#E1S4 : some entrepreneurs fail and recover …


One day in Toulon. This week, I went to a conference #E1S4, located in Toulon. For the non-french or non-south readers, Toulon is a nice town, known for its commercial and military harbor activity, with 650 000 people living there in average. This town is also very dynamic with respect to its entrepreneurship eco-system. It has 5 tech schools, one regional accelerator, having European ambition, and above all, a serious entrepreneur networking habits. In that town, you find : fresh fish, smart engineers and young entrepreneurs.

What is E1 ? E1 is a regular conference, dedicated to the locals. The principle is to bring some best in class speakers (local or from all around France) on a specific entrepreneurship concern, and let them share during 30 minutes, in front of 100 people their life lesson, good practices… That year, the program was focusing on failure. I see you. Oh my god ! A fail conference ? Again. Nooo ! Yes. But this is E1. This is the best place to treat that borderline topic.

What that fail conference was not about. Don’t worry I’ll write in the next paragraph what actually was the conference about… That conference was not about glorifying the fail, neither about maintaining the myth that the more you fail, the more you get money. It was not about demonstrating – yet another time – that life is a jungle and we need to survive it. It was not a minuted show, with success story, including a list of consensual pitfalls.

That conference was all about humans. The speech was designed by humans, for humans, and the value resided in the authentic stories and transparent messages. I witnessed talks from very different types of entrepreneurs. Some multi-recidivist entrepreneurs, some free lance style people, some tech lovers guys, some startup coaching expert, some entrepreneur beginners. I enjoyed Benoit Laurent @BenoitLaurent, Thomas Parisot @oncletom, Valérie Gerard @missv4l, Antoine Ferrier @Anto1neF, Mathieu Bellon @m_ripr, Maxime Tiberghien @MaximeTiberghie. Here is what those guys and girl shared.

Human failing their own ways.  Each of the speaker shared a very special way they felt they missed their target. Some of the big mistakes they confessed were :

  • hiding themselves from their secret fears : avoiding doubting on their initial choice.  “I started with those guys, I trust them” combined with “if this project does not work, I will be out of work, and I will die, so let’s believe in it”. The dream to be entrepreneur makes them forgetting to challenge their choice of partner, strategy, …
  • lacking to view the adventure via the money spectrum : this means monitoring closely the time and the energy spent on the project, avoiding wasting money.
  • putting too much pressure on themselves : repeating ‘I must be successful, that is why I started my project’. This  high expectation leads to high drop.
  • believing that playing the role of the entrepreneur is enough to be an entrepreneur : having a twitter account, claiming to be ‘founder’ is not even the beginning of making the job.

Human recovering their own ways. Again, here each individual shared its own style to get on track  :

  • Solidarity. When several workers suffer the same story, they can fight together, ruling on kindness and solidarity for surviving the everyday battle (aka, going at work without being paid, or going in front of the
  • Rebound. Think about what will happen next. In a minute, in one week, in one month and in one year. Try to get out of the depressive hole, where your dreams are lying.
  • Don’t take risk. By experiencing some small failure, the strategy could be to never ever take any risk anymore, cause you don’t laways have to.
  • Accepting that failing looks like a to be in mourning (maybe not with real dead, but with real loss of something), and thus taking time to recover. 

In addition, I heard some interesting concepts that are hard, really hard to implement. That requires us to work against on our natural way of doing things, or to go against the mainstream image about entrepreneurship – a slashgen super cool quadra, born to success or get up after each punch, with a loving family around him.

  • one should not be so proud about being able to stand terrible things at work, in life…
  • one should try to remove optimist filter when a pattern where everything is complex happens (human exchange, technical conversation, market development, …),
  • from the start, one could test the capability of their partners to think about the fail, by having contracts reviewed by lawyers (yeah, this is a sign of maturity but one might have money for that),
  • as someone works, someone should get paid (ignoring the cost of the work, is denying the worker).

Some additional conferences were related to other problems entrepreneur may encounter such as burn out, remote and distributed work, but I had to run away.

My take on that event. Treating such a topic, in a human size environment is the best formula ever. I have seen entrepreneurs exchanging, learning, with no fear of being judged. And I am confident, that each of us left, with good tips for our next challenges. Thanks again to the E1 organizers, the event was smart and fruitful.

Note : Picture by Bahman Farzer

Note : French readers will enjoy the videos from the conference here…




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