From Failing Forward to Thriving

How Entrepreneurial Learning Shapes Ecosystems


  • Roberta Dutra de Andrade University of Beira Interior - UBI
  • Anabela Dinis NECE – Research Center in Business Sciences, University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portugal
  • Paulo Pinheiro NECE – Research Center in Business Sciences, University of Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portugal



fail, failure, startups, Entrepreneurial Learning, Experiential Learning, Entrepreneurial Ecosystems


Drawing on entrepreneurial cognition and experiential learning theories, this article explores the complexities of entrepreneurial learning from business failure and its reflections on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Qualitative research was conducted through individual in-depth interviews and focus groups, and data were subjected to content analysis using NVivo software. The analysed data relate the nature of the failure to its reflections on entrepreneurial learning and the most relevant contents used in the resurgence of the entrepreneur. How the entrepreneurial ecosystem absorbs and recycles learning from failure impacting new business creation was analysed. This study explored emerging economies’ themes based on the triangulation of data from startups from different industries and maturity levels from the perspective of founding partners, directors and employees and incubator and accelerator managers. The article offers a vision of entrepreneurial learning due to exceptional failure. The results presented in this paper demonstrate that learning from a critical event profoundly impacts the performance of entrepreneurial ecosystems and influences their vocation and the accession of new ventures to the industries analysed. These results encourage research in areas such as learning to model or replicating the proposed approach in other ecosystems. In practical terms, the findings can support policymakers in identifying localised factors that can be leveraged to produce macro-level change by identifying appropriate incentives for social networks and experiential knowledge sharing. The article presents a new perspective on entrepreneurial learning. It offers evidence that micro-learning strategies adopted and developed after critical events impact the performance of the entrepreneurial ecosystem related to the creation and diffusion of new ventures.