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Ask HN: and now what?
169 points by shameonme on May 24, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 85 comments
I'm desperate.

I'm almost 38. Start programming at 10. Spent 7 years in video game industry as programmer, project manager, CTO. I tried during 5 years to create a "startup".

I still have a half time job that pay the bill and give me enough time to create something. During these 5 years I created a game, a tool for geeks, a B2B project and lot of more things. I created some projects alone, with CEO partners, CTO partners. Each time, I have no traction, negative feedback, I demotivating and then I stop the project. I read too much about pretotyping, MVP, lean startup, marketing.

Now I don't even know what to do. All ideas I have seems already made by someone else, and often better than I planned to do them. Each partners I meet seems too newbie to work with.

It's horrible because I have time and skills to do lot of things but nothing motivate me anymore. I think all those failures killed me and now I'm lost. What a waste.

If you have any advises, ways to help me, ideas, insult, whatever, shoot.

--- UPDATE: Thank you so much for your advises, I need to think about all this. I'll answer you one by one.

I'm on HN since 1400 days with a total of 42 karma point and never been on HN homepage. My anonymous account have more karam and on homepage in 30mn. What a pitty! but anyway, I'm not looking to be a star or for vanity metrics so it's not a problem.

Lot of people would love to enough money each month and free time to do whatever they want. It's a waste because I don't know what to do with this free time...

Everything is insipid for me. I have no hobby, no programming idea, no desire to meet people, travel whatever. When I try to get a hobby, I m fed up after a few try. When I go to nice tech event, I'm bored.

Seems like you've been going at 110% for a long time. My recommendation: take a break. A month at least, and just explore passions that you never had the time for during your adventures. Build something fun (I like go-karts and mini bikes), read about something totally new and unrelated to programming (history, evolutionary psychology, fiction), and challenge yourself physically (strength training and endurance).

It's easy to get caught in the echo chamber of the Startup world. The reality is, it is very hard to strike it rich in any industry. That doesn't mean we should stop trying, but just try to enjoy your life along the way by diversifying your time investment portfolio. That means that even if every attempt you make fails, you still enjoy the journey.

So go out there and have some fun. Don't worry, there will be plenty of opportunities for startups when you return.

This is beautiful advice - take it. I am experiencing a situation semi-analogous to the OP's. I've killed myself and my health over the last 7 years to get a startup "going". While our traction is decent, scale and growth aren't easy. And since we are a difficult to scale business, we find ourselves not easily raising good, inexpensive money. So we've been bootstrapping it for a long time and my health and my relationship with my family have taken a hit. I thought having strong revenues would alleviate alot of the pressure, but as they say, "more money - more problems". Meaning, more clients = more needs, more support, etc. And we have an anemic team to do this. I had become very moody, grumpy, unwilling to listen - a bit of a nightmare. It wasn't coming from a bad place, but I just wanted to get shit done and didn't have time for any extraneous chatter or "unimportant" details.

After fighting intermittantly with my cofounder and my wife, I decided I didn't want to be that way. I've burnt the candle on both ends long enough and I was out of wax. While I can't take the full month off like FD3SA is recommending, I significantly scaled back (for me) to only working 5.5 days a week and putting a big effort into working out at least 4 days a week. Also, spending quality time with my family, not just being in the same room while I stared at a laptop. Keeping a high priority on work, but also a similar priority on fun and on life in general. I've only been doing this for a couple of months and have seen a significant improvement on my productivity, a more harmonious working and family life, and just a better overall outlook on life.

There are a million great opportunities out there, especially in the tech space - but if you are burnt to a crisp and you are physically/mentally not in a good place, it's easy to not see them or to feel too defeated to want to tackle them. Take care of yourself - you'll appreciate it.

This is great advice, and OP, if you think this would be a waste of time, it is not.

Our brains get stimulated on new patterns. By doing something totally non-computer related higher level concepts will stimulate the higher regions of your brain and give you new perspectives and insights. These perspectives and insights will both work as a source of energy and motivation while you're coding, and the higher level patterns you learn doing a totally different task will help you "think outside the box" when writing software.

Go out there and stimulate that higher neocortex with some fresh patterns!

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, and get a full time job. You need to accept that you're not good enough to start your own company. It's okay, there are millions of people like you, like me and most people on HN.

Take a break, go on a vacation, and recharge your batteries. You have the skills to have a well-paid job, and a great life. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth just because you had a failed dream of being a millionaire through some startup. You can still have a great life from your skills, if you just step back and realize how lucky you are.

Good enough don't enter into it--luck more than anything.

The wrong product at the right time can help you laugh all the way to the bank, while the perfect product when nobody is buying will languish in obscurity.

