Entrepreneurs ‘Celebrate’ Failed Business Ideas

By Wayne Heilman
The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As entrepreneur Chris Franz puts it, “I do my best learning from failure, but it has taken me years to understand that failure is a positive step in my life. I choose to celebrate the life (of a business idea) rather than mourn its loss.”

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

A second coworking location, an online video service targeted at automotive enthusiasts and a mobile application to crowdsource storytelling were all Colorado Springs business ideas that died tragic deaths — at least in their founders’ eyes — and were mourned Wednesday by a group of about 25 entrepreneurs.

Founders Lisa Tessarowicz, Toddi Norum and Connor McCormick each described where they went wrong with their business ideas in a 30-minute mostly tongue-in-cheek ceremony at Epicentral Coworking designed to help them learn from their failures and move on to their next venture.

The event had all the trappings of a wake for a friend or family member, including a coffin decorated with logos from dead or dying businesses like Sports Authority and the Vine video service, as well as an invocation to the four compass directions and a poem reading.

Tessarowicz lamented how a second Epicentral location in the Ivywild School complex seemed like an idea whose time had come when it opened in late spring 2015 but ended up being a “serious drain on our resources” by the time it closed in March. She opened Episouthcentral because owners of the Ivywild complex offered her an attractive deal to lease vacant space, but soon found it didn’t have room for the dedicated desk space, private conference rooms and other features that had made the original downtown Epicentral location popular with entrepreneurs.

“Growth is not always the answer for your business, and when it is you need to plan and budget extensively before doing so. An available location is not a good enough reason to expand,” Tessarowicz said. “Once you realize you are hemorrhaging money, do something to try to stop the bleeding.”

Norum ended up working for 4Piston Media LLC to help her son and his friends in Los Angeles turn a good idea — producing YouTube videos for automotive enthusiasts — into a real business. The videos were an immediate hit, generating 3.6 million hits after ending up on the front page of Yahoo! The business generated a profit last year after finding a home on Drive!

Online and began producing a short documentary on a driver in the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, but the site was acquired and no longer was interested in 4Piston’s videos.

“Our team left before the documentary was completed and I paid someone to finish it, but by the time it was done, it was too late to be viable,” Norum said. “Because you pay taxes in advance in California, we ended up owing the state $4.000. We shut down the company last week, and we are happy to say goodbye to it.”

McCormick and a team of University of Colorado Colorado Springs students developed Narrativ as a mobile application allowing users to read, contribute to, and rate sections of stories created by others. Created at a Startup Weekend and winner of that competition and at least one other business-pitch competition, McCormick and his partners thought they had a great idea, but none knew how to build an app and the company struggled to find paying customers and eventually refocused its storytelling efforts on the wedding industry.

“The problem for us was that when you build a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, it is hard to get people to use it,” McCormick said. “We also incorporated the company and my advice is that you don’t need to pay a lawyer to make something that is not real into something that is (potentially) real.”

Chris Franz, a veteran local entrepreneur and president of Peak Startup, told the crowd that they “don’t talk about failure nearly enough or talk openly about it. I do my best learning from failure, but it has taken me years to understand that failure is a positive step in my life. I choose to celebrate the life (of a business idea) rather than mourn its loss.”

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