These 3 Entrepreneurs Failed Multiple Times Before Achieving Success

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When you mess up or have an epic failure, it seems like the world is ending and your whole career is dead in the water. In that situation, take a deep breath and take it easy. You are not the first nor the last entrepreneur to experience failure.

Indeed, some of the most successful and influential entrepreneurs in the world have encountered crippling failures.

Examining the failures and challenges of other entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to overcome your own failures and shortcomings. It is highly important to acknowledge that failure is part of any business process and that, to be successful, you have to use failure as a tool instead of a roadblock.

Here are 3 highly successful entrepreneurs who have failed numerous times before building the world’s most iconic enterprises. These 3 entrepreneurs failed multiple times before achieving success

When you mess up or have an epic failure, it seems like the world is ending and your whole career is dead in the water. In that situation, take a deep breath and take it easy. You are not the first nor the last entrepreneur to experience failure.

Indeed, some of the most successful and influential entrepreneurs in the world have encountered crippling failures.

Examining the failures and challenges of other entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to overcome your own failures and shortcomings. It is highly important to acknowledge that failure is part of any business process and that, to be successful, you have to use failure as a tool instead of a roadblock.

Here are 3 highly successful entrepreneurs who have failed numerous times before building the world’s most iconic enterprises.

Bill Gates

As the richest man in the world, Bill Gates is one of the most respected and revered entrepreneurs in the world. Despite his tremendous successes, he has had plenty of failures along his road to success.

Traf-O-Data

Before Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft, they started a company called Traf-O-Data in the early 70s. The company read and analysed data from roadway counters and generated reports for traffic engineers. The company didn’t succeed because they overestimated the demand for the product.

According to Allen, “Despite efforts to sell our wares as far afield as South America, we had virtually no customers. Traf-O-Data was a good idea with a flawed business model. It hadn’t occurred to us to do any market research, and we had no idea how hard it would be to get capital commitments from municipalities. Between 1974 and 1980, Traf-O-Data totalled net losses of $3,494. We closed shop shortly thereafter.”

The failure of Traf-O-Data didn’t stop either Allen or Gates. They used the failure as a learning experience to create Microsoft.

However, the next series of failures came immediately after starting Microsoft.

Microsoft

The Beginnings

Microsoft evolved from a two-man team (of Allen and Gates) to a tech juggernaut worth billions of dollars. However, Gates made several mistakes as CEO.

The most prominent of his mistakes was to not engage himself or Microsoft with the government. Microsoft’s competitors lobbied the government to get contracts. Gates, however, wanted Microsoft to stand alone and let the product speak for itself.

He believed that the company was competitive enough – that it was creating enough value for customers and that was all that mattered. The government disagreed. They declared a war on Microsoft, which had devastating consequences for the company.

Microsoft eventually adapted and moved past that.

Microsoft did not position itself well

Gates’s second mistake as CEO, according to Brad Silverberg, was “figuring out how to respond to the opportunity/threat of the Internet.” He explains that, “When you own Windows in the late 90’s, life is good and why would you want things to change? Bill’s view was to protect Windows, and didn’t come up with an approach that kept Windows and Microsoft’s systems strategy at the forefront.”

Microsoft consequently lost their strategic position in the 2000s. They eventually came to grips with the new reality and have been making the necessary changes to adapt to the constantly changing business environment.

Microsoft’s Apple bail out

Gates’s third mistake as CEO came in August 1997. According to Jamal Carnette, “a Bill Gates-led Microsoft made one of the biggest mistakes in tech.” That mistake was investing in long-time rival, Apple.

Microsoft bailed Apple out of an antitrust suit worth $150 million in the form of stock buys. The deal came with no voting options and a three-year holding period. That investment helped propel Apple to become one of the largest and most innovative companies in the world. In essence, Microsoft funded and helped to grow their competition with no apparent gain for themselves.

Underestimating Google

The next mistake that was made involved underestimating the competition. Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google in 1998 while Gates also created a search company in the same year, called MSN Search.

It is indeed rare to hear the story of how a start-up was able to beat a tech giant like Microsoft in the search game. Here’s how it happened.

Google was very fast, relevant and innovative in setting up a search engine that was solely focused on personalisation and relevancy. While MSN Search focused on none of those things. As Nick Scheidies aptly wrote for IncomeDiary, “Microsoft hadn’t even bothered to develop a search engine of their own. They used results from Inktomi, an existing search engine.”

Search clearly wasn’t a priority for Gates or Microsoft. After all, they had the name, the talent and the resources to beat Google. But Google still won. They have paid massively for underestimating search and they have been trying to catch up to Google ever since. It is now a classic example of missing a market opportunity.

Steve Ballmer

The next mistake Gates made was stepping down as CEO in 2000. He handed over the reins to his long-time friend, Steve Ballmer.

