Event: 18th June 2015, Brussels


The European Commission (DG-GROW) held a high-level conference on the subject of giving a Second Chance to honest failed entrepreneurs, which is one of the priorities of the European policy for SMEs and entrepreneurship. A session on Entrepreneurship Education was moderated by James Kass.

DG GROW – whose full name is Directorate General for Internal market, Industry, SMEs and Entrepreneurship – recently organized this well-attended conference on ''Learning from Failure – Bankruptcy and Second chance for Honest Bankrupt Entrepreneurs'', which took place in Brussels on 18th June.

The conference gathered high-level representatives from European and national administrations, business stakeholders, support services and academia to:

  • explore possibilities on how to improve the support to enterprises or entrepreneurs in distress;
  • create a chance for a re-start of honest failed entrepreneurs and to craft concrete actions based on the results of the conference.

The following topics were addressed in separate sessions:

  1. Legal framework of the rescue culture in Europe;
  2. Entrepreneurship education – preparation for failure;
  3. Access to finance for a second chance;
  4. How to learn from dealing with failure in other areas - aviation-health-nuclear-audit;
  5. Support /advisory services for failed entrepreneurs;
  6. Lessons learned from failure and second start – testimonials from entrepreneurs.

Dr Kass moderated the challenging Session II: “Entrepreneurship Education – Preparation for Failure”, whose six-member panel hailed from five countries and diverse organizations across Europe. The speakers addressed challenges and obstacles related to this unique theme, encompassing “students” from early school, to university as well as those already in the throes of entrepreneurship.

2nd Chance Education session panel

The panel seated from left to right: Diana Filip, Luisa Alemany, James Kass, Bettina Mueller, Slavica Singer, Verner Møller (Arnoud Raskin had to depart early).

The panel comprised the following experts:


  • Dr James Kass, CEO and Founder, Kass Space Consulting (Canada/ Netherlands)


After the six speakers presented their cases, Dr Kass lead a panel discussion, followed by Q&A from the audience.

Summary and key messages from Session II
  • Education can play a crucial role in altering the current mind set and removing the fear of failure. Entrepreneurship education should start with kindergarten and continue upwards throughout the system, focusing on both teachers and pupils, to draw positive lessons from failure.
  • The education system itself should change and be given a second chance. Grades should be used to identify weaknesses which can then be worked on to raise expectations and develop self-confidence and values, rather than to pigeonhole an individual, potentially for life.
  • Lessons can be learned from street people who have nothing to lose and so are prepared to take risks. They rely on their agility, resilience and wits, balancing cooperation and competition. The same characteristics could be developed to encourage people out of their comfort zones.
  • Failing once does not necessarily guarantee success a second time. According to new research in Germany, people whose first venture was dissolved, or went bankrupt, are less likely to survive than novices. The reasons for this are still unclear.
  • The Commission should establish a “Lessons Learned” system. The network would enable all those involved in entrepreneurial education, business or venture capital, to share their experiences, learning from the mistakes of others to avoid making them themselves.

It was generally observed at the conference that there was a great fear of failure endemic in Europe, hindering the prospects of entrepreneurship. It was generally agreed that it was long overdue that a more attractive environment for budding entrepreneurs should be created, whether making financial resources more easily available, removing the stigma of failure, sharing experiences and lessons learned, or providing a platform for advice.

Many of the participants voiced the opinion that they were surprised and pleased that the European Commission took the initiative to organize this conference.