Let’s change the way we talk about, think about, and react to failure.

Latest News & Announcements

  • Success of Failure!

    Fail Fest Raleigh 2015 was a complete success on Wednesday, May 13th. We're still gathering the photos and videos, laughs and tears, juggling balls and improv lines of the entire event and will be posting all that we can in the coming weeks. Thank you for coming out and sharing your story. A special thanks to all of our sponsors - Innovate Raleigh, Vaporware, Skoyz Wellness, Fanbase, BigBoss, Gap Jumpers, OrderUp, REX Healthcare, and Wells Fargo!

  • Failure On the Air

    Fail Fest Organizer Dan Moore was recently on Little Raleigh Radio talking about Fail Fest and the place of failure in today's startup scene. Click here to listen to the full episode on #Innovate365.

  • Schedule Announced

    Our speaker and breakout session has been announced. Click on each time to learn more.

About Fail Fest

What are we doing?
We’re bringing the community together to:
  • share some of our biggest flops
  • talk about the lessons we’ve learned
  • reframe the conversation around risk-taking and, well, failing
  • push ourselves out of our comfort zones
  • and maybe even learn to juggle
Why are we doing this?
We’re on a mission to erase the stigma around failure. The more we talk about it, the more we can learn from it. Failure doesn’t have to be fatal!
So what exactly is Fail Fest?

For entrepreneurs, failure is a fact of life. And it might suck, but it’s a big part of the road to success. Failure leads to insights. And insights lead to innovation. But even so, we’re still reluctant to talk about failure. Who wants to admit they messed up? It’s time to change that perception. Failure is an outcome; it’s part of the journey; it helps us learn and improve. Failure doesn’t have to be fatal.

Fail Fest brings together Raleigh’s innovators to swap the stories behind our entrepreneurial spirit. We’re a rowdy bunch, so this event won’t be a butts-in-seats kind of conference. You’ll get to pitch “bad” ideas, learn to juggle, and do some public speaking of your own. We’re all letting go of the safety net together to make failure part of the conversation.

