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Ask HN: When to quit and when to stick
7 points by contemplative1 1413 days ago | hide | past | web | 6 comments | favorite
Hello HN,

A bit of background: I'm the co-founder of a small startup/development shop (2 guys). We've been going since 2007 and have had a "meh" response to some of our SaaS offerings, while a couple have been partially successful but would in no way support the company on their own.

The problem: my co-founder is leaving, and continuing the company doing the generally uninspiring paid work which has become the norm does not appeal. Paid work was intended to provide capital for building products of our own - not as an end in itself. And, over the last couple of years, enthusiasm wained for building new services, mundanity crept in, and the company increasingly relied on client work until no aspiration for our own work remained. We're loved by the clients we work for and it's been worth it financially, but I don't find the majority of work inspiring, challenging or worthwhile (sounds bad but I'd love to work on stuff provided real value).

So, by the end of the year, I'm going to be left in control of the company with no clear idea what the next step should/could be.

Has anyone turned their directionless company around when a founder has left? Did you close the company and make a new start? It would be massively helpful to get outsiders' views.

The alternative is get a job which would require moving somewhere with more opportunity and selling the house (done the work-on-my-own thing for too long now and I need to work with real people again!), since where I'm based has zero tech sector/community.

If it comes down to "Suck it up and get a job!" that's fine, and it's quite probably an inane question, but I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks but I'm too "in" the situation to think clearly.

All thoughts and opinions welcome!

Hey Thanks for posting an honest and heartfelt post. At the end of the day, there is no right answer. If you feel inspired by an idea/concept then you should absolutely pivot and use the resources you have to build a new thing. You might be able to find a new co-founder (perhaps someone non-technical) who has an awesome idea and who can give you a new wave of enthusiasm. It's amazing how quickly a "meh" feeling can turn into a "wow this could really work" if you got excited about an idea/co-founder/etc.

The advantages of getting a real job are that you'll feel better immediately. But it's a big sacrifice. After a while a real job might start feeling stifiling. You report to someone. You have to do what they say. You're not in control of your destiny. We all have start-up fatigue sometimes and I have days when I wish I worked for someone and could just relax and just exist without having to swim upstream every day. But I was not that happy when I had a real job because I felt a bit like a cog in a machine and didn't feel inspired by it in the end.

One thing: When a choice is really hard, it means that both options are good. If you get a job, you can still start a company again later. If you start a new venture/pivot now, you can still decide it's not working 6 months from now and go get a job.

Follow your gut. Your gut always knows best!

"It is not good for man to be alone" is a phrase found in LDS ("Mormon") theology, that was spoken, purportedly, in the Garden of Eden. I am more responding to the http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4905386 blog post. Don't know if this Canadian IT CEO who works alone in his office is single or married. As a man married nearly 33 years, to one wife, and we being the parents of 9 children, I have been self-employed all but a handful of months (at the beginning) of those nearly 33 years. And, for the bulk of that time, I too, have long worked alone in an office.

Now I work out of my home, and the bulk of that, too, now, I am alone for.

Like the owner of that blog, I am also (now) an extrovert. But I am a man of many interests. I take some time out during my day to respond online to such things, as this, that interest me. That helps me in a small way to connect to others in somewhat similar situations.

But, being married, and having the physical intimacy that that should include helps to carry me a long way through otherwise difficult to bear circumstances.

Perhaps you could use an assistant or some other way get the cameraderie you enjoy. Or, maybe, you need to get another job like you had before. Don't know how many options are viable for you?

It sounds to me like the company has no heart or soul, thus was stillborn to begin with. You wanted to be independent and work on things that were inspiring and meaningful to you. You got the independence but not the inspiring and meaningful work. Doing more of the same is not likely to remedy it.

You are sick of working on your own and isolated. With what little you have written here, it sounds to me like getting a job elsewhere and moving would be the best option currently. Once you are in a more vibrant work setting, you might find something which inspires you. I would suggest that you start another company only if/when you find that inspiration, that thing which strikes you as meaningful.

Until then, it sounds like client work vs. a job is "six of one or a half dozen of the other". They are both just a means to pay the bills. But, in this case, a job has the benefit of pulling you out of your current rut. It sounds like that is the better way to bet, the thing which has more promise for ultimately leading to a business which might thrive.

Clear analysis from the outside. Thanks

I have not dealt with this situation so I can only offer my own opinion.

What's important is for you to figure out what you would like to do. As the founder of the company, you're the one who sets the direction of the company. As the sole founder, the company is you.

My recommendation is to try and take some time off, if possible, to figure out what it is you would like to do. Don't think of the company. Only yourself. If you discover what you want to do, then go and do it. If you don't, no worries. You can always get a job, and continue to think about what you would like to do on the side.

As for the company, you can choose to do with it as you please. You could turn it into a side business to keep it going. Hire someone full-time to help with the work. Or you could try and sell the company to someone. Or just shut it down. Later, when you discover something you really want to do and are ready to do it again, you could always start up another company.

Hope this helps a little.

Thanks, appreciated.

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