F*ckup Nights is a global movement born in Mexico in 2012 to share publicly business failure stories.
Born after a couple of beers one night in Mexico City in 2012, and now running in over 100 cities worldwide, ‘F*ckup Nights’ are events that feature three speakers publicly sharing their business failure stories. Each speaker is given up to ten minutes and ten slides to present how they ‘f*cked up their business’. After each speaker’s presentation, there is a question and answer session, as well as time for networking – naturally over beers.
Similar initiatives, explicitly intended to reduce the stigma associated with failure, include small-scale events like Startup Funerals and Closed Club, to larger conferences like Failcon (started in San Francisco in 2009) and Failing Forward (organised by the Belgian Startup Association in 2016 and sponsored by the European Commission’s Startup Europe programme). The Government of Finland is also organising a similar event.
Challenge faced by the initiative: Literature is extensive in entrepreneurship and business topics; however, the focus is centered on case studies of success. Business failure as such, has been underestimated as an object of study in several papers. This situation has created an information shortfall in databases and case studies. To encourage the study of this subject, and understand the relevance that documenting and researching failure has, a research arm of F*ckup Nights was set up (F*ckup Knowledge , formerly The Failure Institute). Its mission: to help decision makers make better-informed decisions on businesses, academia, and public policies.
About tackling attitudes towards failure (excerpt from Nesta's ‘Idea Bank’ for Local Policymakers):
The brutal reality is that most startups will fail. But how failure affects entrepreneurs is complicated: some believe that each failure brings them closer to success; others are of the view that failure brings a social stigma which inhibits future attempts. In fact, the evidence is currently inconclusive about the existence of either a learning effect or a stigma.
Nevertheless, it is indisputable that startup failure often entails strict bankruptcy regulations and punitive financial measures. Whilst policymakers and regulators are understandably wary of allowing businesses to evade debts too easily, making it easier to wind-up failing companies is important in freeing entrepreneurs to try again. Fear of failure is also a significant inhibitor for many: worryingly, half of Europeans agree with the statement that “one should not start a business if there is a risk it might fail” (compared with around one in five of the US). Women typically report a greater fear of failure than men.
Although local policymakers may have little control over insolvency procedures, publicly sharing stories of failure can help to normalise the process and foster a culture of acceptance towards those who have genuinely tried their best, so encouraging more to try.