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4th Mercier Seminar: How Start-ups Fail and Why A Few Succeed, On Entrepreneurship as an Art

Dr. Shlomo Maital gave a talk on Entrepreneurship at the Lassonde School of Engineering in Toronto

The BEST Lab presented the first Mercier Seminar Series event of the year on October 22nd. The Director of the BEST Lab at Lassonde, Dr. Andrew Maxwell, was pleased to welcome his colleague and friend, Dr. Shlomo Maital, Academic director of TIM-Technion Institute of Management, Israel. Dr Maital is an industrial engineer who teaches entrepreneurship to eager young engineers who are confident their new ideas are the latest and greatest, which was certainly reflected in the audience, the eager minds of Lassonde.

Dr. Andrew Maxwell (left) and Dr. Shlomo Maital (right), a photo at the Lassonde School of Engineering in Toronto

There are many successful entrepreneurs idolized in the modern technology era, each one attributing their success to hard work, sleepless nights, and a mentality of putting success above all else. However, these entrepreneurs are notoriously known for burning out their questionably shrewd business practices, yet their praises and success are viewed as modern day hallmarks of entrepreneurship. Dr. Maital’s seminar focused very little on their successes though, because the modern truth of entrepreneurship is that success teaches you only one way to accomplish your goals and accounts little for chance. The real teacher of success is failure, which both Dr Maital and Dr Maxwell teach their students. Failure teaches an entrepreneur the many things that don’t work, and also provides a frame of reference, and perspective.

How do you teach failure though? Dr. Maital teaches us that it is entirely in the mindset of an entrepreneur. To not only accept your failures, but value them as lessons. Don’t fear failure, get it over with – fail fast and move onto the next iteration, a more experienced iteration. If you can overcome your fears of failing you can start now instead of what many prospective entrepreneurs think – that there’s a perfect time when it’s guaranteed to work, the risk is inherent to the task.

Dr. Shlomo Maital gave a talk on Entrepreneurship at the Lassonde School of Engineering in Toronto

How do you improve your chances then? Ideation is the most fun step, but Dr. Maital strongly stresses that you have to be willing to be critical of your own idea, it is the only way for it to stand-up against the obstacles you’ll face. Too many entrepreneurs skip the second stage, making the fatal mistake of falling in love with their idea. “It is better to discard a good idea than cling to a bad idea.” which amounts to actively being ready to pivot or restart your ideas. Finally Dr. Maital ended his seminar with a concept called the Little Bang. When a startup fails, the most talented people in the organization start their own, where one ends, many begin and bang giving more support for the good of failure.

At the end of the seminar, many excited engineering students, all wanting to turn their lessons and passion into success, had been given a realistic conversation about business. They will fail and the math supports it, but that isn’t reason to shy away. It’s the fuel they should use to make the 2nd attempt better, the 3rd attempt, 4th, 5th, because the nth attempt is the one that will matter the most. In science we learn that we stand on the shoulders of giants, truly successful entrepreneurs learn to iterate and stand on their own shoulders. Their failures will make them strong. They all left eyes forward, ready for the next step in this seminar series.