As the new CEO of Microsoft, Ballmer missed out on market opportunities, made bad investments and oversaw the development of failed products like Zune. The shareholder value subsequently dropped from $60 to $30 per share.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Besides being a founder of Microsoft, Gates invests a lot of time and money in philanthropy, most notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates started working on education in 1999 with the goal of reducing the size of classrooms. That mission failed because the foundation supported the Common Core curriculum standards. That vision did not realise because the foundation was not well equipped to mesh the standards of both (small classrooms and the Common Core).

The foundation’s CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellman, said that, “Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards.”

“We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators — particularly teachers — but also parents and communities, so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.”

“This has been a challenging lesson for us to absorb, but we take it to heart. The mission of improving education in America is both vast and complicated, and the Gates Foundation doesn’t have all the answers.”

Despite those failures, Microsoft is a thriving company with diverse investments; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is undertaking remarkable philanthropic work around the world; and Bill Gates remains the richest man in the world.

Arianna Huffington

You probably know Arianna Huffington as the President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post. Undoubtedly, she is one of the most successful women in business today. She, like most prominent entrepreneurs, have had their fair share of failure along the way. She’s had two notable ones:

Publishing Rejections

The first one is the 36 rejections she received to publish her second book, After Reason, despite the high success of her first one. The book was eventually published and received critical acclaim.

Gubernatorial Loss

Her second failure was her colossal loss in California’s 2003 gubernatorial race. She in fact had to withdraw a week before the election, but her name remained on the ballot. She ended up receiving 0.55 percent of the vote, finishing in fifth.

She, however did not let those failures get in her way of creating one of the most successful media empires.

Huffington on Failure

Of failure, she says, “I don’t mean you have to try to fail. That will take care of itself. But in my own life, a key component of whatever successes I’ve had has been what I’ve learned from my failures. When I ran for governor of California in 2003, it was a failure – but I learned a tremendous amount about the power of the Internet. I also learned a lot about myself, about communicating, being able to touch people’s hearts and minds, and listening. All the things that were ingrained in me during the campaign definitely had an impact in forming Huffington Post.”

Huffington views failure as a positive thing that provides huge learning opportunities and personal development. She credits her mother for instilling in her the importance of failure:

“My mother instilled in me that failure was not something to be afraid of, that it was not the opposite of success. It was a stepping stone to success. So I had no fear of failure. Perseverance is everything. I don’t give up. Everybody has failures, but successful people keep on going…”

Even Huffington Post itself wasn’t a success right away. When it first launched, there were handfuls of negative reviews about its quality and doubts about a budding future.

Huffington overcame those initial obstacles and has now cemented Huffington Post as one of the most successful news outlets in the world.

Steve Jobs

Anyone in this world that is connected to technology, business and entrepreneurship has heard of Steve Jobs. He is synonymous with Apple. Just like Gates and Huffington, Jobs made huge mistakes but learned from them to create one of the most iconic and innovative companies in the world.

Here are a few of his biggest failures.

Hiring John Sculley as CEO of Apple

29-year-old Steve Jobs felt that he needed an experienced marketing and operating partner to take Apple to the next level. So he hired John Sculley as the CEO of Apple with the following pitch: “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

Scullery was sold. He came on board and one of the first items on his agenda was organising a board to fire Jobs. And just like that, Jobs was kicked out of his company and out of a job.

He eventually found his way back in and became the CEO of the biggest tech company in the world.

Pixar

Jobs believed that Pixar would be a great hardware company so he bought it for $10 million. That vision didn’t pan out and Pixar failed.

After owning Pixar for five years, Jobs tried to sell it on multiple occasions in the late 80s to no success. He eventually sold it to Disney for $7.4 billion in 2006, making more than a return on his initial investment.

NeXT Computer

Another one of Jobs’ failures is NeXT computer. He pitched it as the ultimate success for Apple when it was sold to them in 1996 for $429 million. It struggled greatly from the very beginning as it was hard to find the right market and customers for it. It eventually fizzled out and was cannibalised by other Apple products.

Jobs launched numerous product failures from The Apple Lisa, Macintosh TV, The Apple III to the Powermc g4 cube despite understanding how technology vectors were evolving. Perhaps it is because he was his own market research team and that carried a lot of risk.

Against all odds, he persevered and achieved great success. The two main reasons for his success are that he was open to failure and developed strong creative muscles through deliberate exercise.

He went on to launch iconic products which you most likely own. Perhaps you’re reading this article on an Apple device?

Wrapping Up

Imperfections exist in all parts of the creative process and in life as a whole. Yet, a lot of entrepreneurs have a paralysing fear of failure which prevents them from taking certain leaps of faith. Fear of failure is arguably the most disempowering state of mind if you want to be more entrepreneurial and creative.

The greatest business visionaries and icons in history have failed numerous times and experienced numerous setbacks. The persistence to keep going after failing is what separates them from the average entrepreneur. Take a leap of faith and don’t be afraid to fail.