For anyone starting out in business, don’t get your hopes up. Around three-quarters of venture-backed startups never make their investors money, and “the failure rate is obviously even higher” for those who fail to reach that stage, says Harvard Business School professor Thomas Eisenmann. And yet, go to any entrepreneurship conference, business seminar or networking event and it’s all chest-beating, fist-pumping success stories of runaway growth and rounds of financing.
Enter Leticia Gasca, the biggest name in the world of failure. She is the co-founder of FuckUp Nights, a global movement started in Mexico City, where entrepreneurs share stories of failure — TEDx-style events with a presence in almost 250 cities in 77 countries on six continents. It calls itself the “most active creators’ movement on the planet,” with more than 10,000 monthly attendees at a FuckUp Night somewhere in the world — from a coworking space in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to a church in Cologne, Germany, to a bar in Lima, Peru.
Gasca, now 30, was born and raised in Mexico City and headed FuckUp Nights from its inception in 2012 until 2015, when she decided to devote herself to running the Failure Institute, its spin-off research arm and the world’s first and only think tank dedicated to studying business failure. With funding from government organizations, impact investment funds and Latin American conglomerates like Sura and Femsa, as well as research partnerships with Mexico’s EGADE Business School and the Development Bank of Latin America, among others, the Failure Institute sets out to dissect business failure in different sectors and regions to allow business leaders, policymakers and investors to do themselves what they teach their kids: learn from their mistakes.
Gasca’s LinkedIn page prominently flags her professional failures, though they hardly detract from an impressive résumé that includes stints as a successful business journalist at major Mexican outlets and as communications manager of New Ventures Mexico, a huge and influential sustainable business incubator (a role in which she organized the first Latin American Impact Investing Forum, now the largest such event in the region). “I am a failed social entrepreneur,” she tells OZY proudly, referring to her attempt as a business student 12 years ago to launch a social enterprise, marketing handicrafts made by indigenous women to wealthy Mexico City consumers. “We did it by the book,” she says, but her financial forecasts were “not realistic at all.” After two years it became Gasca’s first entrepreneurial fuckup. “I’ve heard this so many times from entrepreneurs who fail,” she says: “Unexpected costs” destroy many a startup.
Read more at OZY.