It's a bit sad to see. Especially because i believe that many people here know (or should know) how complex these topics are.
In my opinion great article. Thanks for sharing that honestly.
I wish him luck and wholeheartedly thank him for making that post.
(ie, each showing requires staff at the very least to collect tickets - he makes reference to smoking and drinking with the bar staff).
That's the sort of problem that, if you come across it, and you're already low on energy + resources, is enough to finish it off.
> I still had a job, which made everything near impossible, that I couldn’t afford to quit. I worked during the day as a report writer, snuck in emails and business calls for Altsie over my lunch, and worked late into the night to take care of hundreds of necessary details to keep the project going.
> Despite my downward physical spiral, I managed to marry the love of my life
I appreciate that people have lives too but you just can't do two jobs and have a personal life. Sorry. Something has to give. I've read many tales of where having just the startup has put a strain on personal relationships.
I wonder what the situation was with the cofounders. How many were there? Were they full-time? If so, that could be a problem (in that they might end up feeling that they've gone "all in" when you haven't).
> Two years building and eight months running Altsie took its toll.
Two years to launch? i wonder how much quicker it would've been to launch if it had full-time resources. For something that isn't hugely technically sophisticated (correct me if I'm wrong but this doesn't sound like that kind of startup) that is (IMHO) too long. People talk about MVPs for a reason. You need to prove your idea and get feedback ASAP.
Whatever the case, eight months doesn't seem long enough to prove anything one way or the other.
I don't mean to be harsh so I apologize if it comes across that way. Lucas, good luck to you. I would suggest that when you wish to try your next venture (assuming you do), you do so when you can dedicate it to yourself full-time.
Sure you can. You just have to work at it, and get organized. For the last 2 and a half years, I've worked a 9-5 contracting gig, been CTO at a startup with major blue-chip clients, gotten married, learned to drive, released some open-source software, prototyped some software for another startup, and completed the first third of an MSc at a well-known university. Also I finally got my shit together, and lost a lot of weight.
And I often feel like I waste a lot of my time.
Is it easy? It's not that hard (or I wouldn't be doing it). You just need to be organized... I gave up drinking alcohol, which meant I don't lose precious hours to hangovers. My wife is also pretty busy, but we carve out two evenings a week and a whole day of weekend to just spend with each other (and often with friends), and that works well. I think the trick is to be _really strict_ about when you're working and when you're not working. Email by default only flashes up on my phone when it has the word 'urgent' added to the subject.
The amount people big-talk here about burning their bridges, full commitment, etc etc, I get the idea that everyone else is working their fingers to the bone, and I just don't feel that busy. I'm pretty tired by Friday night, but a lie-in until 8am on Saturday sorts me out. I don't think it'll work when I have kids, and I wouldn't want to do it forever, but it's certainly doable.
Putting just inside of a sentence doesn't suddenly make it easier. "It's easy, you just have to learn linear algebra". "It's easy, you just have to sleep less."
People's ability to organize seems to be part learned and part innate. You should count yourself blessed that the organization is just that easy for you :)
The ability of people to be organized (whether it is learned or innate) is widely varying, so it is reasonable to assume that the step "just be organized" is going to have a wide range of difficulties depending on the person.
Sure, it might not have worked out this time, as many startups don't, but I'm sure he learned a lot and maybe he'll give it another go sometime.
I'm currently in the process of running a startup, whilst maintaining a family and a full-time job. Is it ideal? Certainly not, but at this stage of my life it just isn't an option to quit my regular job. This doesn't represent a lack of dedication to what I am trying to achieve it simply diminishes the time that I have to work on it. That is fine with me though (and I suspect it was with the OP as he decided to take the journey in the first place). I'd rather try when my circumstances limit things, than not try at all.
Without a cofounder you can rely on, I can't see how you can make it work. I was lucky in that I didn't get too far in (well, I got in quite far) before I realised the guy's ethics were terrible. It was an interesting learning experience though, and I'm greatful for the opportunity. It's only a pity it cost my family time and money, but we'll rebuild.
I don't think all startups/ online projects require full time effort to ever see a return. I think this one likely does though, lots of moving parts and you have to convince distributors.
Perhaps one of them has an idea to cut costs, or would like to open source the code, or can line up a buyer for the assets, or ... something.
Telling your stakeholders/investors/cofounders after you've pulled the trigger seems like the exact backwards way to do it.