Take a six month break from everything.

Come back and kick ass.

This advise should be the top-voted comment. Because this really works, all the time. If only the OP gave this a shot..

I agree with this. I'm just a few months into my break and already feel super motivated.

The worst place to start a startup from is "I have to start a startup." It's hard to do that even if you're awesome. Take a long break and don't do any startups.

Do some side projects, get interested in something. If you've got a lot of interests you'll invariably have a lot of inspiration.

If your inspiration consists of "FUCK I NEED AN IDEA" you'll probably fail miserably.

I'm desperate.

You may think you're desperate, but you're not. Keep reading...

I'm almost 38. Start programming at 10. Spent 7 years in video game industry as programmer, project manager, CTO.

None of that matters. Today is Day 0.

I tried during 5 years to create a "startup".

You don't "create a startup". You supply solutions to other people's problems. When you do that properly, a "startup" is often the byproduct. Focus on their needs, not yours, and allow the "startup" to evolve to what it should become instead of pushing some preconceived notion.

I still have a half time job that pay the bill and give me enough time to create something.

That's great! Fantastic, in fact. You have the best of all world's: enough income, enough time, and enough connections to other things and people to supply yourself with plenty of demands to supply. You're ahead of 95% of others already. So please stop feeling "desperate" and harness the excellent position you're already in.

During these 5 years I created a game, a tool for geeks, a B2B project and lot of more things. I created some projects alone, with CEO partners, CTO partners. Each time, I have no traction, negative feedback, I demotivating and then I stop the project.

a. Focus on what someone else needs. b. Limit the number of others and needs to streamline that focus. c. Work alone as long as you can. You may surprise yourself at how much you can accomplish.

I read too much about pretotyping, MVP, lean startup, marketing.

Then stop reading and start doing. When you reach the point where you don't know how to do something that you must do, then reach for help, reading or otherwise, but not before then. Allow yourself to be pulled by your customer's demands, not pushed by what you think you should be doing.

Now I don't even know what to do.

Find a customer.

All ideas I have seems already made by someone else, and often better than I planned to do them.

That's a good thing! You want other people's great ideas. It's your execution, not their idea, that will be your key to success.

Each partners I meet seems too newbie to work with.

Then work alone and learn what you have do when you need to.

It's horrible because I have time and skills to do lot of things but nothing motivate me anymore.

That's because you're too focused on yourself, and not enough on others. Concentrate on satisfying someone else's needs by supplying something excellent. That's almost always enough motivation. You'll see.

I think all those failures killed me and now I'm lost. What a waste.

They weren't failures, but necessary learning experiences to get where you are now. Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and Colonel Saunders all "failed" many more times than you have before they succeeded. And each one of them would tell you that those "failures" were necessary but not sufficient for success.

Take a deep breath, get rid of you're stinkin' thinkin', regroup, find a customer, and build something great. We both know you can do it. Best wishes.

It should also be noted that startups aren't for everyone. After reading PG's essays in ~2005, I realized there was too much stress and anguish in that path for my personal tastes. It turns out the idea of creating value is also a useful abstraction as an employee, and I've never regretted not going the startup route.

I agree, but looking at the way he has been trying hard to build something (doesn't matter whether he was building it for himself or someone else), I think he is pretty much a startup guy. Success is something unrelated altogether.

This should be pinned up on the wall, great summary.

Once this person gets focussed on solving problems for customers I think they will be very successful.

... solving problems for customers ...

Or just a solve a problem for a single customer.

For example, I started a business that solves a problem for a single customer (for a niche industry). After my customer signed up, my website now only displays a "log in" form (and not a "sign up" form).

Why? Because I'm more focused on providing a great experience more than worrying about scaling up or other problems I don't currently have...

What happens if that one customer leaves?


@topicstarter: consider taking a break. Things usually make more sense once you've taken a breather and focus on other things in life than "doing a startup". It can provide you with a new sense of perspective on your current situation (i.e. it's not as bad as you think it is).

Moreover, creating well executed solutions is a hard thing to do, period. Try adjusting your goals on what you hope to get out of your startup: not only financially but intrinsically as well. Setting the bar too high on day 1 is the same as setting yourself up for failure. Taking things one step at a time works much more motivating and allows you to iterate to your desired end-goal.

