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Our case studies on their own ‘failures’

In this video interview, we ask Bristol entrepreneurs whether their path has always run smoothly, or if they have ever had any failures.
In terms of whether things have progressed I mean it’s a rollercoaster. It’s always a rollercoaster whether they progress smoothly or not. Definitely not, there’s been lots of dips I mean the biggest thing for me is the money side. We’re a not-for-profit-organisation. We’re working with other small not-for-profits or small companies, that often, you know, they can’t necessarily do things for free and so the money side has always been, been a kind of a struggle there’s been times when we haven’t got big bids for money and we’d kind of planned whole projects around that just completely had to scrap it off.
So it’s definitely not a smooth journey and I think my friends and my family are the ones that kind of pick me up around that and say you know what you’re doing has a great cause. People often ask me you know, did our plans develop smoothly to the kind of current place we’re at and absolutely not, you know. We went into, we took the plunge to be kind of, follow an entrepreneurial path to try and solve a problem and when you’re solving a problem you don’t necessarily, you shouldn’t define the solution in completeness right at the start because you need to go through a journey to get there. and as you learn more things will change.
So lots and lots has changed. I think in terms of the biggest failure…
I think it’s interesting, I’ve talked to my team about failure a lot and we don’t class things as failure. We never, we’re a very positive organisation, everything is learning for us. Oh plenty of failures. I think we’ve been very lucky in that most of what we’ve done has gone very well, particularly in the once the company’s up and running. But in the beginning in the Ph, in the lab doing my PhD, trying to get the technology to actually work in any sets or form, was pretty much non-stop failure. Sort of you know a couple of years of failure before it actually starts working properly.
I suppose the biggest, like failure in the organisation, or a time when we stopped something, was we… Our very first program was called the fellowship and it was a six week program and we, yeah we had kind of sixteen, sixteen students in the first year then fifty two and then we ended up with about a hundred, and at that point it plateaued and we had a hundred the next year.
And then this other program came along called International Citizen Service, which is the government’s youth volunteering program that we, we were lucky to become a part of and so we were running these two programs that were very similar and so at the end we decided to I guess we call it retire, so we retired the fellowship. If I talk a bit more about the kind of failure and I put it in inverted commas really because it is all part of the kind of journey.
Before we trained the second part of the idea really, you know when we were first starting we called ourselves ‘Up My Sport’ and we were very much more a kind of platform to connect people to instructors. And the big assumption we made there was that if we could solve the kind of administrative and getting online problem of individual freelance instructors, bring them all together, then we’d knit together an ecosystem and it all worked beautifully. And actually that was a big assumption to make because really and truly instructors just want more clients and we might be cut out… which we hadn’t expected as much as happened so that’s where the kind of modifications, the idea come in after that.
The other thing we found starting off was that starting something is like this, is that this huge like emotional rollercoaster where you know you’ll have a meeting with someone and they’ll say, “what you’re doing is great,” and you’ll be on this crazy high and then you’ll meet someone else and they’ll say actually no this is kind of rubbish, and so you’re constantly it’s like fluctuating like this and you have to learn, I don’t if other people do this but I had to learn anyway to try to you try to make the highs slightly less high in order to make the lows slightly less low because, or else it’s impossible to live life with this constantly fluctuating emotions and so I found that that that kind of helps.
You don’t see things as massive successes or things as massive failures. When something doesn’t work out you kind of try and roll off and think okay, you know, what do we do differently next time but in the same time when you have a big win try not to celebrate it too much because probably just around the corner there’s something coming that isn’t quite so good. We definitely haven’t had a smooth ride and we’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and projects that haven’t worked out. But not being too focused on there being one way of doing things has helped me kind of take the rough with the smooth.
Not many things that are worthwhile are easy, so generally if something fails but you can still look at some form of fundamentals and see that it should be possible. So yeah, I could focus ultrasound to a point as far as I thought and I couldn’t feel it but the maths and the physics showed that you should be able you should be able to make enough force so it should be possible. Then that gives you the ability to know that it’s not impossible, it’s just that you haven’t worked out the right solution yet and then keep trying.

As we just heard, failure is often a useful part of the innovative process: even a strategy you can use to your advantage!

Throughout this course, we’ve heard from our group of innovators and entrepreneurs about how they got to where they are today. Here, we asked them whether their path had always gone smoothly, or if they had ever had any failures during this process.

See what you think about their answers. How would you have reacted faced with the same setbacks?

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