Schedule and Speakers

Resources for Entreprenuers
Kevin Wright by Innovate Raleigh
About the Session
Fail Fest Raleigh is about supporting collaborations across a wide range of entrepreneurs in our community. A discussion session to get your perspectives on what resources you feel are the most critical. Not matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey we would welcome your inputs. Please email Kevin Wright if you cannot attend and would like to share insights.
About the Leaders
Kevin Wright created and ran one of IBM's premier innovation incubators and has over 30 years experience in a wide variety of innovation and intrapreneurial initiatives. He has mentored several entrepreneurial companies and is an Adjunct Professor at Duke and NC State Universities teaching pragmatic approaches to strategy, innovation, management of technology, services, and solutions. Kevin along with Dan Moore is chairing the Innovative Raleigh task force on how to enhance the utilization of entrepreneurial / innovation resources in our region.
this session is brought to you by Innovate Raleigh
Opening Remarks & Welcome
a day to celebrate failure
Failure is a Relative Term
by Domino Ireland with SAS
About the Talk
The biggest problem with the word problem is that it is called a problem. Not all problems or failures are negative. I’ll talk about how the hindsight of what we once perceived as failure now looks like the motivation, direction and life-changer we needed. If you compete, try new things, and stick your neck, money, and soul out there you will find that failure simply becomes an expected detour that is a part of each of our journeys.
About the Speaker
A born adventurer and creative problem solver, Domino learned at an early age that building a boat out of milk jugs highlighted creativity and, spotlighted failure as they often come as a package deal. His adventurous experiences inspire him to teach professionals how to approach their work in new ways. He has authored a book, has a cookbook that has been “in production” for years (but not a fail), and for the past 8 years, he has enjoyed facilitating team building, cultural and innovative programs at SAS Institute.
Creative Spark
by Jessie Williams with The Mamabear Project
About the Talk
When I was first starting out I failed to recognize certain attributes of being successful and would like to share with you how I came to realize the importance of protecting your creative spark.
About the Speaker
Jessie Williams is a fashion designer and owner of Edge of Urge, a retail store and creative collective founded in 2002 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Her custom apparel and accessories have been worn by celebrities and featured in magazines such as Seventeen and InStyle. Jessie opened a second Edge of Urge location in Raleigh in 2014 and currently is developing the Mama Bear Project, an entrepreneurship center and makers’ space that will serve as a launch pad for emerging designers and artisans. Jessie holds a BFA from the School of Art Institute in Chicago and today resides in Raleigh with her rescue dog/ partner in crime Linwood.
this talk is brought to you by Edge of Urge
by Owen Jordan with RESQD
About the Talk
Remember those times where you were told to quit? Here's how Owen adjusted instead of giving up.
About the Speaker
Owen Jordan is a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment Maker, as well as the founder of RESQD. Through RESQD he has worked with schools in Bali, Kenya and Guatemala to fund education supplies for orphans by selling their art in the form of clothing and canvas prints. He is passionate about character, faith, education and developmental giving. He is a facilitator for change and finds great value in working with communities and embracing their perspectives. Owen is part of the NC State alumni and has a background in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Sustainable Business.
this talk is brought to you by RESQD
Locus of Control
by Sean Maroni with Betaversity
About the Talk
Having been in makerspaces for the last 3 years, I've seen a lot of failure. Inventions that didn't work, "companies" that failed, and events that no one attended. My talk is going to be about a person's locus of control drives their failure response, and one way that we can rebuild self-efficacy in our society.
About the Speaker
Sean Newman Maroni is the co-founder and CEO of Betaversity, a startup that offers an engineering project portfolio tool and BetaBox Mobile Prototyping Labs. Maroni is a mechanical engineer passionate about making learning-by-doing accessible to every student and helping those students find careers that perfectly suit their skills. Maroni is a systems thinker who has worked with organizations like the Stanford Epicenter, NSF, and North Carolina New Schools to connect forward thinking educational organizations with the broader business community.
this talk is brought to you by Betaversity
Don't Sweat the Drops
a breakout session with Paul Miller and Dawn Daria
About the Session
Entrepreneurs are constantly thrown curve balls. How well do you react/adapt/pivot when things don't go as planned? Join Skoyz Wellness for an energizing and interactive session that teaches juggling and in the process redefines the experience of "failure." The workshop makes juggling accessible to everyone - even those of you that think you "can't juggle." Make the time to drop, laugh, and learn.
About the Leaders
Paul's early career experiences in the hospitality industry and street performing where unhappy customers could just walk away taught him that connecting with your audience is at the core of customer service. An award winning educator and author, Dawn loves to inspire individuals to step out of their comfort zone in order to discover something new about themselves, each other, and the world. In 2013, Paul and Dawn co-founded Skoyz Wellness to provide companies with a tool to increase productivity and improve whole person wellness by making individuals, teams, and organizations stronger.
this session is brought to you by Skoyz Wellness
Catered Lunch
Vulnerability, The Art of Connection
by Matt Whitley with Happy + Hale
About the Talk
