Ahead of its 1999 launch, Nick Woodman managed to raise a reported $3.9 million from investors to launch Funbug, a gaming marketplace platform that gave users a chance to win cash prizes. It failed within two years. It was a colossal bust.
“Nobody likes to fail,” Woodman is quoted as saying about his loss. “But the worst thing was I lost my investors’ money and these were people that believed in this young guy that was passionate about this idea … [When you fail,] you start to question, are my ideas really good?”
The fear, worry and shame that often accompany failure can be paralyzing. And that’s not irrational — in the U.S., it’s reported that some 20 percent of new businesses will fail in their first year of operation, with less than half making it through five years. Only 33 percent will make it to a decade in business. Failure is an option, but it’s not the only option.
Woodman was dedicated to the idea of launching his own company. He was also dedicated to surfing. He recognized the difficulty he and other surfers had taking pictures of themselves as they boarded. He developed a strap that would tether a camera to a surfer’s wrist. Doing the sewing himself, he outsourced camera modifications and eventually developed what we know today as GoPro.
Woodman grew from his failure, developing his next idea into a business that now generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue and is publicly traded on the NASDAQ. For Woodman, it was the fight that shaped him.
“I was so afraid that GoPro was going to go away like Funbug that I would work my ass off,” he’s quoted as saying in an interview. “That’s what the first boom and bust did for me. I was so scared that I would fail again that I was totally committed to succeed.”
Sometimes it takes a defeat to show us who we really are. We find ourselves well out of our element, and like Woodman, forced to go through challenges just to survive.
While Woodman’s story is inspiring, in business, like in life, there are no guarantees. Our days can darken quickly. When they do, choose courage. Even if you feel defeated, there’s always another chance. Just as the sun sets, it also rises. ●
Fred Koury is President and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.