You can't always avoid screw ups, but you can learn from them
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You can’t always avoid screw ups, but you can learn from them

The tech industry is defined by success driven by out-of-the-box ideas and breakthrough innovations. But these epic moments are often bounded by fantastic failures.

We all have stories of failure, so why not host an event to consider how some of these mistakes changed our behavior and shaped future decision-making? We partnered with the Israeli-American Council to bring together some of the industry’s best and brightest for a hilarious, informative conversation about times when things went wrong and how they got back on track.

Last month, we hosted the forum About the Time I F***ed Up.” Industry experts Alon Matas, Ronit Belson, Dor Abuhasria, and Avi Barliya explored their failures, dove into their screw-ups, and discussed how we can embrace the human tendency to sometimes fall flat on our faces.

Failing forward
Humans don’t enjoy talking about failure. Concerns range from personal embarrassment to negative public perception if we are honest about our shortcomings.

But research suggests that talking about failure actually benefits both speakers and listeners. According to the Harvard Business Review working paper, Mitigating Malicious Envy: Why Successful Individuals Should Reveal Their Failures, “revealing the failures encountered on the way to success can be a counter-intuitive yet effective interpersonal emotion regulation strategy.”

So let’s dig in and discover where our experts went wrong — and what their failures can teach others about the bumpy road to success.

Everyone makes mistakes
Avi Barliya is the founder of Dis.co and a part of the Samsung NEXT product team. By any measure he’s had a career crammed with success: Prior to Dis.co he worked with SpaceIL as the Head of Attitude and Orbit Control System (AOCS) group and co-founded another startup.

For Avi, things went south when he left SpaceIL to work on co-founding an automotive robotics startup. But, after a year-and-a-half of work, the company wasn’t making any money. “No income, even took loans from the bank, and at the end of this one-and-a-half years closed the startup, lost everything,” he says.

According to Avi, the problem was his company operating in “stealth mode,” refusing to share information with VCs without them signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). That resulted in limited investments, minimal interest, and a “crazy fight” with his partner that “kind of broke the company.”

Avi encourages entrepreneurs to avoid being overly protective of their ideas. Instead, he says, “talk to everyone around you, share, and bring strong people to run with you.” He says sharing information with prospective partners is worth the risk because you’re probably not the only one working on your bright idea. “It’s all about the execution,” he says.

Make hiring decisions carefully
In 2014, Dor Abuhasria founded autonomous drone company Percepto. Coming from a corporate environment where “there are only a few guys that really get the job done,” he created an all-engineering team to focus on product development.

But as the company grew he recognized the need for an office manager, and found what looked like the ideal candidate: Bright, talented and driven but with a passion for HR, not office management. Long story short: she hated the job.

Dor’s mistake was hiring for “what” rather than “who.” The new office manager could do the job, but she didn’t excel because she wasn’t a good fit. And with just 10, 15, or 20 people in a startup organization, every role counts.

Beware of changing market conditions
Ronit Belson, COO of mobile development tool Rollout, remembers being on the phone with the company’s CEO when disaster struck.

Emails started coming in because customers were being notified that Rollout’s code was no longer App Store-approved. “Later that day,” she says, “we figured out Apple changed their guidelines and made our product basically illegal.”

By 8 am the next morning, Rollout’s customer base dropped from 600 to zero.

According to Ronit, she and her team “gave themselves about two hours to panic.” After that, they started brainstorming new application ideas. Six months later, they launched a new, compliant product.

Their customer base soon returned to its previous levels. Ronit couldn’t have seen this problem coming, but she had to make a choice faced by many entrepreneurs: Give up, or get back to work.

Failure as the foundation of success
Mistakes happen. Even for experienced entrepreneurs issues with social media, staff recruitment, capital generation and third-party market conditions can lead to massive screw-ups and huge headaches.

But perseverance is one of the pre-requisites to success. Whether it’s pivoting corporate priorities or starting new ventures to get back on track, most entrepreneurs have some battle scars.

While their stories may differ, the big picture is the same: Failure isn’t necessarily the opposite of success… sometimes it’s just a rut in the road on the path to progress.


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