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Wolfgang Goergens has put 4.5 million euros in the sand. That's why he's there. And that's why he gets the most applause. Big sums make an impression. Whether at a pitch where founders vie for the favor of investors with their ideas, or on this evening, which is supposed to be the opposite: entrepreneurs who have failed with a grandiose idea are gathered in a Düsseldorf backyard. "If you screw it up right and nobody notices, then it's only half as fun," explains someone why he's here.
Most people prefer to hide the fact that they screwed up a project - for fear of embarrassing themselves, for fear of not getting a second chance. But a few speak openly about their failure. Because they want to save others from making the same mistakes. Because all the efforts should not have been in vain. So that evening a couple of hapless start-up entrepreneurs came to the former car wash, where creative people can rent a desk today.
A mood like at a flat share party
They call it the "fuck-up night". A mood like at a flat share party: there is beer with a rhubarb flavor. At the entrance there are pieces of paper on which everyone should write who they are - and what moves them. To do this, a Polaroid picture is taken of each. A stage for all those who talk about their failures instead of their successes, about the harsh reality instead of vague dreams. In the front, brave men grab a microphone and a power point presentation; in the back they crouch on chairs and tables, leaning against the wall.
A stage for Wolfgang Goergens, 54, who doesn't wear colorful sneakers or a hipster beard, but a simple dark suit. Many years ago Goergens had a crazy idea. An idea for which the man at the Stadtsparkasse initially gave him a strange look, but which he still believed in - and which also resonated with many others: In 1999, he opened the Pfötchenhotel in Hilden, a town with 55,000 inhabitants between Düsseldorf and Wuppertal , a luxury boarding house for dogs. There were: two baskets and a minibar per room, a dog hairdresser, a tennis court on which the animals could play ball against a machine - even someone who read the dogs the holiday postcards of their owners.
The first open day, Goergens recalls, began at nine in the morning. "At ten the police had to regulate the traffic, so big was the rush." In the first summer they were fully booked. Even Japanese television came to report. And because it went so well, Goergens thought, it works elsewhere too. He opened two more hotels for dogs. One on the North Sea, the other near Berlin.
A dog hotel at the gates of Berlin - with an observatory and drive-in cinema
There he bought a piece of land with another Telekom shareholder, 850,000 square meters, "almost half the size of Monaco", as Goergens says, just to top it off: "There was someone like that at Apple who used the slogan Think big! has spent, right? "It is a reference to Steve Jobs, the man who is considered one of the great entrepreneurs of our time. Someone who has failed, but is still remembered as someone who apparently succeeded in everything. what the technology group Apple, which he founded, tackled under his leadership. And then Goergens lists how big he thought his cause was. The paw hotel at the gates of Berlin got: a car wash and a veterinary clinic, a swimming pool and an observatory, even a huge screen in the open air like in a drive-in. The list is getting more and more absurd.
The audience stares at Goergens, shakes their heads, claps and shouts. "This probably made it unnecessary to ask what we did wrong," says Goergens when he has finished listing all the attractions. He pauses, just long enough so that one can formulate the obvious answer in one's mind: a clear case of megalomania! And then the entrepreneur gives a different answer: "Our mistake was that we founded our own GmbH for this purpose. With our own money." Loud laughter.
They ran the hotel for twelve years - and not in the black for a single year. "Again and again we said to ourselves: it will be fine," recalls Goergens. But, he says now, stretching every single syllable: "It wasn't." Again: laughter.
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