Also, consider reading up less about what others do. In particular, consider reading up less about other people's successes and so forth. They can easily create this feeling of "being a failure" for not having been able to achieve that just yet. Startups tend to fail more often than not, although I wouldn't necessarily be too comfortable to use the word "fail" in this context: it's often a necessary thing to learn what one did wrong and how one can improve. In that sense, you might want to take another look at your undertakings of the past few years :)

Those are all very solid points towards accomplishment, but I wanted to play devil's advocate for a moment. I'm in the same boat - started programming at 12, am 35 now with no real monetary success to speak of. However, I've gone deeper into computers than I ever thought I would. I could build a computer from the ground up, everything from logic gate design to mask layout to microcode and assembly language, up through the most abstract concurrent algorithms, networking, 3D, AI, you name it. So almost everything I read now feels old hat or a reincarnation of something discovered decades ago. People's ideas seem generally pedestrian, etc.

So I think perhaps it's good to take a step back and stop thinking in terms of what you should "do" and more in terms of what you would like your life to be like. If the current startup scene bores you because of an endless series of negative feedback, just realize that many of us feel the same way. The problem is very much the world's, not yours. It's always been that way, and always will be that way, for any individual in any time period. That's when I finally realized that no matter how hard I worked or how hard I tried, I could never achieve happiness through my accomplishments alone. That's a bitter pill to swallow for someone who built their life around self actualization.

I had a bit of a midlife crisis last year and let it all go, and tried a new way of deciding what to do based on whatever presented itself. If a problem had a smell to it, like I was halfway up Mt. Everest and had to reach the summit before I could even begin working on the crux of it, I said no to it. If you want to try some mantras to get through the day, maybe you could try picturing how to solve a problem without doing it yourself. Like, could you find someone to do it for you, could you do the problem after a few beers or on an island somewhere, things like that. That's how wealthy people approach problems, so you can copy what they do and even though you won't get wealthy right away, you'll start to earn income in the form of time and feel wealthier for less effort. Most problems don't require a superhuman effort to solve, they just require communication and teamwork and patience. A small multiplication of your efforts through others can surpass your own ability. Plenty of people have lived rich lives with no money to speak of.

Anyway, I wish I had some deep insight or miracle cure but I'm still trying to figure it out myself. I guess, whenever I'm not sure about something, I try to ask which option will reenfranchise the most people, or is most in line with how I would like the world to be in the future, regardless of the immediate benefit to myself. It's weird because if you start approaching the world in those terms, opportunities start falling in your lap, because people somehow sense that about others. There is plenty of wealth in the world, maybe a quadrillion dollars or some unfathomable number, so if the game is to be part of that, it's a more effective strategy for people to share it with you of their own accord than to somehow win it from them through sport. I guess that's why I'm starting to have more and more doubts that the startup scene can create the kind of world I want to live in, even though it's one of the best tools we've got right now. Probably the orders of magnitude higher per capita wealth on something like Star Trek is going to come from cooperativism and automating society's basic needs so that people are free to explore further into what it means to be human. So this musical chairs game people are playing with capital is distracting us from the infinite potential we each have inside us. Staying in the casino too long means you never won. Someone else did.

If you have kids or are responsible for someone, disregard my advice because I have absolutely no idea what to do in that situation. It scares the crap out of me. So I know I only have half a theory here and wish I knew how to generalize it.

I think it's interesting you mentioned a "Star Trek" society. I think that's what everyone one of us engineers who have any kind of altruism in them wants. If not, we're just automating jobs away, which is basically automating peoples lives away.

I don't know how to create that kind of society, but you're right, it's going to take a lot more than the current startup scene to do.

I'd also add:

> Each time, I have ... negative feedback

Great, you have the ability to focus and prioritise which is something people with positive feedback lack.

Though I guess the question I am most interested in hearing an answer to is: Why are you doing what you're doing?

If the answer is to do a startup, it's the wrong answer. If it's to solve problems and fill a need, then it may be the right answer if other people share that problem too and your solution works for them.

Answering "Why?" supplied the epiphany I needed to start building what people want.

That's great advice, but any tips on finding a customer?

See the link to my ebook in my profile. Chapter 10.

Wow that's amazing! Thanks for putting that together. I'm going to read it on my kindle later.

Have you checked out the completely free course on how to build a startup by Steve Blank? It's not as dumb or cheesy as it sounds. The guy knows a bit or two about what he's talking about. http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/ep245/ Give it a try. Worst that could happen is that you wasted a couple of hours getting slightly entertained.

We have some things in common - I'm 37 and started programming aged 9. I also got very burnt out, without realizing it, and then tried to start a bunch of "startups" without recovering properly.

I took about six months of very minimal contract programming work, at the same time as doing a lot of physical work on a "fixer-upper" house my wife and I bought in a cheap area. Then I settled on a project which I hope will turn into a startup, but which I'd be completely happy just working on anyway even if it never turns into a business - I'm just that interested in it. Consulting is still there to pay the bills.

