Entrepreneurs address the notion that ‘innovation starts with failure and ends with growth.’


Failure was on the agenda at today’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit Roundtable “Making It.”

A group of highly successful media entrepreneurs sat on stage reflecting on their struggles and mishaps along the way – and what, if anything, they learnt from them.

Asked to address the proposition that “innovation starts with failure and that it ends with growth,” the entrepreneurs had very different responses.

“Definitely innovation starts with what I call your fear of failure,” suggested Shaukat Shamim [pictured], an early member of Yahoo and the Founder and CEO of de’zine, a crowdfunding marketplace. “A good innovation starts with your observation of why something fails, why something succeeds.”

“I’ve failed a lot,” Shamim acknowledged, telling a story about his friend and investor Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn.) “The first time I met him, I told him how many times he had failed.” They decided that failure wasn’t the issue. “It’s not how you fail. It’s how you get up. Failing is inevitable. You cannot be afraid of it.”

Others on the panel disputed the definition of “failure.”

“Celebrating failure is a concept I have difficulty in accepting,” said Ihsan Jawad, Founder Zawya. “You don’t set out to fail.”

American immigrant serial entrepreneur Fahad Khan, founder and CEO of One Public, cited the example of Apple guru, Steve Jobs, who was famously turfed out of his own company before making a triumphant return. As Khan noted, there isn’t necessarily a correlation between the successful execution of an idea and its financial performance.

“Failure…I am not sure if it is inevitable but it is necessary. There are two types of failure- failure you wished to (and do) celebrate,” Khan noted. Then, there are the other failures that are just…failures. “That’s not the failure that you want to celebrate. If you’re an innovator…you have to fail very fast and very cost effectively.”

For Rabea Ataya, CEO of Bayt.com, the key distinction was between failing and quitting. If you don’t quit, you haven’t failed. “For me, the definition of failure is giving up.”