Failure: Why it can be helpful

When you ask Brian Hemesath about failure he remembers a story about the company Catchwind.

Hemesath helped start this broadcast text messaging company. In 2008, the company faltered.

“We had a lot of our eggs in one basket, with one client,” Hemesath said.

Their team came to a point where that client didn’t renew with them.

“It put us in the red for the first time in our existence,” Hemesath said. “That lack of diversity in the client base darn near killed the company.”  

Hemesath is a keynote speaker at Accelerate DSM, a day-long event run by the Greater Des Moines Partnership. His keynote focuses on failing, called “FOL (Failing Out Loud) Lessons From Some of the Stupid Things I’ve Done.” He will start his keynote at 8:55 a.m. Thursday at the Science Center in downtown Des Moines. 

“The best lessons you learn are from failure,” Hemesath says. “It has been said over and over again that you can’t learn if you don’t fail.”

Hemesath said he feels sorry for people who succeed on the first try.

“They probably got really, really wealthy, but they missed all the fun of the journey,” Hemesath said. “It’s like teleporting to Disneyland. You get to miss the 18-hour drive that you get to take and all the fun that goes along with that.”

Failure to Hemesath is intriguing because everybody fails.

“Rarely did you hit that home run on the first try,” Hemesath said. “So if everybody fails, why do more people don’t talk about their failure?”

That is why Hemesath is focusing on failure in his keynote for Accelerate DSM because he thinks more people need to talk about failure. His talk will focus on his own failure, but coach attendees on lessons he learned.

Hemesath will discuss everything from roles over titles to accountability to communication. He will use his experience and background in the entrepreneur community to frame his presentation.

Working for himself

Hemesath moved to Des Moines in 1999 and after the telecom crash of 2001, joined the entrepreneur community.

“I found myself jobless, never wanting to work for anybody else again,” Hemesath said.

So he started building websites for a variety of companies. He ran a boutique web development company alongside his brother from 2001 to 2010.

“Along that ten-year journey, I started a few different ventures,” Hemsath said. “Some succeeded, some failed. Some are still going today.”

One of the most notable companies is Volunteer Local, a website used to help recruit, coordinate and communicate with volunteers.

In 2014, Hemesath was named the Managing Director of the Global Insurance Accelerator. This is their fourth year operating. Today, they have 26 companies in their portfolio.

What sets Global Insurance Accelerator apart from other accelerators is their mentorship program. All of the mentors are focused on the insurance community.

Hemesath sees a similar reflection to his mentor program at the Accelerate DSM event. A part of the event is roundtables, which allows participants to connect deeply with others in the community.

He sees two audiences Accelerate DSM can reach: An older more established entrepreneur and first-time founders.

“The older, more established commodities of Des Moines, it gives them a chance to get out and share their story,” Hemesath said. “But more importantly, all the early entrepreneurs, the first timers, the people who have never done this before, this is not a thousand person conference where you are going to get just lost in the context and the networking. This is a very intimate 200 person conference where everyone is approachable. The roundtables are just one more way to increase that.”

Previous coverage of the Global Insurance Accelerator

Global Insurance Accelerator: Eight companies in the 2018 cohort – Jan. 11, 2018

InsurTech Week: Introducing startup to insurance executives – Oct. 25, 2017

A fourth cohort is coming for the Global Insurance Accelerator – Aug. 3, 2017

Global Insurance Accelerator names newest cohort – Jan. 11, 2017