Commentary

Fear No Failure

May 08, 2017

If you’re sick of the swagger that usually accompanies entrepreneurship and venture capital confabs, have I got a global movement for you.

Leticia Gasca co-created and runs the Failure Institute, the first think tank devoted to studying the nuts and bolts of business failure. The Mexican-born entrepreneur has some well-heeled investment and research partners: Government organizations, impact investment funds, Latin American multinationals, Mexico’s EGADE Business School and the Development Bank of Latin America among them. Their lofty goal is to help business leaders from around the world learn from their mistakes. Did you have a business that failed? Take this handy survey and help the cause.

The Failure Institute started as a series of one-off events called "FuckUp Night," an evening that brings entrepreneurs together to share stories of their failures in a TEDx style setting. It remains the irreverent signature event of a now global program devoted to helping entrepreneurs succeed; some 10,000 people a month are showing and telling in almost 250 cities in 77 countries on six continents.

It all started in 2012. Gasca was fresh off her first failed attempt at social entrepreneurship, selling handicrafts made by indigenous women to wealthy folks in Mexico City. After a mezcal-filled night of sharing candid stories of dead businesses with friends, she realized it was “one of the most meaningful business conversations ever,” honest and full of real learning. Why not make it a thing? FuckUp Night was born.

From Gasca’s delightful profile in Ozy:

After settling on a regulated format (each speaker would have seven minutes and 10 slideshow images to share their story), the first FuckUp Night was organized a couple of weeks later — the first of around 1,000 events that have taken place to date. The growth has been totally organic, says Yannick Kwik, the new CEO of FuckUp Nights. They cannot market events on Facebook, Google or Twitter “because we have the word ‘fuck’ in our name,” but changing the name is out of the question (although hosts in certain Islamic countries are allowed to use the acronym, FUN). “When someone fails, they say ‘Fuck!,’ they don’t say ‘Darn this’ or anything else,” says Kwik, arguing that FuckUp Nights’ “punk, underground” roots have honesty and frankness at their core. Potential hosts from cities around the world contact the FuckUp Night team seeking a license to use the brand for a small monthly fee. Around 40 companies, from Coca-Cola to Microsoft to Citibank, have paid to host private FuckUp Night events for employees.

Gasca has embraced her calling as a failure visionary. And as fun and profane as it all sounds, the serious examination of failure has a real contribution to make to the global business ecosystem, in both data analysis and a collective culture shift. (Some countries are cooler with the idea of failure than others.) With some 200 FuckUp Night meetings a month around the world and dedicated Failure Institute surveys, Gasca and her team are on track to generate far deeper insights than anything available from academia or traditional case study models.

And it's an inspiring idea. Anyone got any worst practices to share? You get the FuckUp license, I'll bring the tequila.

On Point

One of the many white men named Chris poked fun at Hollywood’s lack of diversity

Chris Pine is both a talented actor and a good sport; his first-ever SNL monologue was a funny riff on how many scruffily handsome white guys named Chris are currently taking up space on the silver screen as action stars and super heroes. It was a fun conceit, made even funnier by the early appearance of Leslie Jones who confused him with the other Chrises: Evans, Hemsworth, and Pratt. The Washington Post’s Amy Wang correctly points out that these types of non-threateningly handsome white men are now interchangeable for a reason. In a Hollywood business model that has a “tendency to play it safe,” a Regular Jamaal or Jimena Q. Citizen are not going to fit the bill.

Washington Post

Got good grades? Nicki Minaj pays

It was a joy to watch unfold. Saturday night, after a fan tweeted the star asking, “Well you wanna pay for my tuition?” Minaj went on a surprise giving spree, funding some or all of the school fees for anyone who could prove they had good grades and could verify the costs with their school. A lot of excellence was on display along with some real need. “I have $500 left of my tuition to be paid, single mother raising me and my lil bro.. from Queens, you would help a lot,” tweeted one. You in the back - relax with the “it’s not sustainable” grumbling. You keep throwing those starfish, Nicki.

