How to Fail Like a Startup

After reading the title of this article, you may be wondering why we’re giving advice about how to fail. Shouldn’t we be helping our readers learn how to avoid failing?
The truth is, being in a position to scale your business doesn’t happen by having a perfect plan in place from day 1. It happens by testing concepts early and learning from unexpected outcomes, then putting those learnings into practice to improve your business.

Start-ups, who begin with a limited amount funding, small teams, and virtually no brand recognition, have come to master the art of failing forward—that is, making mistakes without spending too much time or money in the process, and using those mistakes to iterate quickly and develop a viable product or service.

These 3 tips will help you learn how to fail like a startup—and use those failures as stepping stones success as you scale your business.

Tip 1: Start By Talking to Customers

We all have our ideas about what customers want and need, but we’re never 100% accurate in our assumptions. Make sure to run your ideas by customers (or potential customers) early on to see if there’s preliminary interest. If not, you’ll be able to quickly move on to other ideas.

Tip 2: Test Your Hypotheses Early

Rather than thinking of poorly performing concepts as failures, think of them as the scientific results of testing a hypothesis. These results will either confirm your current hypothesis or deny it, prompting you to develop a new one. This process will help you pursue the right answer without feeling like a failure. Starting early will ensure that you don’t waste too much time developing a new product or service before you have concrete data that says your audience wants to buy it.

Tip 3: Iterate on What Works

Once you have a concept that works, it’s tempting to want to spend a ton of time perfecting it before launching it to your customers. The start-up way of development, however, if one of iteration. Rather than trying to make something perfect out of the gate, the goal is to develop a MVP—minimal viable product—to roll out to users. This approach allows you time to get feedback from users and plan out your next round of improvements while also generating revenue from an in-market product.

The Bottom Line

Every business is bound to experience failures. Failing like a startup means preparing for mistakes early on, working through them quickly, and applying what you learn to create better products and services. These tested, optimized concepts are what will ultimately help you scale your business.