I think that is likely to be the problem. I think this is a great idea too, _BUT_ I've seen a few attempts to start up "indie movies in bars" type things here (in Sydney .au), and you seem to either get reasonable attendance numbers at free (or "donation requested") nights, or almost nobody showing up to show charging admission (even if it's as low as $5).
Between the film distributor, the venue, and the organiser - there's very little profit to be made anyway. Adding another person wanting a cut into the chain leaves even less money for each person's share, and I'm not sure a website (no matter how slick or well designed) adds enough value for the distributor/venue/organiser to want to give up some of their meager earnings.
I think this is much more a hyper-local marketing/advertising problem than anything a national-scale website can offer. The bottleneck is the venues, and the venues are only going to be interested on nights they're not already busy (or busy enough), which means you're only going to get Monday or Tuesday nights (or possibly Sundays). From my experience - that means you mostly only get "locals" showing up - it seems nobody wants to drive halfway across town on a Monday night to go to a bar and see a movie - back when one of my local bars was doing this (Jay Katz and Miss Death doing Monday nights at The Annandale), I'd guess more people turned up on foot or by bicycle than in cars. When your target customer is defined by "lives within 15 minutes walk of the venue", multi-city focused websites seem a lot less useful - I'd be concentrating my efforts on social media and posters/flyers placed appropriately around the venue...
(But maybe I'm wrong, I'd love it if somebody found a great angle, and make a huge success out of this idea… Once you reached critical mass with it, it'd be wonderful to expect to be able to hit the "cool indie movies in bars" website and find something interesting and fun to do on a Monday night in Melbourne or Portland or Vancouver or Berlin…)
That all assumes his fixed costs are low enough that he could let the business run like this while he continues he day job. This might not be the case though.
There are three parts to his business: the brand, his connections with indy film publishers, and the event organisation. From the sounds of it the later is what is taking most of his time and energy, but that's also the part that is has nothing to do with what makes his business unique. There are thousands of people who can organise an event. Many probably do it better than him.
The value of his business is in the brand and connections. His business doesn't even support one person's wage with three cities so a single location franchisee would have to be a hobbyist. Such a person has no time to be organizing the rights for screenings, designing and printing flyers or maintaining a website. For the franchisee, the chance to make a bit of pocket money doing something they're passionate about as a socializing film-lover, and to have Lucas handle the rest of the organization.
I'm expecting that many people will disagree with me on this, but I thought my view was worth putting out there.
Lucas says "I put three years of my life into building and running Altsie,..." ... "As we approached launch last May" and "Two years building and eight months running "
What are the expectations on a business where you are looking for people to integrate a new thing (going to a bar to catch an indie movie) into their lifestyle? A week? A month? a year? five years? If you look at the restaurant business most seem to require a 3 year 'boot' cycle, the first year nobody knows about them but perhaps the local food critic trys them. The second year they have some foot traffic and perhaps they get written up in a more widely distributed guide, then the third year they have people coming who have read about them in the guide or found them on their phone's 'maps' product and they get to see how successful they are going to be. I can't imagine that any idea which requires people to change their behaviors in the real world could really be tested in less than a year.
The other thing that was sad to read was this bit, "I’d signed up to fight on the front lines. I still had a job, which made everything near impossible, that I couldn’t afford to quit. I worked during the day as a report writer, snuck in emails and business calls for Altsie over my lunch, and worked late into the night to take care of hundreds of necessary details to keep the project going."
There is a reason YC and others ask you to quit your job if you're doing a startup. There isn't a lot of excess time. If you have a spouse or partner who can bring in enough income to pay the bills and maybe health care that is one thing, but being both the 'stable income source' and the primary mover of the new venture? Not a good idea as Lucas discovered.
Now the most important thing to do is to capture all of the things you learned into something you can use in the future. What worked? What didn't work? How did you spend your time, could you have out sourced any of that? What were your costs and how did you evaluate the business? What variables did you guess at? Did you guess high or low? People who have been through the ringer are twice as valuable as people who haven't done it yet because they have a better idea of what they need to know to make forward progress.
I hope that Lucas' next venture is a lot less stressful on his health/psyche and much more satisfying overall.
I have no idea how good a business idea that is (I guess not such a great one), but it sounds like a great idea and I wish something like it could be successful. In my moderately sized UK city it's impossible or very difficult to see a large proportion of new releases on a big screen.