People

Ebony Magazine gets downsized

Ebony magazine, the monthly chronicle of African American life, is cutting nearly one-third of its editorial staff and consolidating operations with its sister publication, Jet. Also gone is the editor-in-chief, Kyra Kyles. The magazine will be moving to LA; Chicago has been home to the publication since 1945. Johnson Publishing, the original family founders of Ebony and Jet, sold both publications to Texas-based private equity firm CVG Group in May 2016. The transition was a rocky one nd troubles soon followed, including a spate of unpaid freelancers who took their grievances public under the hashtag #EbonyOwes.

Chicago Tribune

On Muslim identity and profiling

Nesrine Malik has created an “identity matrix” and “privilege scale” for Muslims, a rubric of cultural markers that predicts how likely it will be that a Muslim person will be identified and discriminated against or otherwise harassed. “Certain attributes and accoutrements offer some Muslims a ‘pass,’” she writes. “A pass almost always depends on the ease with which an individual can blend into the affluent dominant culture. It sounds dramatic, and it is.” She goes on to describe the current slate of Muslim identities ripe for outside analysis and “othering,” from the radicalized, angry youth, to the Mipsters, or Muslim hipster.

Code Switch

Video: A shopper told a Muslim woman "I wish they didn't let you in the country"

The incident happened in a Reston, VA Trader Joe’s after one shopper kindly allowed a woman to cut ahead of her in line. Out of nowhere, the line-cutter started killing time by saying negative things about yet a third shopper who was wearing a type of head covering called niqab. When the shopper who let the woman into line identified herself as Muslim, a nasty conversation ensued. The exchange, viewed through the Muslim identity matrix, is instructive. First, we see that the woman making Islamophobic remarks felt comfortable publicly targeting the shopper wearing niqab for abuse. Second, the shock of being confronted by a person who turned out to be Muslim forced the woman to escalate her rhetoric; in an attempt to defend herself, she mentioned genital cutting and “the Muslim” Obama. An object – now viral – lesson of what happens when you remind a bigot that they’re not among friends.

WJLA

The Woke Leader

Many white supremacist groups are tax-exempt

A lot of them! Eric Amarante, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Community Economic Development Clinic at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, would like to remedy that. His lengthy essay is worth a read, particularly if you are in the business of making robust arguments on racial remedies or tax law. But his argument is simple: “The IRS’s inability to identify hate groups in the tax-exempt application process not only means that the tax-paying public effectively subsidizes the activities of hate groups, but it also cheapens the tax-exempt status of all charities.” His solution? Narrow the overly broad definition of an “educational organization” to degree-granting institutions, distance learning and cultural institutions like museums or zoos, and eliminate the hate-based organizations that get swept in along with the legitimate ones. “The 501(c)(3) statute was adopted from ancient English law with little fanfare, debate, or thought. Enforcement of this poorly-considered law was entrusted to the IRS, an agency that, at best, is underfunded, and, at worst, is poorly suited to determine tax-exemption.” Does it seems like something worth lobbying about, corporate allies? Not all heroes wear capes, but plenty carry briefs.

SSRN

A newly resurfaced letter showed that Nixon feared racism in America would drive the rest of the world toward Communism

The letter was dated 1959, a time when the U.S. was worried about a deepening Cold War with the former Soviet Union. The letter was written on official Vice Presidential stationary; the subject was school integration. “I am deeply concerned with the impact of racial division in terms of world power,” he wrote. “Most of the people of the world belong to the colored races. They deeply resent any slurs based on race.” If we look like a bunch of racists, then the rest of the world flocks to communism, he reckoned. “That would leave us disastrously isolated in a hostile world.” He also stated his personal opposition to bigotry. “I could not accept Hitler’s idea of a master race. I cannot accept the equally false principle of an inferior race.” One unsuccessful presidential bid later, his moral case against racism disappeared, evidently. This guy seemed decent, but Dick 2.0 was a disaster.

Raw Story

Trayvon Martin will get a posthumous degree from Florida Memorial University

The degree will be in aviation, a subject which delighted Martin when he was alive. The HBCU will award the bachelor’s degree during commencement ceremonies on May 13. Martin’s parents Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton will be on hand to accept it; Fulton is an FMU alumna. “Sybrina, our alum, epitomizes strength and dignity as she uplifts other victims of violence while effecting change for a more equal and just society,” the school said in a lovely statement. Click through for more, but if you want to preserve your Monday mood, skip the comments.

Washington Times

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