How Startups Turn Slammed Doors Into Open Windows

I Finally Figured Out How To Learn From My Mistakes

Joe Procopio
5 min readJul 26, 2021


Every entrepreneur has a failure story like this. About 12 years ago, I founded a startup called ExitEvent. I was in the early stages, but the idea was solid: Create a multi-sided marketplace for the startup ecosystem.

I had already started two successful companies, one of which I was still running. The ExitEvent idea wasn’t a new one. It was something that I had been building and reshaping for years, waiting for the right moment when all the pieces came together to turn it into a scalable business.

When that moment happened, I knew exactly where to go. I brought the idea to a potential partner, an organization that would be a perfect initial backer. The head of that organization got it immediately. Or at least I thought they did.

What happened next is a story about business failure, but also about how to turn failure into success. Yes, failure can be a good thing. And while a lot of people talk about learning from failure, they never tell you how to do it. Here’s my story about a failed business deal and how I acted on the lessons I learned.

When failure seems to come out of nowhere

Over the next few months, the strategic partner and I hammered out a deal framework, and I built the infrastructure for the marketplace.

When I arrived at the final negotiation session, with the deal paperwork in hand, the mood was different and there were new people in the room. My stomach immediately sank to my shoes. I knew right away.

“Not again. Not this one,” I said to myself.

But yes, again. And yes, this one.

This one that I spent way too much time on. This one for which I had put my existing business at risk, going so far as to turn down new business, because my time would be taken up by this new, shiny thing.

I got told the partnership deal wasn’t going to happen. I got told what could happen would be a marketing partnership, and one that would only serve the best interests of the partner while I scratched out revenue on my own.



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building & GROWERS. Write at and More at