Good luck!

Sounds like you were in industry from 2000-20007, right (just backtracking your timeline)? Those were some grueling years, and then the mobile/freemium avalanche hit.

You likely have a lot of native code experience, and probably dealt with annoying hardware issues, right (PowerPC, whatever)? Try getting a gig with somebody targeting embedded systems, or take some time off.

Live life for a bit, stop programming, and maybe attend the odd hackathon until you learn to love coding again.

Hit me up on email if you want to vent/chat/whatever.

I think your reply is interesting because you're advising taking specific useful experience and kind of like, just working on selling the experience (which is absolutely worth something) rather than continuing pushing the 'next best thing'.

Reading tech news sites all the time kind of makes me feel like unless you're pouring your heart and soul into your job or startup or whatever you're just a useless asshole. Maybe that's not the case and experience is worth something, enough to coast along and be useful while you find new direction or new inspiration.

I don't know!

The reason I advocate that approach (other than it is what I do, to varying degrees of success, to support myself) is that it seems to be more straightforward a value prop than trying to sell an idea.

Read "Masters of Doom", read "Soul of a New Machine", read "The New New Thing", read iWoz: we see that products fail all the time, that pioneers take a bath, that the second mouse gets the cheese--but that engineers are always in demand.

A business can fail, but raw material is always being looked for.

As an older guy myself, some thoughts --

1. Take a break if you feel you are burnt out.

2. Shift into a new area. I suggest healthcare. You have seen the entire cycle of the PC/Internet era and understand how companies are built. You can parlay this into the healthcare area where technology is just making inroads (it feels like the mainframe era to be honest). So, if you are into games, B2B or mobile there is something you can do. Best thing is you will now understand the problems (unlike 25 year olds :-). There is a revenue stream already in place. It is about 4-5 times bigger than the advertising stream.

3. The internet model has turned out to be based primarily on advertising. With the general dispersion of internet technologies, the technology risk is very limited. So it is mostly a marketing problem. Most of the power has shifted to Google/Amazon/Facebook and other biggies. So you will compete with young guys with lot of energy following a template (MVP/Lean/Accelerator etc.) but limited perspective on solving problems. Not the best place to be as a 38 year old (esp. if you already don't have a hit). Nothing stopping you, but be realistic that you will be building an advertising based company with minimal technology risk but high emphasis on marketing.

It sounds to me that you are burned out/living on thin energy/emotional margins, you don't know enough people, and you are following idea groupthink so you don't really believe in what you come up with.

I think that all of these problems will be solved by working a good full-time job for a couple years while writing an interesting blog and promoting it. You'll recover your energy and confidence. You'll be working through your thoughts, finding your voice and grappling with ideas every time you write. You'll be connected to people who share your interests, and who will give you strong feedback on/insight into your ways of doing things without your having to build a whole company first. And eventually, you'll intersect a great idea with the right person/people and be ready mentally and physically, and things will seem much different than they were in your last go-around. Hope this helps.

I suspect that I have a lot more energy and desire than my peers. But even so, I suffered similar burnout to the OP about 6 months ago. I attribute my burnout to trying to continue hard-driving my startup idea while simultaneously trying to juggle additional, optional life changes along with working a regular, full-time job. My optional life changes were: my wife and I decided to have our first kid and we wound up with twins, and started an overly painful re-fi process on the house, and spent 24 months trying to get a new job in town so I wouldn't have to travel as much for work.

The burnout I suffered seemed cataclysmic for my startup idea. I started to question it and myself, why wasn't I making progress? All this stuff I have to manage is too much, I wish I was 25 again with no responsibility. I just turned 39!! I'm getting old, now with kids; I'll never be able to make anything out of this thing, I waited too long... My yard is a mess, my desk is a heap of papers. :( Blah blah, that's all just stinkin' thinkin', as someone else said.

My depression came from my not acknowledging that I was already at a diminished capacity with the twins' arrival, and then I stupidly decided to ratchet up the job search AND re-fi my house! What was I thinking?? There is a limit, and I wasn't being realistic about what I could manage.

The good news (for me at least) is, the tidal wave of burnout-inducing extra responsibilities has receded and my new, local day job is so undemanding and steady. I find myself ending the day with some spare energy and I have gradually started to reconnect with my startup project by taking on some low energy improvements that I could feel proud of. Just last night, on looking at my pages render out just so, I got that feeling of secret pride for the first time in so long. I was back to making a quality product again.

I think the OP is feeling burnt by all the failures and false starts and that's creating a negative spiral. Butch up, OP. You're a systems programmer coming out of the video games biz like me. You can cogitate about systems in ways that many cannot. Take some pride in that. Husband your resources. When you're feeling strong again, make some wise decisions and get back in the game.

