In our society the attitude towards failure is often very conservative and vigilant. No surprise in that! From an early age most of us learn that failure is bad, even more - it bears resentment and has a paralyzing effect stopping us from moving forward. If this anxious feeling has never crossed your mind, you are probably a superhero.

But what makes us very vulnerable - equally makes us very human and unique. And after all, if we learn how to deal with it and move forward, it makes us better – more independent, brave and responsible. It gives us a choice to walk a fascinating road with great wins and painful losses - instead of a careful, straight and narrow path.

How much does failure cost? Let’s open up about it

Failing Forward conference

On November 16th, Failing Forward, an inspiring keynote conference powered by and its partners, nailed its fifth edition in a row. It took place at the headquarters of ING in Brussels. Once again, the event brought together seasoned and highly successful entrepreneurs on stage to tell their stories and bravely reveal their personal failures – all to break through the stigma associated with failure in doing business in Belgium and Europe. The motto “Failure is not contagious, success is “ was a red thread of the conference leading to truly fascinating discoveries.

After 5 years, starting small, the Failing Forward conference grew into a much broader campaign on ‘failing and getting back up again’, not celebrating but being open about failure and letting entrepreneurs learn lessons that failure can be the stepping stone to success. “We want to break the taboos concerning failure and make sure that entrepreneurial people who make mistakes are not viewed as being unreliable”, explains Karen Boers, CEO of

Indeed, failure or bankruptcy in Belgium and Europe is usually perceived as a fatal mistake and a ruined reputation one can not recover from, while in the US it is a healthy consequence of risk taking. Bruno Lowagie, founder and CEO of iText Software group, put it quite straightforward, "Failing does not matter that much in the US, what does matter is that you stand up again! This mentality is something we should learn from." Indeed, for instance, "The Secrets of Silicon Valley" book explains the success of the Silicon Valley where risk and failure are being embraced as part of the entrepreneurial journey. There is strong and healthy "failing forward" mentality and "high risk, high reward culture." 

Inspiring and interactive sessions

Besides the keynote speakers, such as Jef Colruyt (CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Colruyt Group), Jannie Haek (CEO of Nationale Loterij), Michèle Sioen (entrepreneur and President of VBO-FEB) and Bart De Pauw (actor and screenwriter), the conference also offered power meetings, hands-on workshops and L!FE panel. It was a full day of networking, wisdom and inspiration mixing more than 200 attendees from different fields, companies and backgrounds. 

Entrepreneurs had the opportunity to join the power meetings with top Belgian experts to get feedback on their idea and specific inputs on business challenges within one of the 4 key topics: sales & marketing, funding, growth and business modeling. On the whole, the power meetings were very popular among early-stage entrepreneurs seeking advice with regard to starting up, thus, mainly focusing on funding, business modeling and sales. For instance, experts Filip Vandamme (managing partner of Volta Ventures), Wouter Desmet (partner of EY), Raphael Abou (Chief Funding Officer of Serious Funding) among many others were ready to address financial topics.

The paralel L!FE panel session brought together the internationally experienced specialists discussing policymaking and collaborative actions to bring entrepreneurship forward in Europe. Robin Wauters, Co-founder & Editor-in-Chief of, was moderating a vibrat and thought-provoking discussion.

Hands-on workshops on "Strategic Value Management" led by EY and "Common pitfalls in a big company transformation" by ING gave the opportunity to discuss, share and learn from each other. 

And maybe something did not turn out as planned, like videos with Dutch subtitles instead of English or some problems with scheduling power meetings, when we came up with a paper dashboard solution - nevertheless, we had a blast! After all it is failing forward and bringing more value next time. 

If you also believe that failure is not fatal, then support the initiative and sign our Manifesto! Only by carrying our message we can really break the stigma associated with failure in Belgium and Europe.

Our favourite moments or the view from the other side

We would like to share with you the conference's highlights and live mind maps beautifully illustrated by @zldrawings. Please visit our Facebook Fanpage for more pictures and tag yourself. 

Best Tweets

❤️! #FailingFwd " — Gemma Galdon Clavell (@gemmagaldon) 

16 November 2016

Brussels is #failingfwd with the best of them. @StartupsBe @FailingFwd #lifepanel — Whitney Clark 


 16 November 2016  

Loving every bit of @gemmagaldon talk at #FailingFwd .Showing you can run a business AND be people-driven #Entrepreneurship — Gaby Fernandez (@GabbiFernandez)

 16 November 2016

Quote of the day, by @BartDePauwtroef #failingfwd "I'm not a boss. I'm like a gipsy, I want to play the violin only." — Clo Willaerts (@bnox) 

16 November 2016

November 16, 2016 Click here for the full Storify report.