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Anyone with any skin in the game will tell you that being an entrepreneur is hard, damn work. There are peaks and valleys that people outside of entrepreneurism don’t understand.
Even at our heights of greatest glory on paper, there can still be the threat of failure. Most people who work a “day job” can’t comprehend that.
People outside of the entrepreneurial space may see the owner of a thriving company and say, “Man, he’s got it made.” Often, it’s not quite that way.
On The Art of Making Things Happen, we discussed how to come back stronger after failure.
We sat down with Eli Harris, co-founder of R-Zero. He explained his journey into entrepreneurism.
He went from getting listed as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 to state takeovers of his company in the span of a year. It’s all here.
For a deeper insight into how to come back stronger after failure, read on.
Life in the Far East, Entrepreneurial Success, and Recognition
Eli started his journey as an employee, except it wasn’t the traditional route. Instead, he started in China under some Fulbright Scholarships. He was working in foreign services.
That was until he walked into a bar in Shanghai and bumped into a gentleman wearing a Santa Barbara t-shirt. That led him into his first foray with entrepreneurism.
The company created lithium-ion batteries that beat Honda’s gas generator. He managed the company as CEO with two other partners. It was very successful. In a few years, they built two manufacturing plants. They also had over a hundred employees and shipped to 37 different countries.
All his success came with a new title: Forbes 30 Under 30.
Failure, State Takeovers, and Going Home
Not long after the Forbes 30 Under 30 recognition, the company was set to sell. He had a buyer and agreement signed. Everything looked ripe for riding off into the sunset with millions.
Eli told his friends and family back home. He even sent texts to an ex-girlfriend to rub it in. Then, disaster struck. All three founders came from the same company. There was concern over whether the intellectual property came from their former employer.
That was not the case, but it still led to a full-scale investigation by the Chinese government. The company ready to buy pulled out on the deal, and they got caught holding the bag. Broke and desperate for solutions, the state agreed to buy the company for pennies on the dollar.
They had to close one of their plants and centralize their company to China. Then, as the company started to move forward, Eli got forced out. The state bought him out and ended up breaking even. For all his hard work, he walked away with nothing.
The Feelings That Followed
Dejected and defeated, Eli returned home to California. He had to face his family, his friends, and that ex-girlfriend. For all his hopes, he fell short of victory.
Thinking about it now brings up sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration, and embarrassment. When Eli returned home, he met with a therapist to deal with feelings of PTSD around the event.
Eli states that he had a lot of negative associations with it. He used these negative emotions as fuel. When COVID struck, he saw a problem that needed fixing.
Working with two mentors, they tackled the problem of outdated processes of disinfectants. Together, they formed the company R-Zero.
Coming Back From Failure
Today, Eli is a co-founder of R-Zero. It’s a company focused on solving the issue of disease control in a post-covid world.
In its first thirteen months, R-Zero has raised $60 million. This money came from the same funders of Tesla and SpaceX. They also earned $15 million in sales in the first five months.
Eli’s story, while unique, is not uncommon with top entrepreneurs. We hoped to highlight it to help entrepreneurs know they aren’t alone.