You may find real inspiration reading this guy's blog, Altucher Confidential. He is so realistic, and he will get you back on your feet, laughing. http://www.jamesaltucher.com/

You wrote " I think all those failures killed me and now I'm lost". Which sounds like you need a good vacation in another culture to me. Go camping if you are on a tight budget. Leave the screen behind for a while and see the world around you.

After the rest, I would suggest that you work on a problem of personal interest to you. Not a problem that you think someone else might have a need for, but a problem that YOU are the person who has a need for it. There are still an uncountable number of problems in the world to solve.

Everything exists already (figuratively) but most of it is garbage. People are fickle when it comes to new experiences so there will always be converts to something better. Make something that sucks better and sell it.

A lot of people think they need to create something new when really what we currently have is just not all that great. Taking a verifiable need and implementing its basic requirements well will always give you a greater chance of success than defining need based on a completely new concept.

I'm starting a 501(c)3 nonprofit science research organization. One of the side projects I'd like to do is to teach a computer programmer how to program bacteria and help to develop a 100% open-source git-like software system for biology. Yes, I'm aware that entities like genome compiler exist - but the people running it just don't get it (either from a CS perspective OR a biology perspective) - I've had conversations with them. I could use someone like you, and if you really like what you're making, then it's certainly "spinoff"-able (technically not a spinoff since there's no IP transfer) as a github-like for-profit enterprise.

Our long-term goal is to also produce a platform for building open-source, IP-unrestricted biological products. We're starting with an anticancer compound, I have other ideas that I don't want to talk about until I'm ready to pitch for donations for them.

Anyways, I think you should take a break - we won't be ready to launch until december-ish anyways (depending on how badly the IRS handles itself in the meantime), but if you think you might be interested in this, let me know. I might not be able to pay that much, but you might find some inspiration, and a direction to go in.


Alright, you're in a slump.

I pulled out of a failing startup that I was bootstrapping. I wrote tons of code, and built a product, that several people in the industry told me was great, and they would love using it. Unfortunately, it failed from a business standpoint. ... then I spent some time thinking about what I did wrong, and I think that we've made the same mistake.

I ignored people in my business. At the end of many days, I would rather sit in a room and write code rather than go out into the world, network with people that could collaborate with me, or even just be friends. Look at other business people - they can't code, but they have a problem to solve, they get organized, they motivate other people, they solve problems. But the world isn't about code. Programming is one profession, and there are many, many other ways to lead a successful and happy life.

Look at the pattern in your work: Money isn't a concern for you. It looks like you're setting out to create meaningful value, or to "be someone", at least in your own eyes .... tbh, there are many, many other ways to do that rather than start your own company. But you're doing it for its own sake, not because you have a problem you want to solve. You can be entrepreneurial within a system, working for a company. You can apply for grants to work on problems that are relevant to people. Given your opportunity costs, it's likely that it's not particularly lucrative for you. For most people, a job is just a way for them to sustain their family and personal life ... nothing wrong with that either. Based on your actions, the most important thing to you doesn't seem to be to create value, but to make a contribution while avoiding other people and institutions. Are you dating, do you have a family, are you in shape? There are many other ways to get value in your life.

You're living in the "hacker news" bubble. As a demographic, we are generally male, often single, highly skilled with computers, slightly introverted, and abhorrent of institutions. Because we're good with computers, we use this as are catch-all answer to life's questions. Pretend you were somebody else - somebody who is a non-nerd. What would you do?

tl;dr; My advice is to get out in the world, become part of communities (itrw), and make sure that you are getting fulfillment in other ways. Code is the solution you're familiar with, but no amount will not solve any of your problems, guaranteed.

"Burnout is caused when you repeatedly make large amounts of sacrifice and or effort into high-risk problems that fail. It's the result of a negative prediction error in the nucleus accumbens. You effectively condition your brain to associate work with failure." -Isaac Yonemoto

You need to start having fun again, and quit trying to be successful. The success will follow. Chasing it constantly is a bit like chasing Moby Dick.

What lessons and mistakes did you learn in these 5 years? Have you been avoiding them after they happened? Technical skills do not seem to be the problem here. If you can't gain traction, you probably aren't building products for your right audience. Were your attempts those SV types that try to go for it big targeting consumers? You may want to try the micropreneur route championed by Patrick McKenzie, Rob Walling, and Amy Hoy. If you already are, you may want to ask them for advice. If all things fail, what about write a book teaching others what you know and learn? If no one buys your book, can you try to teach more with your blog first?

