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Startup CEOs Who Failed Before Success

Failure as a startup CEO can be acceptable. Here is a group of successful startup CEOs who failed before success.

Successful startup CEOs who failed before success

  • Nick Woodman failed with two startups before founding GoPro
  • Henry Ford failed with two automotive startups before he founded Ford Motor Company.
  • Richard Branson had numerous failures before building the Virgin conglomerate of 400 companies
  • Thomas Edison failed 9,000 times before he succeeded in inventing the light bulb.
  • Steve Jobs was fired from Apple Computer. Regarding his firing Jobs said “getting fired from Apple … freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
  • Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school 3 times before directing Jurassic Park and Jaws.
  • Tim Ferris wrote the best selling book “The 4 Hour Workweek”. Earlier it was turned down by 25 publishers.
  • Colonel Sanders founded KFC “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. Earlier his recipe was rejected 1,000 times.
  • Akio Morita’s first product was a rice cooker that failed. Later he co-founded Sony.
  • Bill Gates failed with Traf-O-Data before founding Microsoft.
  • Evan Williams failed with Odeo, before co-founding Twitter
  • Fred Smith founded FedEx after being told it was not feasible.
  • Mark Cuban failed numerous times before selling a startup to Yahoo for billions.
  • Rowland Hussey Macy failed with four retail stores before founding Macy’s.
  • Soichiro Honda was turned down when he applied for a job with Toyota. Later he founded Honda.


Those of you who really want to be successful startup CEOs should plan and then execute.  You may not succeed the first time. If you do fail you need to think through why.  Read some of the thoughtful advice about failure from executives such as Mark Cuban and Richard Branson.  Learn from your failures.  Then decide what to do next.



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