“Behind every failure, there’s a good story and a lesson learnt,” or so states the motto of FuckUp Nights Bali, an event that brings together four speakers who talk about their failed ventures and an audience ready to celebrate their so called fuck ups. Taking place four times a year in various locations around Ubud, FuckUp Nights, sometimes branded with the acronym FUN, aims to change the way that we view failure. “Failure is common for entrepreneurs, however, often only success stories get to be shared on stage. We believe that failure should be communicated and embraced, because they are a positive step everyone must overcome on the road to success,” says Vitto Christaldi, the Head of Learning and Experience at the Hubud Coworking Space in Ubud, the collaborative space behind the event in Bali.
During the typical FuckUp Night, each entrepreneur has just seven minutes to present their story of a frustrated venture using up to ten images, which are projected onto a large screen for all to see. “The speakers tell us about their project, what went wrong, what they learnt and what they would have done differently,” says Vitto, adding that each presentation is followed by a Q&A session and the event finishes with a networking session. “We get all kinds of people from around the world telling their stories, from a guy who left his job for another job that did not exist, to a lady who was held in jail for a couple of days for shooting a documentary about a controversial issues.”
The global movement, which attempts to change the conversation around what it means to succeed and fail, was born in Mexico, 2012, when a group of friends came up with the idea over a few glasses of mescal. The Failure Institute, a research arm of FuckUp Nights, was set up two years later in 2014. The institute tasks itself with documenting and sharing cases of failure, and is the mastermind behind the FuckUp Book, which brings to light a collection of the best stories about business mishaps. According to Vitto, since the event’s inception, FuckUp Nights have taken place in 268 cities in 78 countries as far-flung as El Salvador, Paraguay, Greece, Poland, Namibia, Lebanon, Australia, and, of course, Indonesia. “We got in touch with the FuckUp Nights team in Mexico in January 2016, and they were as excited as we are to bring this event to Bali and Indonesia. Since then, we have organized ten FuckUp Nights,” Vitto says.
While Bali has now heard its fair share of FuckUp stories, Vitto says that the most common themes for presentations include co-founders of a venture growing apart, businesses expanding too fast, and setting up community ventures without a business plan. One story that stands out to him, however, was about failed screenings of the film Fifty Shades of Grey. “The speaker organized two screenings of the film for 500 women to make some money before her trip to Bali. What seemed like a good idea at the time turned into a disaster when she upset Universal Pictures, which wanted to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for the screening, guests arriving to the event drunk, and sexy waiters and the Mr. Grey look-alike not being very sexy,” he says. “At the end, the event ended up costing the speaker more money than she actually made from the ticket sales.”
So why are stories of failure so engaging? In our lives, we repeatedly hear stories of success—whether in mainstream media, social media or our personal lives—but we rarely hear detailed stories about how the person got to where they are. This makes us forget that success runs hand in hand with failures and mistakes. Rather than focusing on how amazing the life of an entrepreneur can be, FuckUp Nights demonstrate that behind every successful venture is a string of failures that we can all learn from. “We always make sure that the stories are presented in a light and funny way. It is also our intention to make the audience look at failure as something to be appreciated rather than avoided. The audiences seem to love it. There is always a lot of laughter during the events,” Vitto says.
As failure is still deemed to be shameful or embarrassing, it can be difficult to find people willing to open up about their experiences. As such, FuckUp Nights are a very welcome reminder that failures do happen and that they are an important part of the learning process. If we want to improve, and eventually succeed, we need to experience failure. “Failure is unavoidable, and most entrepreneurs will come across failures within their entrepreneurship journeys no matter how much they try to avoid them,” Vitto says. “So why not embrace them. After all, they are what shapes our success.”
The next FuckUp Nights will take place on August 16 and December 6 (venues to be announced). If you are interested in attending or sharing your FuckUp story visit:
For more information about FuckUp Nights as a global movement visit: fuckupnights.com
To download the FuckUp Book visit: fuckupnights.com/fuckup-book