A personal note on failure

It’s easy to share accomplishments and exciting updates, but sharing our failures does not come as naturally. Yet entrepreneurs fail constantly. The best of them dust themselves off, learn their lessons, swallow their pride, and get back at it again. 

Almost two years ago we set off on a crazy challenge: to create a TV show that would help change the narrative served up to us by the mainstream media; to change the conversation from all that is going wrong with the world to all that people are doing about it. We wanted to make social innovation exciting; to take it off the pages of obscure publications like the Stanford Social Innovation Review and bring it to life for all to see and understand on TV or online.

As entrepreneurs do, we hustled. We hustled hard. We networked, crowdfunded, pitched to the media and to pretty much everyone who would listen. People – many of whom we know, many who were complete strangers – showed up for us in a huge way. Our Kickstarter raised 250%, was shared thousands of times, and we got a bunch of media coverage.

Feeling excited, honoured and slightly terrified, we set out to shoot the pilot episode – our first foray into documentary. The experience was as incredible as it was challenging, from the logistics of filming in a country emerging out of decades of dictatorship, to crafting the best story we could during countless late nights with our editor. It took over our lives, and we loved it.

The end result was a pilot episode, released a year ago this month. UPLIFT: Myanmar got us a shopping agreement with the amazing Toronto and L.A.-based production company The ShootingStar Film Co (CNN, Travel Channel, National Geographic, Esquire TV, and more) to develop UPLIFT into a TV series. Together, we planned an entire season of UPLIFT, created budgets and pitching materials, and pitched to every broadcaster we thought might be a good fit.

In the end, none of those efforts came to fruition, though, to be sure, we had some hopeful moments: we were offered $100K from a private investor were the show to go into production, and a U.S. network invited us to pitch them a similar show around peace & human rights… which we created and then the network unexpectedly shut down.

The pilot on Youtube has nearly 23K views. On one hand it feels awesome to know it reached that many people; on the other, let’s be honest, it’s a far cry from the numbers we quietly dreamed of. It’s been a mind-blowing, formative and thrilling journey. It’s also been an exhausting one, and sometimes it feels like we let our backers and ourselves down.

The experience has shaped us in many ways. Barnabe has spent many months working on a Solutions Journalism accelerator at CSI to support solutions journalists and media entrepreneurs, and there’s no doubt the experience of making UPLIFT inspired this work. Nisha is determined that “education through entertainment” is a way forward, and is working on ways to work her PhD studies into the next show we write.

But as for UPLIFT, well, at some point you’ve knocked on so many doors you’re just not sure what more you can do.

We’re posting the pilot on Facebook to say farewell to this project and a HUGE thank you to the many, many people who helped and encouraged us. It doesn’t mean we won’t make a show about how people are responding to social and environmental challenges one day; it just means that for now, it doesn’t look like it will be UPLIFT.

Anyways, the point of this post, to cut it off before it drags on any longer, is just to say this: we failed. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but we failed. We know there are many entrepreneurs and artists who get how that feels.

So there it is. This project is over, but we’re definitely not done yet.

 <3 Barnabe & Nisha