Failing forward: How I learned to trust smarter as an entrepreneur

Emily Forbes reveals how when she first launched Seenit, she was so excited about the idea that she told everyone she met about it. Unfortunately, that led to some people trying to steal the concept

Failing forward: How I learned to trust smarter as an entrepreneur

I founded Seenit in January 2014 and am now the CEO running the business day-to-day with my team. I don’t have a tech background – I started out in film production at Working Title, before working on film sets and then moved into advertising in South Africa where I created behind the scenes films focused on the country’s wildlife.

I got the idea for Seenit when I went to film a protest. I saw that everyone was already filming it on their smartphones but with one huge differnece: their footage felt real, personal and authentic. Seeing this left me with the drive to find a way to enable people to share their experiences. The result was Seenit.

However, while I’m generally a very trusting person, I quickly learned how important it is to have your wits about you in business and not to trust everyone you meet.

Because I’m so passionate about Seenit, I have opened up to a lot of people about my idea, my challenges and my business plans and unfortunately a few people have used this information against me. So far, I have had three people try to replicate my business, none of which are running today.

The first time it happened it was someone I knew, who tried to replicate the business idea. This person has been continually pivoting the business since. Even though I was upset, I decided to invest that energy into Seenit rather than fighting it. I found my network of other founders really helpful as many of them have gone through a similar process.

While it was quite unnerving at the time, I’ve come to realise that you need sheer drive to start and grow a business which none of these people had. What I’ve realised is that when you meet someone for a coffee, you’re only ever going to give them the tip of the iceberg about your idea. They’ll never really have all the things that make it work – like the strategy and the vision – so it can never be exactly replicated.

They say Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Someone obviously believes in your idea if they spent time on trying to replicate it, which has made me more motivated and enabled me to stay focused. Challenges will arise and if people want to replicate your business or give it a go themselves, take it as flattery, stay focused and use it to speed you up. The market is also huge, educating the market is half the battle and remember that other similar products aren’t necessarily going to be as good.

I’m also a huge believer in karma, what goes around comes around. Karma is a good way to live and a great mindset to have especially in business. It’s so easy to look at others and think, they have more money, a bigger team, they’re going to do better than me, but you have to stay focused.

I’m excited about what the future brings for Seenit, especially since being shortlisted for the prestigious Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award. I really hope this will help put creative people on the map as entrepreneurs; so many of us are put in the box from having an art school background and told you can’t go into business but hopefully I’m showing that the opposite is true.

Emily Forbes
Emily Forbes

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