For many people admitting failure in business is still somewhat of a taboo. It requires an admission of liability and a chink in the impregnable armour that many entrepreneurs chose to wear when spearheading their business.
As a result failure is rarely dwelled upon, which in itself is a big problem. If you can’t learn from your mistakes then all the efforts that went into making them have gone to waste.
The strange thing is, when we’re in the company of friends and our guard is down the idea of pouring over a personal failure is so much more appealing. Bad dates, meetings from hell and embarrassing encounters on public transport – we’ve all told stories that show ourselves in a less than favourable light for amusement.
So, what would a marrying of these two approaches to failure look like? Welcome to FuckUp Nights. Back in 2012 FuckUp Nights co-founder, Leticia Gasca, was spending the evening staring blankly at a spreadsheet, the overriding colour of which was red. She soon realised that her social enterprise had already failed. But instead of keeping it to herself, Leticia decided to share her failure with four fellow entrepreneurs.
Like many great Mexican ideas, the wheels were set in motion over a round of mescal, with the friends all openly reflecting on their business screw-ups – a moment Leticia describes as "one of the most meaningful business conversations ever".
The process would later be repeated by the group, inviting others to join in the ritual of sharing business failures. A little over three years later and FuckUp Nights has held events in 150 cities across the world, in more than 50 countries, seeing upwards of 3,000 entrepreneurs share their tales of failure and over 200,000 people attend the sessions.
If there was ever an example of the potential for failure to result in a bona-fide success, it is that of FuckUp Nights. But did this come as a surprise to the founders?
"Yes, everything started as a hobby," explains Gasca. "We never considered someone might be interested in organising a Fuckup Night in their city."
Entrepreneurs are often keen to tell others that you need a certain set of qualities to make a success of your business, it’s not for everyone. So what does Gasca think that the appetite to engage in these gatherings tells us about the modern day entrepreneurs?
"Entrepreneurs are tired of spending their nights at events full of alpha males bragging about their business, and very probably lying. In Fuckup Nights you will here real stories of business founders that failed. You are in front of a person that is like you, and you are learning from that experience.
"However there is still a lot to be done. The perception of failure is very bad almost everywhere in the world, except for Silicon Valley. Just ask people over 45."
Perhaps my favourite take-out from FuckUp Nights was that 2015 saw 208,203 beers consumed at their evenings, which perhaps accounts for the frank discussion taking place up on stage. And while there's admission of every type of mistake imaginable, it won’t surprise you to learn that the number one reason given by speakers for failure is trouble with finances.
Community focused events such as FuckUp Nights and Detroit Soup have snowballed at an incredible rate in the last three years, which can only be a good thing for the future of entrepreneurship. A human approach to business should mean that a more diverse range of people are encouraged to participate and succeed, in the process building companies that address issues impacting all corners of society.
As Gasca reflects: "If we accept imperfection and failure, if we call them what they are and talk openly about them, the world will be a better place."