Pondering the future at Mix N' Mentor, Piotr is seated at center.
My team and I are going through hard times. We hit rock bottom and are unsure if we should give up or not.
So many posts out there talk about the good stuff in startups. Not as many talk about the hard times; those that do are written by the depressed rather than the hopeful.
With this post, I hope to depict as clearly as possible the harshness of a startup, yet I hope to inspire others and my future self to not surrender to problems, and instead find solutions.
In the beginning, there was Beepl
In June 28, I committed the first @Swypeout line of code in github. My play was that six months from then, aka New Years’ Eve, I needed to be back in the valley. To do this, I needed to raise funds. To raise funds, I needed a team, a product, and traction by the third month, as it would take two or three months to fundraise.
Three months later
September 23rd, roughly three months later, we were a team of four; I’d hired three people in the preceding months. None of us had prior mobile gaming experience.
The app was on Android, and we had 800 downloads. It's meh I know, but with no money on marketing, and zero prior experience in mobile, I’m proud of what we did.
I pinged investors in my network, and yesterday, the one on the top of the list, said no. While the others didn’t say no outright, they were all skeptical regarding our lack of traction. Clearly, it’s hard to make a case for the fast pace this team has. It feels like investors look at numbers and forget about the wars the team was constantly fighting.
In the past 24 hours, I’ve been wandering around without a goal. Listening to a capella music. Speaking in monosyllables. Depressed.
When I look back at the past three months, I feel angry at myself.
I made so many mistakes. I was too optimistic as to what could be done in such a short period. I mean, it took a team of five SuperCell veterans, six months to release the first version of clash of clans, and I expected to deliver a game in three months, with a team that was built during that time and that had zero experience in gaming? I was also pitching an immature product to investors. That’s like guaranteed suicide!
During this time, I also made wrong decisions that diluted our focus. It couldn’t get any worse! Or could it?
I’ve been on a solo ride for more than a year now. My problems as a result are as follows:
- My social life is bruised. My friends live stable and happy lives and can’t relate to the depth of my struggle. I don’t blame them. But I’m lonely and it sucks to not have at least one supportive sounding board.
- My parents can’t stand my startup lifestyle. The risky life was never their thing and I’m grateful they supported me in the first place. But I guess, in their eyes I just crossed the limit.
- I’m going through my last cash reserves. Sometimes I joke and tell myself that I’m like Elon Musk, doing his last charge on Tesla and SpaceX. But who am I kidding? I’m not remotely close to who he is and probably never will be.
Emotionally, I know how to cope with such situations. I’ve looped enough motivational videos and read enough quotes to keep myself pumped up. Further, I know that just because you failed doesn’t make you a failure. That giving up is the ultimate failure. That when all hope is lost, it’s show time.
That its not about how hard you hit, but about how hard you can get hit and keep on moving forward.
But I still sat down in my room and cried. No so much because I failed, as much as how I had implicated others in my situation.
In my heart, I apologized to my team for letting them down.
To the players of Swypeout and the early users of Beepl.
I apologized to my friends who I stopped engaging normally with.
My family who put their hope in me, whom I had let down, again.
But most importantly, I asked myself for forgiveness because I failed to achieve what I promised myself. Will I be able to trust myself again on yet another promise and execute it? Or will self-doubt ruin every project I undertake ever again?
That’s a lot of maybes and lots of drama. There is nothing worse than indecision. While its good to be honest about one’s feelings, I’m an engineer. I solve problems. I don’t nag. Nagging doesn’t solve the problem.
I know that technically, it’s not over yet. I can still pull off this one last shot. It doesn’t matter if it will work. What matters is that I do it right this time.
I still have enough to survive for three months before having my bank account go totally dry. I can use that time to raise money from other investors, and maybe even start generating cash from in-app purchases.
However, with the feedback I’ve gotten so far from investors and friends, probably the best thing I should do is focus solely on Swypeout and hit a good download rate and revenue. If we can achieve substantial progress on those two fronts, we will at least have one success we can talk about and bait investors with.
I need you
In the meantime, I ask you, the community, to help me out with your feedback:
- Am I really on a suicidal mission and should I let it all down?
- How should I go by getting this game out there and reaching critical mass?
- Should I drop SwypeOut and get back to Beepl?
- What am I missing?
To boil it all down, we put a plan in motion, executed it, yet ultimately failed to reach our end goal. I don’t know if it is rational to continue the struggle or just let it all go.
But deep down, I know I’ll give it this one last shot. There’s a gold mine of mistakes we've learned from so far that I’m not going to just throw away yet! I’m just afraid that we’re on the wrong track!
I might have failed, but that doesn’t make me a failure. Maybe an underdog. A mean one.