We all know the stat: 90% of startups fail. That means being an entrepreneur requires overcoming setbacks more often than not.
But when you put all your time and energy into a business, it can be incredibly difficult to bounce back if it doesn’t work out.
Emotional resilience can help founders to recover more easily after a failure and can protect their mental health when things go south. Resiliency also allows you to step back and find the lessons in a failure, making it more likely you’ll succeed the next time around.
Here, five founders whose startups have gone under share their advice for coming back stronger than ever after failure:
1. Give Yourself Time
Before the bouncing back commences, it’s important to first take a moment to recharge. Alexander Hanthorn, who shut down his product management app in 2022, says taking time to rest is a vital part of the process.
“You likely just went from 100 to zero in a short period of time and have some amount of whiplash,” he says. “Don’t just move on. Don’t suppress your feelings.”
As for what to do while you’re taking some time, Hanthorn suggests seeking out human connections and making sure you’re talking about your feelings.
He says whether it’s friends, family, co-workers, or other founders who have gone through similar experiences, having open and honest conversations about how you feel rather than suppressing it can expedite your healing process.
His final tip? Sleep. Many founders are sleep-deprived and depleted physically and emotionally — a few nights of shut-eye can make a measurable difference.
2. Detach From Your Failure
When Michael Plisco pulled the plug on the launch of his mental health app, he felt defeated.
But Plisco said that he found one thought to be extremely helpful: He was not his failure.
“As founders, we often find ourselves so deeply attached to our business and its mission that it becomes difficult to distinguish ourselves from what we are building,” he says. “In failure, you have to take a step back and realize that the failure of the business, regardless of the situation, does not equate to a failure of self.”
He says, as hard as it might be, founders should try to look at the positive aspects of their experience and focus on what they’ve accomplished.
Plisco recommends getting back in touch with the things that make you happy, from spending time with friends and family to activities you haven’t had the time for since launching your business.
Finding joy in activities you love will remind you of who you are, and that there’s a whole world still waiting for you outside of your business.
3. Learn To Take a Punch
Isaiah Silva, whose agtech startup went under after two years, was able to not only recover quickly from the failure but also moved on to a new startup as CTO and co-founder.
Silva practices combat sports in his free time and says that getting punched in the face never ceases to shock even the most experienced fighters. But skilled athletes learn from their knockouts, and work to stop it from happening again.
“Entrepreneurship is more painful than getting hit, so controlling how you respond to taking hits is one of the most important skills you can build,” he says. “You can’t avoid hits, but you can learn to keep going despite them.”
4. Congratulate Yourself
While it might be easy to slip into a self-loathing mindset on the heels of failure, trying your hand at entrepreneurship is something to celebrate.
Few are brave enough to turn their dream business into reality, and you should feel pride in trying, according to Tiyani Majoko, who had to shutter her legal startup.
Majoko says it’s important to remember that when investors, customers, or your peers reject your business idea, they aren’t rejecting you.
“Congratulate yourself on the attempt,” she says. “Founding a startup is a challenging and courageous undertaking, and even if the venture ultimately failed, it's important to acknowledge the effort that was put in.”
Especially as a Black immigrant woman, Majoko focuses on the many obstacles she’s overcome rather than her failure (and even wrote a children’s book to inspire others like herself).
5. Reframe the Experience
Instead of thinking of failure as a negative event that should be avoided, try reframing to think of it as a necessary evil for building a successful company.
“Failure is the only way to success,” says Matthew Knippen, whose fitness startup went under in 2021.
Channeling those before him who famously overcame failures before finding success — like Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs — Knippen says that understanding failure as part of the business process makes it easier to stay optimistic.
That way, when and if you fail, you’re simply checking off a necessary to-do item on your road to success, rather than being knocked off course.