If I got a dollar for the amount of times I have heard that in the last few months…..(I would be so much richer). This is a short blogpost, I will talk about my thoughts on that statement as a founder who’s startup isn’t quite working.
My startup was my initiative after the tragic life event where I nearly died and had a brain injury i.e. my accident. That moment was a bit of an eye opener for me, I realised that “life is not short but it’s very unpredictable”, hence if I need to do something, it’s either now or never. Having my own company was something that I had always wanted to do but for some reason, I kept pushing it back. So after my accident, it was either now or never for my startup. You may think that I would have made an impulsive decision and quit my day job (still had it after accident), however I did not. Despite, my world falling apart around me (marriage plans cancelled, breakup, cannot walk etc etc), I did not loose foresight. I knew starting my own startup would mean that I wouldn’t have any stable income for some time. Hence I did not quit my day job as a full-stack developer but kept working for another 17 months. Why so long? well….
- I wanted to save up money to support myself while I establish my startup
- I really enjoyed the project I was working on 🙂 The work was on a large codebase for a system that did Geospatial visualisation i.e. real-time mapping of various entities in a mine site, awesome! That codebase was massive and it presented an incredibly fun debugging challenge! Very often, I had to debug 50,000+ lines of code for external libraries that we didn’t write but were a part of the project 😌
After I quit my job and got onboard my startup, it’s been a tough, lonely and a downright depressing (sometimes) journey. One of the reasons, for it would be the fact that I am not a business person? or I wasn’t and lacked a clear vision for my startup early on. I have 2 degrees, both of which are in computer science and that too hardcore computer science, with research in Artificial Intelligence and image processing (computer vision). So naturally I had no idea about how to run a business or business models of the app world such as paid, freemium, paymium etc. Anyway as the years passed, I stumbled (a lot) and learned a lot of things along the way. This year, has been somewhat better than the years before, we are seeing a minor increase in revenues, the user feedback etc. However,
The last few months….
These last few months have been more challenging, it’s been nearly 4 years and some people close to me keep reminding me my startup isn’t working and I should go work for someone. I am a full-stack developer who can code native iOS apps, Hybrid apps with Ionic/Angular, have an academic background in machine learning research, so I know I could be earning some good money working for someone. I realise this quite well, but doing this startup was my choice, no one forced me to do so, I willingly quit my day job to pursue this and now people are questioning it as a poor life choice? Hmm, I don’t think it was a poor life choice, I thought about this carefully and I went into the startup world after getting 2 degrees and 6 years of commercial experience. Unlike a majority of the student led “entrepreneur” projects at my old university, my startup wasn’t just some extra curricular activity that I got involved in while at university.
Before going into the startup world, people told me the startup journey is difficult, but I don’t think I fully understood what they meant. I now realise that it’s not just about working with fewer resources or wearing many hats, it’s also about being surrounded by people who keep doubting your decision to do so. I always had startup burnouts where I felt down and low, but now the problem is compounded with being around people who question my decision to pursue my startup. So what do I do? Honestly, I am not sure yet, my solution would be to keep focusing on what I do best i.e. develop but that too, can be affected at times. Can I ignore the people who doubt me? hmm, they are an important part of my life, so ignoring them is NOT an option.
What can I do?
The only thing that I think I can do is when I plan my business schedule, factor in 10-15% extra time for every task just to account for the time lost when people close to me tell me “your startup isn’t working“. In the past every time I’ve had an argument related to this, my focus has gone a bit off-track.
I just heard this morning, “your startup is obviously not working, otherwise you would have hired people” this was actually one of the lessons I learned. After the first year of my startup, I tried to expand and in hindsight I was trying to expand too soon. We moved to an incubator space and I decided to hire some interns and some freelancers for short one-off work. At it’s peak my startup, had 6 other people working with me. I know now that it was a mistake, I should have just focused on my strengths and maximised the use of my core skill i.e. software development and pushed forward software wise to increase revenues, so I can hire someone full-time. As of this year, I have started doing just that, the startup downloads/revenues are up from what they were last year and I have released 4 new apps so far. You can see them here, that also includes my first app that does natural language processing i.e. it can transcribe whatever you say to text. I know a ton of people with great ideas that don’t go anywhere as they lack development skills and here I was, trying to suppress one of my biggest strengths, when my startup could have benefited from me focusing on it.
This is something that I have had to deal with in my startup journey, maybe other founders go through this too? Anyway this was my take on this.
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