach investors, and the roles within the team were not clearly identified and distributed. Fabian emphasized the importance of a team canvas, in which the strengths and roles of each team member should be clearly outlined before approaching investor meetings. With a matured business plan and a strong team, one can confidently approach potential investors and avoid being in a defensive position. Today, the team has learned its lesson and knows how to convince investors sucessfully.
How smart are your goals?
A few years ago, Fabrice Chuembou Pekam co-founded the MedTech start-up WhiteSonic, developing an ultrasound-based introral scanner for digital dentistry. However, the founding team underestimated the complexity involved in developing and bringing a medical device to market. The promising start-up failed due to an overly ambitious roadmap with vague target definitions, leading to a loss of trust among investors. Fabrice emphasized the importance of a goal-oriented project management with clear milestones to successfully develop a product.
"SMART goals and fixed milestones are indispensable for your product development. We thought we had reached our goal and were still at the very beginning." Dr. Fabrice Chuembou Pekam, Miltenyi Biotec
He also stressed the importance of establishing an advisory board comprised of industry experts in key company areas, which is vital for ensuring the long-term success of a start-up. In addition, he advised to challenge the value of the goals to ensure the company's success. Unfortunately, the start-up ultimately failed as a result of insufficient experience and the loss of investor trust. These days, Fabrice applies the lessons he learned. Holding a leadership position at Miltenyi Biotech, he sets clear targets at different project stages to manage and monitor progress efficiently.
Founder's life is a rollercoaster
During his studies, Markus Engel co-founded rooem - an e-commerce furniture company together with two acquaintances. After an exciting initial phase with ups and downs, the company experienced rapid growth due to the sudden impact of the pandemic. However, internal difficulties prevented long-term success. Markus spoke about the challenges that imbalances within the founding team can bring. An unequal distribution of shares led to significant tensions, pressure, and dissatisfaction within the team. Additionally, the failure to prioritize product development proved to be a crucial error. After four years, Markus left the company. Nevertheless, Markus now says that making mistakes is important and necessary. As a Venture Architect at Brainergy Park Jülich, he is now part of a highly innovative and technology-driven environment in the energy and digitalization field bringing new innovations and ideas to life.
As the four speakers illustrated, failure is an integral part of the entrepreneurial journey. By learning from these failures, one can achieve success. It was an evening filled with valuable insights, as failed start-up founders shared their experiences and offered inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs. Embracing failure and its lessons equips us all to navigate challenges more effectively.
The Fuck Up Stories – Startup Edition is part of a series of events organized in collaboration with QuellPunkt, digitalHUB Aachen, AC.E - Aachener Entrepreneurship Team, Collective Incubator, Exzellenz Start-up Center.NRW & RWTH Innovation, the Central Student Advisory Service of RWTH Aachen University, and the Coordination Office "Zweifel am Studium" of FH Aachen.