Maybe you aim too big to begin. Why not set a much smaller goal, achieve that first so you feel good about yourselves. Then use that positive energy to fuel your journey forward.

Don't give up on your dream. If you do, how many more years do you have to wonder what ifs and swallow your pride working at a job you don't like.

You already pull in enough to pay the bills, so there is no worries. Try again. You can always find a contract to pay the bills again.

Whatever your mind can conceive, you can achieve.

Hey bud, don't worry. You'll get through it.

Couple of things:

All ideas I have seems already made by someone else

This is a good thing! This is validation of the market! And there's something new about your idea, right?

Even better - competitors can acquire you!

You want competition. Be scared if there isn't competition.

Each time, I have no traction, negative feedback

No traction - this is the problem. The advice I like is "do things that don't scale" (pg I think?).

Example: blog and submit your posts to HN. Repeat until you get one onto the front page. Don't stop.

Re: negative feedback - you have feedback at all! Someone tried it out! You're ahead of the curve.

Negative feedback is also your customers telling you what to build. This is the good stuff! If the only thing that comes from your idea is advice on what to build next, that's a positive!

Finally, consider the Helsinki Bus Station theory:


In a nutshell - all routes start out the same. The first 3 or 5 years on an idea are about getting out of town. It gets interesting after that.

So pick a route, and stay on the fucking bus.


Sounds like some kind of motivation/identity crisis or burnout syndrome.

I have a proposal that might sound strange and maybe you cannot do it for family reasons or whatnot... but it worked wonders for me and I think it's worth sharing.

Have you ever heard of Camino de Santiago? It's a pilgrimage route across Spain and I walked that when I was in some sort of personal crisis and I needed to clear my head and figure out my life.

The point is that you get out of your environment and your 'normal life' routine and you just walk. No plan, no pressure, no distractions (I did not check my email for weeks) and you just walk, enjoy the sun and rain, meet new people, think about what they have to say, enjoy occasional dinner and wine with your co-pilgrims.

It's difficult to explain the experience but the thing is that things start to happen in your brain and you start to see everything differently. I came there with anxiety attacks and one month and 750 km later I felt like a different person, relaxed and full of energy, ready for new adventures.

I've considered doing Camino. Would love to chat more about your experience.

I would be happy to - my email is my HN nickname at gmail - get in touch, ask anything, I had great times at Camino and I love to talk about it. If you want to see some pictures check out http://www.honzzz.uphero.com - I am afraid the rest of the site will be useless to you unless you speak Czech but a picture is worth a thousand words anyway.

Edit: 0) Change your nick. Really. To something you like.

1) Taking a break, as lots of people have said, my help a lot. You get a much better view of yourself, your loved ones, your environment and what you have done than while engaged in 'making a living'. Even just a week off may help a lot.

2) Do not try to be 'the best' at anything. Really. Try just to enjoy what you do, and to do what you enjoy and are good at. Right now nothing feels like it because you are tired. Hence 1)

3) You need to start valueing what you do. Each time you make something which is good for you or for anyone, you need to 'celebrate' it inside and outside. You have done a lot of things but you have probably never enjoyed them and generated what you call 'feedback'. Really: the mere fact of getting up and taking a shower is enought to celebrate. Imagine finishing a project or starting a new one.

4) Let you loved ones make the valuations: this may be even better.

5) It is irrelevant that your ideas are not new. Your job and your contributions are.

But people have already said all this.

This is common -- and even founders who exit their company encounter this feeling of being lost after leaving their last startup.

One thing that's been useful for me is to get off the startup founding train for a while, go get a job or consulting gig in a larger company in an industry that you think is worth learning about, and then rebuild your savings and sanity while looking for new problems to solve. You may spot an opportunity to productize a solution for your client that they are willing to pay for and beta, and this will help you avoid wandering around testing abstract MVPs in the market since you will have your first customer on board on day 1.

I don't think a month off is going to help you feel better or accelerate your trajectory in the right direction. You'd rest a lot better knowing that your next 6 months are figured out.

It's time to play. http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~kilcup/262/feynman.html

Stop worrying about doing something useful - just do things that interest you. Release them publicly, as open source, or as products.

I'm bored.

I think we've all been there. Some more than others. The only cure for boredom that I know of, is to go find something new. Maybe it's a cooking class, learning to paint, or making music. Puzzle/game/trivia nights. Auto racing. Wine tasting. Beer making. Book clubs. I can go on just listing random things, but you get the idea.

Once you invest your time in these things for long enough, you may find yourself thinking, "how can I make X better?" You'll probably start with solutions using tech, and branch out from there. Soon you're using your creative brain to solve problems that matter to you.

