Failure is something that scares most first time entrepreneurs, and this is very understandable. Being an entrepreneur rarely results in instant success and very often results in considerable sacrifice. But it may surprise you to learn that four of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs were failing at one point. Not only this, but they were failing with the very businesses that ultimately catapulted them to their eventual success…
Brian Chesky – AirBnB
Flashback to 2008, and things were not looking good at all for the now $30bn valued company. They were getting fleeting visits to their website, but no meaningful bookings. This was only earning them $200 a week in revenue, and their lead engineer had to move back to Boston for money reasons. They were also being turned down by several investors despite only asking for $500k in funding. Chesky’s co-founder Joe Gebbia said they had a “drumstick graph” instead of the coveted “hockey curve”.
However, Y Combinator took them on an accelerator programme and they have never looked back since. AirBnB is perhaps the shining example of a successful start-up in the modern age and Brian Chesky almost packed it in only 9 years ago!
Sir James Dyson – Dyson Ltd
Sir James Dyson is one of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs and founder of the famous Dyson vacuum cleaner company. But he certainly has some scars from his frankly traumatic early days.
In the late 1970s he had his big idea, using cyclonic separation to create a vacuum cleaner as a solution for the loss of suction endured by traditional hoovers. He developed 5,126 failed prototypes first before he launched his first product in 1983. Even then, no manufacturer in the UK would handle his product, so he had to prove the concept through catalogue sales in Japan!
Ten years later, he still couldn’t sell his invention to major manufacturers, so he set up his own company Dyson Ltd and the rest is history. He now has a net worth of £5 billion. Twenty years of failure bred ultimate success.
Jeff Bezos – Amazon
Jeff Bezos is the man of the moment right now. Amazon has been at the centre of almost every e-commerce innovation in recent years, and Bezos himself is now the 3rd richest person in the world.
So, it may surprise you to know that many considered him a failure when he started Amazon. Despite being founded in 1994, it did not reach profit until 2001 – a model that was criticised by potential shareholders at the time. He’s also responsible for failures “Amazon Destinations”, “Amazon Auctions” and more recently the “Fire Phone”.
But this, according to the man himself, is why Amazon is so successful. He believes failure and inventions are “inseparable twins” and often boasts about the “billions of dollars of failures at Amazon”. After all, he probably wasn’t scared of failure when he invested $750k in Google in 1999…
Walt Disney – Walt Disney Company
Walt Disney was once a young enthusiastic newspaper cartoonist, but he too started very unsuccessfully. One reporter told him he “lacked imagination and had no original ideas” and his first cartoon studio was declared bankrupt.
He overcame company debts of over $4 million to produce Disney’s first animated films, and even after that success he was turned down by hundreds of investors when seeking financing for Walt Disney World in Florida.
Fifty years after his death, his company is making staggering amounts of money and he is still a household name. He never got to see the opening of his resort in Florida, but the Theme Parks he began still rake in $2.2 billion in profit per year.