Definitely identify with gaining weight. It's brutal how quickly you can fall out of shape.
After playing basketball 6 times a week since college I barely get out once every three months. I'm 30 now and feel 40.
Aside from the up and down roller coaster ride, the hardest part for me has been balancing a relationship that began at roughly the same time that my co-founder and I went into business together. I have no idea how you could possibly balance anything else (like a real job) outside of a startup and a new relationship for extended period of time.
There are times my relationship has been a distraction to our business. But well worth the juggling act :)
1. What pain does my idea solve?
2. Does it solve it for a large number of people?
3. Just how painful is it for not being solved?
Do you know plenty of people who are in pain because they can't find a venue to watch an indie flick? Does not being able to find an indie flick at an appropriate venue eat at their thoughts 24/7? Are they going to go nuts finding a solution if you don't provide one? How much money would solving this problem be worth to them?
Admittedly I know diddly about Altsie, and I'm not one for indie flicks, but let's compare Altsie to Airbnb. Airbnb solves a basic human need: that of housing. How painful is it when you don't have a house? Immensely. How much money are you willing to pay for a roof over your head? Thousands per year. How many people are searching for your solution. A shitload. Now replace housing with "Indie Flick", and objectively recalculate.
After doing so, you might think three years is a long, loooong time investment, hugely out of proportion to the level of pain Altsie solves, not to mention the price of solving that pain.
Yes, watching an indie flick in any venue is a problem. Distribution of indie flicks in general is a problem. Shows are usually organized by people from the production crew traveling from college campus to college campus by van. Many well-made movies are only shown in a couple of theaters because coordinating a proper release is beyond the capabilities of a small producer.
Considering you can make a movie with great production value for a million dollars nowadays, the distribution problem is only going to get more severe.
A movie is a couple hours entertainment to the viewers but a livelihood to the makers...
Maybe my city's unusual, but I don't know many viewers who are clamoring for more options to seen indie film. We've been losing small theaters left and right. My dad's a good example; he used to go to a bunch of indie movies, but has mainly shifted his viewing online.
This just doesn't sound like a painful enough problem for consumers, and it doesn't sound like one many people share.
So, on a scale of 1-10 in terms of "just how painful is it", where 10/10 = you just severed your femur, I'd rate my back pain a 6/10. I'd rate my inability to find a local venue for an indie flick a 1/10. In other words, my inability to see indie flicks at cool bars around town doesn't even register with my psyche.
It turns out that lots of people have back pain. If I had to guess, probably more people have back pain than want to find a local venue to see indie flicks. I'd rate the back pain market size a 7/10. Not sure on the market size for finding local venues for indie flicks.
Airbnb does more than vacation rentals.
If you ask yourself "are there indie film makers absolutely desperate to find places willing to show their films", and "are there bar owners absolutely desperate to find ways of increasing their trade on a quiet Tuesday night", then I'm guessing the answer is "Absolutely".
And I'm also guessing that if somebody can do both services effectively enough, the two parties would happily pay a fair amount for that service.
I'm currently reading David Byrne's "How Music Works" and he's quite clearly talking about the need/opportunity for startups to plug the distribution gap for low volume indie musicians, and I don't see that the indie movie world is a great deal different to that.
I honestly don't think anyone understands what it really feels like to build a company until you do it. Before I started running my first startup, I thought that the hardship and mental anguish other people describe was somewhat like what I already experienced during hard times at other companies. It wasn't. You pour your heart and soul into a startup and push to the side your physical health, hobbies, family and basically everything else. Then after a year or more of doing everything possible to try and succeed, you potentially end up with nothing. Like Lucas says, you don't really end up with nothing, but it sure as hell feels like it at the time.
First, Altsie is a pretty awesome idea! I really like the idea of going to a bar to watch an indie movie, I'm sure producers would love to get their film shown, and bars want extra customers coming in. This is something that definitely could have worked.
Second, the technology behind this product is trivial, a 2 year build is a huge warning sign. I cannot find on the site or in this description anything that should be hard to put together, and the fact that Lucas spent a few years building this in his spare time instead of hiring someone to do it in a (few) week(s) shows a dangerous prioritization of money over time.
Third, it takes a strong presence of mind (or maybe just good communication with your partner) to realize that what you're doing isn't making you happy. Kudos on letting it go.
UPDATE: Must have been a bug. It has now been fixed.