Passion, creativity, and persistence are things that can give you everything you need to get going. Everything after that is business execution, which I cannot help with.

Poetry or a novel "comes out" not from the expert knowledge of a language, but from having a feeling, an urge, an idea to express, a theme. Wording is second.

Similarly, a project (which could become a startup) "comes out" not from having skills or experience "with Java", but from an urge to change (create or build or just do) something.

Where such inspirations comes from? From closely observing what is around, from becoming aware of "what is".

So, do forget your tools and skills for a moment, and try to find something, which you would like to change or improve, not to create a startup, but in a way of "just do it". Startup, like a form, is second to the content.)

I might be wrong, but nginx or redis or Scheme "came out" this way.

Being in the same age bracket as OP, I think the youth craze in the IT industry contributes to "older" engineers feeling sidelined and burned out. Basically with 35 you've jumped the shark. It's arguably worse than the fashion industry or showbiz.

Take time off and recharge. You'll be able to spot solutions to problems easier if you're not under pressure. Sort of like when couples try very hard to get pregnant and can't. Just take a break for a while, get interested in something, focus inward on yourself (physically and spiritually) and the ideas will come. Also read this: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/03/10-things-you-need-to-d...

And don't forget even startups created by people with lots and lots of money and huge successes in the past screw up trying to make things too. (Airtime)

A lot of people here are suggesting dealing with the burnout/fatigue/frustration first. That seems like good advice.

Sounds like you can/are supporting yourself with a half time job leaving you lots of other time. That in itself is an awesome asset, really awesome. Use it. Take some time at a lower work rate. Put that energy into something unrelated for 6-10 weeks.

One option is to spend more time socializing, with family and relaxing. Another is to pour time into something unrelated. Learn a sport, instrument, theatre, etc. Get a little obsessed if you're that kind of person. When/if you get back to putting your mind on startups again, it will be a new round, like boxing.

Don't start with an idea. Start with a problem. Call a friend and ask him what problems he face. See if you think you can solve any of them. If not, call another friend. Don't create a product and then try and sell it. Find demand first.

38 is still very young. I am 43 and still working on my start-up. You might want to check out this book:

Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear, Thomas Hancock, and the Race to Unlock the Greatest Industrial Secret of the 19th Century


If you compare your situation to Mr. Goodyear, you will find out that you have much more than what he had. I hope this can help you recover from your depression. Just don't give up on your dream.

> Everything is insipid for me. I have no hobby, no programming idea, no desire to meet people, travel whatever. When I try to get a hobby, I m fed up after a few try. When I go to nice tech event, I'm bored.

Join a local church.

This what I have done recently and it has been amazing. Friendly people who are extremely caring, a welcoming environment, and a call to a higher purpose. I've instantly gained some new friends that I care about. You may find value in doing the same.

Stop worrying about startup ideas, hobbies, etc. Just get to know people and care about them. Find ways to help them. I guarantee everything will work out by following this simple rule.

Check out my website. I just gathered 100 tech companies to contribute in June. I have the drive, sales mentality and creative/journalistic ability to publish technology. So, I can get the business, just need someone to help make it more of a technical platform. If this inspires you, let me know. To put this in perspective, Svbtle has 200 contributors and has been around since 2010 (?). I secured half of their contributor base in May alone. Happy to share details. You'll prob like my content, too - all tech experts and startups.

Either way, you know what is best for you.

This may be a little off from what others are saying but when I was burned out of tech, I got a job at a Starbucks. An entry level barista. I worked there a year and at the end I was ready to hop back in the saddle with programming.

I learned a lot a Starbucks about people, how people think, how to be adaptable, compromise, etc. These skills directly transfer to to being a geek.

I work on my own things now but those were fond days for a lot of reasons. Most of which gave my brain the rest it needed and then the energy to stat up again.

I hope this helps. I'd love to talk or answer specific questions.

Save some money, travel for a few months in Europe, Asia, or South America. Meet as many people as possible. Reconnect with the essence of life. See everything from a new perspective.

Firstly it seems like its time to take a break. When you disillusioned you need to stop for a bit. Perhaps do a while of "normal" work.

Secondly I would advise a frank and in depth post mortem. Find out really what when wrong and when. Perhaps it was just bad luck but more likely there are mistakes you can learn from.

"Each partners I meet seems too newbie to work with." This phrase stands out. Perhaps its just because your upset right now but generally when someone blames everyone else it means the problem lies with them.

Thanks. I think I should do that, take a break and do depth post mortem. But I have no clue on how to do a good analyze of myself :/

You sound burned out, not desperate.

