“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas A. Edison
In life, failure is not something that’s generally talked about, let alone supported. After all, who’s running around encouraging people to fail? However, in the startup scene, Fail Fast, Fail Often is a mantra by which to live and most investors won’t look a founder’s way without several failed ventures under their belts. History is riddled examples of famous failures – Steve Jobs was fired by Apple in 1985, Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school three times, and as the quote above shows, Thomas Edison Edison failed to refine the light bulb 10,000 times before getting it right.
Like many members of our team, Tim Adkins, Creative Producer (pictured above), has had a few side hustles over the years. A self-described “recovering entrepreneur,” Tim is now on a mission to build a community that acknowledges, supports, and sometimes celebrates failure in the most FUN way possible via FuckUp Nights Atlanta. Yes, you read that correctly.
Started in 2012 by a group of friends in Mexico City, FuckUp Nights is now a global movement with over 150 cities participating each month. These celebrations of failure showcase 3-5 storytellers who share their tales of entrepreneurial failure and the lessons learned through a 7 minute, 10 slide presentation. Tim and his co-founder, Jay Cranman, started the Atlanta chapter in 2015 and we recently sat down with Mr. Adkins to learn why he wanted to start something like FuckUp Nights.
“During my 7 years as a small business owner in Ypsilanti, Michigan, I just could never get over the fact that I always had to portray this attitude that everything was awesome, all the time. We had negative dollars in our bank account and I was eating only ramen noodles and coffee for days on end, but when anyone asked how we were doing, the answer was always a resounding, ‘GREAT!’ Whether it was because our parents who supported us, but wanted us to get ‘real jobs’ and not struggle, or our clients who needed to feel secure in taking a chance on a couple kids, we were fooling everyone, and it was exhausting.”
After an hour of being stuck in an elevator, the first FuckUp Nights Atlanta kicked off at the Center for Civic Innovation. #irony
“Maybe it’s because we were in the Midwest and the grit people earn from grinding is kind of a badge of honor. Complain about it being hard? Acknowledge a mistake or failure? No way. The crazy thing is that what we didn’t know, on the other side of the country, failures were being commended and celebrated. When I came down to Atlanta to work for an accelerator, a colleague brought this article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review to me and the rest is history.
“We started with 50 or so people at the Center for Civic Innovation to hear social entrepreneurs talk about failure and have grown to over 130 attendees at General Assembly for our last event, which featured some of the most successful women in Atlanta. Folks come out to learn and share. It’s really been adopted by those in the startup space, but also by those trying to climb the corporate ladder. The event itself is a great mix of attendees and diverse room for support and networking. That said, I’m sure there are a few people who come to heckle me and drink free beer.”
Want to read about other heroes like Tim? Check out more profiles here. Interested in getting on a rocket ship and witnessing your career grow faster than Rick Bobby’s Wonder Bread car on the Talladega asphalt? Check out our Careers page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.