Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

LIFE Report Summary

Project ID: 645000
Funded under: H2020-EU.2.1.1.3.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LIFE (LearnIng from Failure in a collaborative Entrepreneurship network)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The LIFE project was about collaborative learning from failure and success in entrepreneurship and about collaborative action to bring entrepreneurship forward. Although cultural diversity is one of Europe’s strongest assets, it also created severe obstacles for entrepreneurs to scale their efforts at the European level. Europe’s distributed markets, language barriers and decentralised policy lead to difficulties to get access to markets, talents, finance, facilities and networks.
For this purpose, the project mapped out relevant stakeholders and programs in each of the partnering areas. This information was made available to web entrepreneurs across Europe in one centralised platform, collaborating with projects in topic web entrepreneurship, enabling entrepreneurs to quickly enter other regions and efficiently find their way to the right partners and programs.

On top of that, Europe is facing a culture of (severe) “fear of failure”. It is therefore crucial to demystify failure, by gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes of failure, potential solutions as well as more (public) awareness and attention for the learning curve that goes with entrepreneurship, where failure is in many cases just an inherent part of the process.

The consortium identified, shared and discussed best practices through virtual and real discussion forums among themselves and with all interested stakeholders, addressing both
- Web enterprises that successfully overcame these obstacles and what we could take away from that for the next generation of web entrepreneurs
- The creation of value chains through complementary partnerships between different stakeholders in the startup ecosystem.

Best practices and lessons learned were not only be widely disseminated online and through the partner networks, but also through a jointly organised conference, called Failing Forward.

The yearly pan-European conference in Brussels was complemented with local events in the partner regions and:
- Generated and grew awareness that failure was an inherent part of the process of entrepreneurship and innovation;
- Shared and celebrated the success stories built on incremental learning;
- Opened up the existing startup support programs to web entrepreneurs from all over Europe.

The conference tackled an important cultural issue that was often cited as an important reason for weak entrepreneurship in Europe: the fear of failing. The conference aimed to promote a different way of handling failure, namely to learn from failure and to try again avoiding the issues that led to the failure in the first place. It, hence, aimed at making failure subject to a critical and rational discourse instead of stigmatising those who failed in following an ambitious goal. Besides the conference, thorough literature review in failure in Europe, best practice guidance and an analysis of over 160 startup founder interviews made the project a whole.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"The project was centered around the Failing Forward conference which addressed the elimination of the stigma surrounding failed entrepreneurs in Europe. In October, 2015 and in November, 2016 two editions of the conference were organised attracting more than 200 participants and generating lots of positive feedback. More and more entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders recognized the importance of addressing the failing forward topic in order to inspire new entrepreneurs. A more accepting attitude towards failed entrepreneurs would be an essential step to encourage the creation of innovative startups and SMEs, so as the LIFE project continued to put the topic in the spotlight. To broaden the scope of the project, 160+ interviews with startups - from all participating ecosystems - who encountered failure were conducted and analysed in line with in-depth partner and service provider (VCs, business angels, community builders) interviews. Findings fed into the collaborative learning and collaborative action reports, and will be disseminated in the second part of the project. In order to increase the level of services provided by the partners to startups, recommendations drawn from the findings will facilitate a better approach towards failure and help to spot potential risks at an early stage. Furthermore, partners organised local events or inserted failing forward panels into existing events with an overall reach of 19000+. By the end of the project, two extra deliverables were created, one summarizing the recommendations and the scope of the project, the other provides an overview on event formats fitting the #failingfwd topic."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Acceptance of failure is an incremental part towards a paradigm shift in Europe. LIFE project aimed at making failure subject to a critical and rational discourse instead of stigmatizing those who failed in following an ambitious goal. Instead of shame, “rising like a phoenix” attitude should become an integral part of European education and society. Eliminating the stigma would trigger a broader societal effect which could lead to significant policy changes, consequently making it less burdensome for businesses to recover. Nevertheless, entrepreneurial culture, particularly among young people could go through an essential change and become more open. With opening up a dialogue about failure in entrepreneurship, more and more starting businesses would seek and find support along the road to success. To increase the level of support available, one of the main long-term goals of the LIFE project was to overcome the fragmentation of startup support in Europe. Since most European countries have a startup ecosystem covering different aspects of the startup lifecycle and the needs of startups at different stages, mapping the resources and support services at hand is essential for a healthy European startup landscape. As a result, a grass-root initiative, the European Startup Network was born with the ambitious and bold goal of overcoming the scattered startup ecosystem in Europe and unify startup associations under one umbrella. In general, the recommendations and insights collected during the course of the project would lead to improvement measures within the consortium would result in more tailor-made and higher quality services provided for startups. Entrepreneurship gave a huge impetus to Europe’s economy in the last years – due to active national and European policy boosting -, as a result, more and more actors on the scene realised the potential of Europe in terms of innovation and startup creation. Projects like LIFE actively sought collaboration to show the importance of eliminating barriers to entrepreneurship, change the stigma of failure into a “phoenix” attitude, shed light on initiatives throughout the ecosystems aiming to support new entrepreneurs, thus it led to a tangible impact on Europe’s entrepreneurial landscape. LIFE project’s overarching goal was to spark a change in mentality and raise awareness about failure in entrepreneurship. With collaborations between other Startup Europe projects, an intensified promotion campaign through Startup Europe’s channels and the advisors’ help in the implementation, the project delivered on the promise of creating a more accepting ecosystem and opening up the dialogue about failing forward in Europe.

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