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About entrepreneurial spirit, courage and the desire to make a difference

Corporate meets start-up – best of both worlds

Konzern trifft Start-up – das Beste aus zwei Welten


Looking around in the small apartment he and his two co-founders had just rented, he could see it all before his eyes. He would bring his idea to life. The apartment in Aachen, Germany, came with a factory building. 715 square meters full of potential. Potential to build an empire and bring a new product to the market.

But the start-up founder soon realized that the entrepreneurial dream goes hand-in-hand with taking risks and experiencing a great amount of uncertainty. After all, failure is a big part of success. “[…] in cooperation with the company ‘Rheinische Wasserglasfabrik’ we launched a detergent. We called it ‘universal detergent,’ a name I personally never really liked. The production costs were very high. […] We soon came to realize that our product would not survive on the market,” said the founder.

As a real entrepreneur trying things out and failing is part of daily business. The start-up founder kept experimenting after the first product launch was unsuccessful. In experiments the product’s formula was adapted and its performance improved making it the market leader. That product was called “Henkel’s Bleich-Soda” and the mastermind of the start-up was Fritz Henkel. The success story described here has its origins in 1876, but could just as well have taken place in the 21st century. Consequently, the start-up concept is nothing new. Henkel also started out as a small company and today – as a big corporation – exchanges ideas with young founders.

Of fear and failure

The start-up mentality is “think big, act small.” Due to a lack of predefined processes and decision-making bodies, start-ups can be agile and efficient. “Fail fast and fail often” – a mantra that is supposed to take away the very human fear of failure. From a psychological standpoint this fear is important and part of the success.

“Being afraid is evidence that you are at the edge of your comfort zone, and pushing this edge is where growth and learning occurs. It is where practice transitions to performance. At the crossroad of fear and doubt is the sweet spot of achievement. The arena of possibility and innovation.”

Psychologist and world-class mountain climber Matt Walker in
Psychology Today