The culture of “looking good” and “being right” isolates and builds a false sense of security. It keeps us stuck in the trivial. It’s time we peel back the layers, and get to the REAL of life. Authentic, meaningful connection awaits; but no “cool cards” allowed. Prepare to engage. This topic will test preconceived notions. Your participation may cause a lasting impact to your life.
About the Speaker
Long hugs are my daily multivitamin. My secret love is to sing. Dancing brings me joy. I’m a local boy, born in Greensboro; went to school at NC State; and Co-Founder of Happy and Hale.
this talk is brought to you by Happy + Hale
Success and Failure
by Jeff Hoffman, Co-Founder of Priceline
About the Speaker
Jeff Hoffman is a successful entrepreneur, proven CEO, worldwide motivational speaker, Hollywood film producer, and a producer of a Grammy winning jazz album in 2015. In his career, he has been the founder of multiple startups, he has been the CEO of both public and private companies, and he has served as a senior executive in many capacities. Jeff has been part of a number of well-known companies, including Priceline.com. uBid.com, CTI, ColorJar, and more.
this talk is brought to you by Orate
My Startup Story
by Jess Ekstrom with Headbands for Hope
About the Talk
I will be talking about my startup story with Headbands of Hope and the struggles and triumphs along the way.
About the Speaker
Jess Ekstrom is the founder and CEO of Headbands of Hope, a company that gives a headband to a child with cancer and funding to research with every purchase. She's been featured on the Today Show, Forbes, Entrepreneur and much more. But more importantly, she's been able to help tens of thousands of kids who deserve them. Jess is also a public speaker at campuses and corporations and author of The Freshman Fabulous The Girl's Guide to College.
this talk is brought to you by Headbands for Hope
Improv Everywhere
a breakout session with Wade Minter
About the Session
If you’ve ever seen Whose Line Is It Anyway, you know that improvisers can make something out of just about anything, and can make failure highly entertaining. In this workshop, a longtime improv performer and startup CTO will lead you through some games and exercises that will help you treat failure as just another source of inspiration. This isn’t fire-walking or drum circles, but a fast, on-your-feet hour that will give you real skills to take with you.
About the Leaders
H. Wade Minter is the Chief Technology Officer of AdWerx, a Durham startup that brings the power of big-company advertising to very small businesses. He is also the ring announcer for a professional wrestling federation. The two jobs are frighteningly similar.
this session is brought to you by Wade Minter
Overcoming Adversity
by Nation Hahn with The Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation
About the Talk
Sometimes failure is your fault. Sometimes you fail forward. At other times you are dealt an adverse hand -- and in those times the only thing that you can control is how you react.
About the Speaker
As Director of Engagement at Raleigh-based New Kind, Nation Hahn focuses on dynamic storytelling across digital platforms, building a digital culture for brands and organizations, guiding online communities, message development, and strategic communications.
this talk is brought to you by New Kind
Failure as Knowledge
by Kelly Phoenix with Nourish International
About the Talk
When I joined the team at Nourish International I was given what seemed an insurmountable task. Three years later, I look back and see twice as many failures as successes. These failures have defined our success and increased our knowledge and impact on the people we serve. For any social enterprise, failure is knowledge, and knowledge is success.
About the Speaker
Kelly holds board positions with Nourish International, Passage Home and the UNC Young Alumni Leadership Council. She is also a co-founder and advisor with the Raleigh Hub Global Shapers Hub of the World Economic Forum. Kelly was recently recognized as one of the Top 40 Leaders under 40 Years Old by the Triangle Business Journal and named as a National Co-Host of the Millennium Campus Conference. Kelly currently resides in Durham, North Carolina and enjoys theater, live comedy, music, reading, and travel.
this talk is brought to you by Nourish International
Fundamentally Speaking!
hosted by Toastmasters
About the Session
Becoming an effective communicator is the most important aspect of networking, developing relationships, sharing ideas, presenting information ... even making a pitch! How you communicate dictates success or failure in all aspects of life! How would you rate your communication and speaking effectiveness? In this session, you'll learn the fundamentals of dynamic speaking from experienced Toastmasters and professional public speakers. You'll better understand how to organize and deliver ideas that will make extraordinary impressions. You'll also leave feeling empowered and equipped with a strategy to enhance your communication to the next higher level. Learn the fundamentals of speaking!
About the Leaders
Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. With 313,000 members worldwide, Toastmasters' mission is to empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.
this session is brought to you by Cityzen
Brainstorming Over Beer
Corporate Engagement by Innovate Raleigh
About the Session
It doesn’t matter the size of the company, from the biggest to the smallest, they all have their challenges. Join us for an un-conference style brainstorming session alongside representatives from some of the area’s larger corporations, including IBM and The Wooten Company Consulting Engineers.
About the Leaders
The Corporate Engagement Team for Innovate Raleigh are excited to bring you this session. Innovate Raleigh is committed to making Raleigh one of the top 5 cities for innovation in the nation. Engaging corporations in the startup world – and vice versa - is part of it. Be a part of history!
this session is brought to you by Big Boss
continue to fail

Venue Information

William Cozart Warehouse

319 S. West Street, Raleigh NC 27603

Experience the transition of the Warehouse District in Raleigh, NC first hand! Come network in the first and last HQ Raleigh event of the William Cozart Warehouse before the site is demolished or renovated. Street parking is available (but rare) while parking in the nearby "The Raleigh Depot" is just $5 for the day.

(Un)failing Sponsors

Event Team