Fabian Pfortmüller on How Learning to Fail Educates Entrepreneurs

In Chapter 11 of 19 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller notes how accepting and embracing failures provides great entrepreneurial education. The process helps learn from failures and better anticipate future failure signals. Personally and professionally, he finds value reviewing failures, including with his co-founders at Sandbox Network. Pfortmüller is co-founder of Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com). He also co-founded an innovation think tank, Incubaker (www.incubaker.com), and is part of the group's first spin-off, Holstee (www.holstee.com), an apparel brand for people who would like to wear their passion. Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its School of General Studies.


Erik Michielsen: Where has failure been most helpful in your education as an entrepreneur?

Fabian Pfortmüller: Learning to fail is one of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur. Some people do that very naturally and they just fail and it’s kind of – it’s easy and they go on and move on, I’m not that person. When I fail, you know, it’s hard and it’s like, it’s a failure, right? But learning how to deal with that, anticipate it, kind of be like ‘yeah, if you try out things, certain things are not going to work out, that is totally normal’ and accepting that has been one of the most important aspects of my life and I believe that what you can really learn is to make that part of your life as an entrepreneur to take the time and really reflect on failures, and I believe there is failure which is total failure and you just went into insolvency or have bankruptcy, that’s a very extreme version of failure, but there are many small failures which are easy to over look.

And I give you one example which, how I for example tried to deal with that. With one of my co-founders at Sandbox, very close friend, which I know for a long time, we meet every half year for a full day where we not just debrief our projects but we debrief out lives, we write down everything that happens and we systematically go through what was good, what was bad, what worked, what didn’t, what learnings can we take out of it? And because we know that lots of things fail and it’s totally normal and being able to really take that seriously, invest the times to take learnings out of that in a project environment as well as a personal environment is very, very valuable.