Thursday, December 09, 2021

How to start all over again, learn from a funeral for start-ups

At least 800 start-ups set up post-2011 have shut down

Written by Priyanka Sahoo | Mumbai |
Updated: May 3, 2018 12:17:34 pm
start up, start up funding, start up success rate, how to start up, start up plan, start up investors, start up failure, biggest start ups, best start ups At a funeral for a start-up in Bengaluru. Priyanka Sahoo

ONE evening two weeks ago, over 60 entrepreneurs gathered on the terrace of an office in Koramangala, Bengaluru’s start-up hub, for a funeral. There were no tears; only a few eulogies to the departed soul — in this case, a few failed start-ups — and talk of how things could have been different. All this over food and drinks. The start-up funeral held in Bengaluru on February 9 is one of over a dozen such that have been held across the country over the past year-and-a-half. What has been a common practice in the West is fast catching up in India given the exponential growth — and accompanying fall — of start-ups over the last few years. While in the West, these ‘funerals’ come close to a real thing, complete with a ‘vicar’ delivering a funeral speech to mourning employees, in India, it is largely an experience-sharing platform to discuss what went wrong and how to learn from these mistakes.

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According to data available with Tracxn Technologies Pvt Ltd, a data analyst firm, in 2016, 3,175 new start-ups came up while 230 wound up. At least 800 start-ups set up post-2011 have shut down, with many such as Peppertap, BeStylish, Fashionara and Localbanya now part of the ‘Deadpool List’ — a catalogue of dead or dying start-ups compiled by Tracxn. In most cases, start-up funerals are organised by failed or successful entrepreneurs who have a story to tell. Start-up accelerators — which mentor and handhold start-ups by helping them network and raise funds — too, organise funerals. Mumbai-based entrepreneur Milind Doshi, who founded Our First Office, an accelerator firm, in May 2013, organised six funerals in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru in 2016. The idea, he said, was to flesh out stories of entrepreneurs and help others learn from them.

“A lot of start-ups make the same mistakes. Through funerals, those starting out can learn from the mistakes of a business that didn’t work out,” said Doshi, adding that every start-up, big or small, has stories to share. Almost every such funeral starts with a panel discussion or story-sharing session, followed by questions and answers. The event ends with a ‘wake’ — an idea adopted from the West — where entrepreneurs get to network with investors and experts over food and drinks. The speakers at these events usually range from successful entrepreneurs to those who may have failed in their ventures. Invites for these funerals are sent through start-up accelerators, investors or popularised through social media, with some charging an entry fee ranging from Rs 700 to Rs 1,500.

The funeral in Bengaluru’s Koramangala was held by Techhub, a global start-up accelerator. While Techhub has held several start-up funerals in Europe, the Koramangala event was its first in India. Adam Hawley, global projects director at the firm, said they plan to hold a second funeral in six months. When we held our first start-up funeral in London a couple of years ago, we found an awful lot of entrepreneurs who wanted to tell their stories so that others could learn from their mistakes,” said Hawley. He said such funerals helped support entrepreneurs and break the taboo around failures. “When a start-up fails, it is not the death of an entrepreneur but an idea. They need to be told that it is okay to fail,” he said.

In September 2016, Rahul Adap, an entrepreneur based in Delhi who founded Opraahfx, an organisation that helps ‘social influencers’ connect with brands, held a funeral in south Mumbai that was attended by over 20 budding entrepreneurs. Rahul, 22, who has two failed start-ups to his account, said, “The idea came to me when I heard of a techie in Hyderabad committing suicide after his start-up failed,” said Rahul. “We want to commemorate failure. Giving failed entrepreneurs a chance to speak helps them vent out their frustration,” he said, adding that at the funeral he held, those with failed start-ups were allowed to yell and curse investors from the dais.

Many who have attended such funerals say they leave inspired. “Seeing that people less prepared than me have done cool stuff and failed because of some mistakes gives me the confidence that I can do better,” said Luca Yesupatham Daniel, director of IT services company Jeetlab who has attended a funeral in Bengaluru.

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