4 years of failing forward

4 years of failing forward

It is with regrets but with much pride that we wrapped up the 4-yearFailing Forward campaign on Dec 31st, 2020. We do this with the satisfaction that this campaign has inspired numerous future and existing entrepreneurs.

Fear of failure as a roadblock to an entrepreneurial society

Talking about missteps, misjudgment and failure remains a taboo in our Western culture. Failing is still too much considered as an end point. A failing entrepreneur is often seen as a weak and inefficient one. While failing is a necessary side product of experimentation and innovation. Something that should be embraced for its learning potential.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the perception of the Flemish population on entrepreneurship has been steadily improving since 2015. Yet, the number of Flemings that let fear of failure hold them back from starting a business is substantially higher than any other innovation driven economy. This major obstacle to entrepreneurship finds part of its origin in our education system, geared to sanctioning what is wrong instead of rewarding what is right.

A campaign for and by entrepreneurs

Startups.be had been pioneering with the silly idea of openly discussing failure with the organization of an annual 'Failing Forward' conference for several years. In 2016 the action became more extensive when VLAIO (Flanders Innovation& Entrepreneurship) joined forces and appointed us to run a larger campaign addressing the stigma on failure by entrepreneurs.

The objective has never been to glorify nor to banalize failure, but to recognize its contribution to the learning curve, even though the line between cost and opportunity of failing might be a thin one. The campaign wanted to demonstrate that failure is an integral part of every venture and that even the most successful entrepreneurial stories can be a bumpy road.

The best way to get that message across to the general public is through cases from entrepreneurs who have experienced it. Our campaign was therefore entirely built around open and authentic testimonies.

A number of well know Flemish entrepreneurs committed themselves to kick-off the campaign as “Failing Forward ambassadors”.

Subsequently, more than 200 entrepreneurs accepted to share their ups and downs over the whole campaign duration. We aimed to inspire a very broad audience with the stories of a diverse group of role models: from modest to more famous entrepreneurs, including entrepreneurs from foreign origin and intrapreneurs, but also top athletes and creators. This generated an impressive collection of personal and touching stories, sometimes with humor, sometimes with sadness, but always showing the incredible resilience of entrepreneurs.

As figures show that the fear of failure is even more prevalent among female entrepreneurs, we felt the need to respect a perfect gender equality among our population of200 role models. Furthermore, we featured inspiring stories of female entrepreneurs in specific magazines and during dedicated events.


Combining online and offline channels.

55 events organized over the whole Flemish territory mobilised more than 5000 enthusiastic participants, giving rise to vibrant Q&A sessions and individual exchanges during the networking moments. To reach even bigger and targeted communities, many events were held in collaboration with partners ,such as Unizo, Cultuurloket, TakeoffAntwerp, Leuven Mindgate, Co-station, BAASand many others.

Next to the live testimonials, Failing Forward produced an important number of video’s and blogs that can be consulted on www.metfalenenopstaan.be.

Failing Forward was present in the mainstream Flemish media, including newspapers (DeTijd, De Morgen, HLN, Metro, magazines (Trends, DVO, Fokus Ondernemen, BossyMagazine, Nina, Goed Gevoel), as well as radio (Eén, MNM, StuBru, Joe Radio)and Kanaal Z. The icing on the cake was a series of 4 television programmes “Durven fallen”.

The combination of these media allowed to reach an important target group of future, starting and more experienced entrepreneurs, self-employed, students, advisors to entrepreneurs. It also demystified the sometimes very lonely path of an entrepreneur towards his or her direct environment.

Our gratitude goes to VLAIO for supporting this campaign and to all role models, speakers and partners who contributed to it. We are convinced Failing Forward has been able to contribute to the image of entrepreneurship and innovation and to the conviction that sharing failures are a collective learning process. After all, the most innovative companies in the world are the ones that leave enough space for failure.