Brian Spaly shares lessons in failure at July’s Technori Pitch

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Failure might not be a topic every entrepreneur wants to talk about, but Brian Spaly proudly shares his story. The Trunk Club CEO sees failure as a good thing at times. “We’re a country of people who have failed forward,” Spaly says.

The Stanford graduate helped found trouser company Bonobos, but fired himself when things weren’t working out between him and his business partner. “We really just weren’t getting along and decided that a big part of the reason was that I was a pretty lousy manager and probably hadn’t earned my team’s respect and the right to run that business anymore,” he says.

After a brief time believing he was never going to find another job, Spaly realized that one failure wasn’t the end of the world, or his career.

“It turns out I actually wasn’t a failure after all,” he says. “It’s really hard to be an entrepreneur.”

Spaly says it’s a rough situation to be in, but you’ve got to admit you failed and move on. “One of the great things about living in America is it’s ok to fail and get back up on your feet,” Spaly says.

Spaly lends these life lessons for succeeding in the entrepreneurial industry: 

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about –  Yes, failure sucks. But you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it, Spaly says. Being an entrepreneur is hard. “Anyone who tells you that [entrepreneurship] is easy or that makes it look easy, it’s total bullshit,” he says.

The devil is in the details – When you’re starting a company, it’s a good idea to put your best foot forward, even if your product or website isn’t perfect. ”We had to kind of, as we say at Trunk Club, fake it until you make it,” Spaly says. The hockey player- turned pants-maker says Trunk Club doesn’t always do great on the first trunk they send to a customer, but they promise to keep getting better and listen to customers. “If you invest in us, we’ll invest in you,” he says.

Make a list – When you decide to start a business, make a list of things that bother you in your daily life and pick a few things you can fix. “We all have a list of celebrities we’d like to sleep with, even if we are married,” Spaly says. “Make a list of ideas and startups you’d like to own and create or be a founder of.”

If you fail, you will find another job – “I’m living proof of it,” he says. “I totally failed at my own first startup that I created, had to go and have 400 conversations with classmates from business school on how I had to leave Bonobos because I sucked at managing people, and here I am and I got a better opportunity.”

If you plan on working in the startup industry, ask yourself these questions first:
1. Are you passionate about the startup’s idea?
2. Do you like the culture of that startup? “Don’t expect every office to look like Trunk Club because we have the right to serve beer and have sexy people everywhere, because that’s our business.” Spaly says. “Some businesses are just awesome because their people are just friendly, nice and cool, and I think that’s important.”
3. Will you make an impact?

Spaly’s parting quote from “Memoirs of a Geisha”:

“I didn’t envy them the uncertainty of their existence, but I did envy that sense of promise I could well remember, that the evening ahead might yet hold some mischievous pleaser.”  Spaly says that uncertainty is the best part.

And now, onto the pitches:

Reppio helps find the hidden gems in your neighborhood. It all started with a unique T-shirt that Reppio Co-founder Sean Korb found in London. When he returned to the U.S. and searched the web for the store, he couldn’t even find an online shop. That’s when Korb came up with the idea for Reppio, an online store full of carefully curated items that you can’t find in department stores.  “We want you to go out and find, either Chicago or other cities, in a way you’ve never seen before,” Korb says. “Explore, browse and buy right on our site.” The month-old company just added new features to their site, including a tagging section and option to choose what neighborhood to shop from.

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If there’s one thing that CANDID Cup Founder Thomas Strolvall is sure of is that communication is key. That’s why he created CANDID Cup, a communication platform that allows business owners to talk to people who are connected to their business, from distributors to customers. “If we’re not having real-time conversation with our customers and employees on a daily basis, you think we might be in a little trouble,” Strolvall says.

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HappiLabs – @HappiLabs_org
HappiLabs Founder and President Tom Ruginis wants to make scientists happy. After spending much time in the lab, Ruginis realized that scientist become unhappy because the equipment they use isn’t always the best quality or price. From that realization, Ruginis formed HappiLabs. “Our mission is to improve the happiness of our scientists and the quality of their research,” Ruginis says. The independent research organization provides scientists with three different services : 1.) a review site for equipment (like Yelp) 2.) a subscription-based data service (like Consumer Reports), and 3.) lab managers for hire.

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BTSocial – @BTSocial
Traveling for business sometimes really sucks, but it doesn’t have to thanks to BTSocial, an app that allows business travelers to talk and plan meet-ups. “Business travelers are faced with extreme social disconnect that makes it difficult for them to connect with like-minded individuals during their trips and manage their downtime properly,” says BTSocial Founder Tim Hines. With the social media platform, travelers can connect with others through any device hooked up to the Internet, whether they’re in an airport or hotel.

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Cosmic Cart – @Cosmic_Cart
Blair, the fashion blogger, puts together looks on her blog and provides links so readers can buy those items. Jane is an avid online shopper, but hates having to leave Blair’s blog to purchase items at multiple online stores. Cosmic Cart CEO Alex Adelman has a solution to Jane’s problem. With Cosmic Cart, shopping online is fast and simple. “This is about seeing something you want, adding it to one cart and buying it,” Adelman says. “It’s the easiest possible way to shop online.” Thanks to Cosmic Cart Jane never has to leave Blair’s site or fill out multiple forms to buy items.

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