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My Startup Failed, But It's OK (coderholic.com)
146 points by coderholic on Jan 28, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments

Can you give an example or two of mistakes that you had read about "in the abstract" and how they manifested in your particular case?

Like you, I've found myself in situations where I realize after the fact, "oh, that's what they were all warning against!" It might have been sunk in better if I'd been given a practical example rather than abstract advice.

Fail fast, don't work on features that nobody will use, try to avoid spending lots of time on fundraising etc etc. Without the context it's really hard to see how those things apply to your situation, even though they sound like good advice.

dlevine puts it really really well in another comment - "Once you make the mistake, you will try to avoid the pain it caused by doing something different the next time."

I can't speak for the OP, but 2 that have gotten me are t-shirts and advertising.



Personally, I'm waiting for you guys to go again. From, HNLondon meetups, to busmapper to donothingfor2minutes, to the turntable hack, I haven't meet anyone with so much executing power. Having that many successes in such a short time is not luck.

[PS. If you do set sail again, give me a shout. Shipmate Chester Grant reporting for duty.]

Second that! Great post, Ben. Keep up the great work.

Thanks for the positive comments. Really appreciated!

I think this is one of the most meaningful lessons I've taken away from a 'this is where my startup is' post. Hearing someone say "I've failed and its ok" helps me think a bit more clearly about where I want to take my own ventures.

Thank you.

I wholeheartedly agree. It's not the failures that make an entrepreneur, it's the lessons that you learn along the way and the fact that you put yourself out there and keep on trying.

Thank you for your article ansd post.

One thing I learned from failing tough is to fail fast and do not waste time making something work that doesn't work at this time.

I agree it can be a positive. Actually, before I really even knew much programming I built an online paintball ecommerce store (using a CMS system that I just customized with my HTML knowledge, etc), I had some business experience that I used to gain vendor accounts with companies, etc and actually was able to move tens of thousands of dollars of products through the site over a few months (exploiting a discontinued item I was able to buy in large quantities that people still wanted) but then it fizzled out, I didn't have the technical knowledge to build the site into my vision but it left me hungry and wanting to learn more, I can fairly confidently say it directly lead to my becoming a professional programmer as I became interested in learning how to build what I had wanted to build originally, I think there's always a positive to take away from things like this.

I have discovered that the only real way to learn is to make mistakes. You can read about mistakes in a book, but until you actually make them and experience the consequences, you haven't really learned. Once you make the mistake, you will try to avoid the pain it caused by doing something different the next time. This applies not just to startups, but to pretty much everything.

Case in point - my first startup failed as well. We tried to do things the "right way," but we still made tons of mistakes. But we learned, and at the very least my second startup has gone significantly further than the first because I have avoided some of the mistakes I made the first time around. For example, I picked a cofounder who had skills that I didn't have on the founding team the first time around. Those skills have allowed us to succeed where we failed before.

Really well put! Until you've experienced something yourself you think "Oh, that sounds like good advice. I'll try to do that", but you're not actively on the lookout for when you should be applying it. Once you've learnt it the hard way though, that pain means you won't forget, and you'll definitely be actively trying to avoid it in the future.

Thanks for writing this up, and I know exactly what you mean about making all the mistakes you've read about. I've been there too. If you're smart, you only need to make them once. I'm still making a few of them over and over.

I'm also happy to see that most of the comments here are positive. I'm sure you'll get some "Oh, well you should have just done ..." crap here too, but you probably know to ignore that by now.

Good luck in your future ventures and just keep at it. There's no guarantee you'll ever be successful, but doing nothing guarantees that you won't.

I think one of the most valuable points made in the article is the opportunities that came out of the failure. The default of staying in your current job is a choice too, and one that people often don't judge against the risks of moving on.

The night is darkest just before the dawn. Are you sure you fail?

The cliches are strongest from a distance.

Funny. The other guy is right though, its generally when things seem like they're really fscked that they change.

Maybe because desperation forces people to think differently? I don't know, but its worked for me.

I really hate this cliche when applied to startups. Here's how I see it:

The night is darkest just before the dawn...or before it somehow gets even darker.

We read a lot of "I stuck it out 1 more day and then we got rich" stories but it's the same survivor bias that we see in all the startup stories. I would wager that for every 5 companies that "just don't give up", 4 of them eventually give up. But, the 4 that give up don't write self-congratulatory blog posts and give interviews about their failure. So, we only hear about the 1, never about the 4.

Great post, really agree that some lessons can only be learnt 'the hard way'. And they will only make you stronger for your next venture.

You had 50,000 users. How did you determine Geomium was a failure?

We failed to raise our seed round of funding, so essentially we ran out of money and couldn't continue working on it.

As for why we failed to raise money, we were in a crowded space and investors wanted to see some really strong breakaway growth before they'd back us, and we didn't deliver.

Is this your site? http://geomium.com/

The site doesn't look like it's too resource intensive. Why not bootstrap it? You could get a dedicated box for a couple of hundred bucks per/month and then do some consulting to pay for it/your living expenses.

You definitely got some traction. I wouldn't give it up just yet.

That's the new bootstrapped version :)

Originally it was a location based "awareness" platform, with people, places, events and deals. The iOS app was the main part, and that's what I pulled. I focused the site down to just events, and now that's running on a single server. It's far from the original vision though, and no longer my main focus.

What would you have done different if you had the opportunity to try again?

Try and fail faster.

The best thing is that you're not complaining. This makes you a hero.

Great post - straight from the heart and full of courage

"try try again"

This post is frustratingly vague. It almost reads as pure HN-bait, promising some honest insights to call attention to your new ventures yet without actually relating something of substance. I don't mind that you get attention as you sound deserving, just dont tease us.

I'd say about 99 percent of us are not in your shoes. Do you really think you can say "Not only were none of the mistakes we made novel, a lot of them were mistakes I'd read about before and was sure I'd avoid." and think that most of us, even on HN, know what you mean?

I wasn't being intentionally vague, it's just that there have been a lot of posts talking about exactly went wrong with startups and there seems to be a lot of overlap. I linked to an excellent article that covers mistakes first time entrepreneurs make, and I made many of them (and it seems many others have too). Rather than covering ground that's already been covered a fair amount I thought I'd share what were the biggest 2 takeaways for me personally.

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