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Fuck Up Stories – Startup Edition

Why "fuck ups" and founding spirit belong together

Aachen, 09 September 2020: At yesterday's Fuck Up Stories - Startup Edition in digitalCHURCH Aachen and in the YouTube livestream, four founders told how they failed with their start-up and what they learned from it. The idea behind Fuck Up Stories is to break up the taboo topic of "failure" and make it socially acceptable.

According to statistics, 80% of all start-ups fail within the first three years - no wonder, then, that failure is not a taboo in the founder mentality, but has a firm place in it as a "failosophy". The fact that 60% of all founders go ahead and found a new start-up in the event of failure shows the special appeal of the start-up ecosystem. "With innovative ideas and projects something inevitably has to go wrong, some even fail completely. This even happens to our start-ups in Aachen," explains Christina Mertsch, Entrepreneurial Manager, RWTH Innovation. "Every founder has already experienced this. But only those who deal openly with mistakes and fuck-ups can learn from them and put a successful start-up on its feet".

The Fuck Up Stories – Startup Edition was the third event in the series of events organised in cooperation 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. The event took place in hybrid form: 50 participants took part live in the digitalCHURCH and a further 100 spectators followed the event in the YouTube livestream. Christina Mertsch, Entrepreneurial Manager, RWTH Innovation and Magdalena Gorecki, Startup Coach at digitalHUB Aachen, hosted the evening.

The speakers of the evening: Stories of failure and getting back up on your feet

After the greeting by digitalHUB managing director Iris Wilhelmi, four speakers from different fields reported each seven minutes about their moments of failure. The first speaker was Raphael Allstadt, co-founder of the start-up tl;dv, which recently completed its first round of financing. Before Raphael Allstadt went live with tl;dv, he experienced a series of failures with his previous startup Mosaeek, an app for video interaction. Why did it fail? "In the end, we failed to convince investors of what our product is all about," says Raphael. His learnings: All that glitters is not gold. Before Mosaeek's demise, there were periods of high spirits and promising meetings with potential major customers and investors. "We also concentrated too much on the external image and too little on the core of our product," says Allstadt.

Next on the stage was Ruslan Goryanyy, Happiness Manager at nevisQ. Ruslan Goryanyy has already been involved in several start-up projects and has experienced a few "fuck ups" along the way. In one start-up project, an event app, it was the scandal of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica that brought the business model to an end. In the next start-up, beeAzubi, the problem was the lack of team cohesion and the unwillingness of app users to pay for the app. At nevisQ, where he is currently working, things are running smoothly. "My path has taken longer than other paths, but I would go it again and again," Goryanyy sums up. His tips for founders: "Work on problems, not on products, always address problems in the team and celebrate even small successes!

The next speaker, Melanie Wagenfort, is currently on the road to success with her start-up Brajuu. Several national newspapers have already reported on her and her co-founder and the joint "Boob-Tech-Startup", with which the founders help women to find the perfectly fitting bra. Melanie Wagenfort's road to success was by no means straight or without setbacks. Starting with the idea of developing made-to-measure underwear with the help of 3D scanning, which proved to be too complex and also did not meet with sufficient customer acceptance, the founders finally ended up with their current product: an underwear platform on which users can find a perfectly fitting bra thanks to algorithms. Their greatest learning: "Only when you let go of old ideas something new can be created. And: "Don't fall in love with your product, but with the problem you want to solve.

As the last speaker, Dr. Bernd Geropp, founder of Geropp Leadership GmbH, coach and podcaster, reported how he failed with his former start-up ACIDA GmbH. The business idea: sensor technology for roller bearings, which uses vibrations to detect damage. The problem: After five years, the B2B start-up with 20 employees was still not profitable and the Capital donors turned off the money tap. When he realised that he would probably be left with a mountain of debt - if the start-up failed - he fell into a deep hole, Geropp reported. He and his co-founder managed to sell the start-up. "Everyone who founds a start-up goes through roller coaster rides. But it is definitely worth it. There is no project where you learn so much as when you found a start-up," he sums up. After a few years of permanent employment, he went into business for himself again and is now the founder of a successful company.

In the concluding Q&A round, the four speakers answered and discussed questions from the audience. The next events in the Fuck Up Stories event series are the "Student Edition" on 19.11.2020., followed by a Startup Edition on 28.01.2021

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Text provided by our lovely colleague Karin Böning from digitalHUB Aachen e.V., translation by: Marina Brandt