How to Bounce Back from an Unsuccessful PoC

By: Alexey Saphoznikov – Co-Founder & CTO, prooV

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – Thomas A. Edison

Startup founders and CEO’s love hearing success stories; multi-million dollar exits, IPO’s and collaborations with enterprises on an international level that drive forward the startup dream. What this means is that failure is shunned and seen as the definitive end of a startup. What we are here to tell you is the complete opposite – it’s ok to fail; what you need to focus on is how to bounce back after you do.

If you have a product or solution that has hundreds of manhours behind it, you don’t want to consider the option that a PoC will not succeed, but the reality is that most PoC’s won’t succeed. In fact, if you look at the PoC for what it is, you will realize that they are almost destined for failure.

If an enterprise knew going into the project that the technology would be relevant, the solution scalable, and the implementation seamless and immediate, a PoC wouldn’t be necessary at all. The purpose of a PoC is to truly examine the validity of an idea and the feasibility of incorporation in mass solutions.

Therefore, the only thing to do as a startup is brace yourself for the inevitable failure and focus on the benefits.

Realize that Failure isn’t a Death Sentence

The moment you realize your PoC was unsuccessful, no matter what the reason, you will come to one blinding realization – you can still continue the next morning. Fear of failure is often more problematic than failure itself. If you participate in a PoC and do not succeed in being the startup to offer the solution that was needed, it is not the end of the world. The first failure is the hardest, but when you realize it hurts less than the fear of failing, then you have a chance of future success.

Learn Your Product Limitations

The most important thing you can gain out of an unsuccessful PoC is a more in depth understanding of your product and its limitations. If the failure has to do with technological capability, leverage that information in order to assess what future developments are needed.

If the failure has to do with inability to scale, recognize that as a limitation and find an alternative solution. By determining whether a product limitation is what led to the failure, you will be able to position yourself better for future PoCs.

Harness Your Creative Side

Just like Thomas Edison, you just found another way that doesn’t work – that means you are that much closer to finding a solution that does. Post PoC failure is the best time to consider new creative approaches to existing problems within your product.  

As a startup, you must always remember that your key benefit to an enterprise is your ability to think and act outside the box. Use failure as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and find a way to succeed within your limitations.

Get Constructive Feedback

Throughout the PoC process you inevitably built a relationship with a decision maker in an enterprise. If your PoC was unsuccessful or your solution did not meet their exact needs, do not be afraid to ask why.

By asking for constructive criticism on how to improve your product and seeking an in-depth understanding of what you could have done differently to ensure success will be a great starting point from which to begin during your next PoC.

Explore new Verticals

Did you spend all your time and effort to succeed at a PoC in a particular vertical?

Use an unsuccessful PoC to see if your solution could prove successful to someone else, particularly in another vertical. Today enterprises in all industries are seeking solutions you can’t even imagine.

Food companies looking for BI solutions? FinTech looking for Cyber Security? Why not?! Your solution may be a raging success in another industry with some minor tweaks. Go back to our creativity tip and see what you can do to modify your solution so it works for someone else.