Saturday 26 September 2020

Don’t say ‘Failed’, say ‘Experienced’

Entrepreneurs who fail should get another chance. After all, a failed entrepreneur is an experienced entrepreneur, says Annemarie van Gaal.

Every month some 700 to 800 companies go bankrupt. Many times that number go into liquidation. Every month thousands of entrepreneurs are being left empty-handed.

They are tired, sad and above all damaged by the stigma of ‘failed entrepreneur’ which they must carry for the rest of their working lives. For many entrepreneurs this is the end of a dream. If they do gather up the courage to start again no one will lend them the money.

Last week I presented the ‘Day of the Informal’ to an audience of ambitious investors and a handful of ambitious entrepreneurs in search of start-up capital. One of the speakers was Israeli super investor Jonathan Medved who has invested in over a hundred high-tech companies. He is also the founder of, an Israeli investment fund which provides capital and support for promising entrepreneurs.

Tolerance of failure

Anyone with $10.000 or more to spare can join in. Medved couldn’t say enough about the entrepreneurial climate in Israel, the fourth most successful after the United States, Brazil and China. Israeli entrepreneurs are able to secure more start-up capital per capita than anywhere else in the world. Entrepreneurship is flourishing and investors are raking it in as well. If you take into account that the population of Israel is less than half that of the Netherlands, you realise that we must be doing something wrong.

Asked about the reasons for Israel’s success Medved mentioned something very interesting: Israel’s culture of tolerating failure. Entrepreneurs who don’t make it are not a big deal. There are so-called ‘failure days’ where people come and talk about their experiences and what they have learnt from them. Investors, moreover, like to invest in experienced entrepreneurs even if their experience is the result of a failed venture.


I’m sure that Dutch entrepreneurs possess the same drive and entrepreneurial qualities as the Israelis and as there are potentially twice as many of them the Netherlands could become a super country where entrepreneurship is concerned. But as long as the rigid and negative attitude towards failed entrepreneurs persists it is not going to happen.

Every country only has a limited number of people prepared to deal with the stress, risks and disappointments that go with having your own company. Instead of judging failed entrepreneurs we should support them in their next effort. It can only make the economy stronger. I think the small business association MKB Nederland should throw open some windows and turn failure into something positive. Perhaps an OurCrowd-like intitiative for ‘experienced’ entrepreneurs?

Annemarie van Gaal is head of AM Media and a writer and columnist.



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