I personally would take a breather and get a full-time job doing something I enjoy and revisit entrepreneurship in a 18-24 months.

I'm only a few years younger than you.

Go out and meet people. Talk about your ideas, and for gods sake, listen for theirs. Share your passion. Don't be afraid of someone else stealing your idea. There is more to an idea then just "implementing" it.

Stop reading all the startup blogs. IMO, that's mostly wasted time. Spend this time doing things you love, step out of your comfort zone and try something new (e.g. hobby). Maybe you'll find out that your "startup idea" is an interactive online climbing guide.

Source: I'm 23.

Take a break. Code for fun, not profit. Connect with your community, see who's working on what.

The excitement and passion that leads you to create something rarely sticks around when things get tough. You have to press on regardless or quit. It's difficult to press on if you can't see any progress, but its often more refreshing and exciting if you step back and take a totally new angle on things.

Don't most startups end up failing? A few make it and I guess that is what we all hear about.

I felt the same way about a project I was working on. It sucks when you think you made something cool, but no one else does.

Maybe that is why most people just stick with the corporate job. I think hope along with greed might be the two most powerful human emotions. You just can't give up that hope.

You might benefit from Amy Hoy's 30x500[1] workshop.

[1] http://unicornfree.com/30x500

Well, it could be worse, right?

At least you have a lot of the skills that are in high-demand, whether on the job market or as a founder.

Why don't you create something just for yourself once? Just something that you think you would like to use or have. Worst case, you only have something nice that you like. Best case, some other people like it, too.

Just wanted to let the OP know that Rob and Mike from StartupsForTheRestOfUs (one of my fav podcasts) addressed your post on their podcast today.


Is English your second language? Maybe the informal nature of forums brings this out but your grammar is pretty poor and for better or worse, English grammar has quite a bit to do with how people perceive us as individuals.

Indeed, I'm French and I'm really bad in English. Sorry for destroying your language so much.

Well it was good enough fool the GP into complaining about it, so not bad. ;)

Also, listen to what edw519 has to say.

where are you based and what areas of interest do you have or have you covered?

Just keep in mind that, regardless of any external factor, what makes you feel depressed and unmotivated are the chemical reactions happening in your brain. And you can train your brain to handle them in better.

"All those failures..."

They only are if you decide they are failures. Use those "failures" as a platform.

Chances are you are not alone in this. I know, I am reading into this and I am seeing myself. You are me.

There are lots of us in this boat.

Remember, this is our platform.

Join a very good company,work freelance also and get clients,size or budget does not matter.Once you have good funding,a smashing project,happy clients,you can do ANYTHING.

I am on the same situation and mental state. It's good to know that we are not alone. I even get bored reading all the comments here. Anyway, good luck.

You need a soulmate and a project. Find the right partner to make projects and have fun. The rest of the data: age, situation it doesn't matter at all.

And first of all, change that stupid username, 'shameonme'. No, you might think it doesn't, but it really, really affects you in a negative way.

Do you have kids? Kids are a good cure against the downs in one's forties.

Happy to help. Have tons of expertise w/your topic. ax1254@gmail.com

If you're going through hell, keep going. -Winston Churchill

Book a flight to some place you've never been before.

"Money wears out those who just did not have it"

Find a timesink project «sort of» impossible.

No way you're a failure, that's all I'll add.


Keep in mind that most of what you're experiencing is common to a lot of other people. You're not at all alone. You're not in a situation where everyone else is succeeding and you're the only one that's struggling.

HN (and similar sites) primarily focus on the success stories, and it is very easy to let that warp your perception of your efforts, your abilities, your projects, yourself.

You may not have what it takes to launch or run a startup. Nothing wrong with that. You'll be in great company. If the stress of trying over and over again is getting to you, if you're feeling defeated, then stop. Step back, regroup. Think about what it is that you really want: do you want to be wealthy? There are other ways to do that. Do you want to make a difference? There are many ways to do that. Do you want to build cool stuff? Inspire others? Live a comfortable life with a family? Those are all OK, focus on them.

What you describe in your last lines sounds like depression to me, and it's a common problem too.


> I tried during 5 years to create a "startup".

Why? What was your motivation here?

> I still have a half time job that pay the bill and give me enough time to create something.

So, you're not yet fully committed to living or dying by your work. That's not necessarily bad, but realize this, because it's important: the less fully committed you are to your projects, the less likely they are to be successful.

> During these 5 years I created a game, a tool for geeks, a B2B project and lot of more things.

This sounds unfocused to me. If we step outside of the startup drum circle for a moment, you'll find that a lot of businesses will spend around 5 years just trying to develop, market, and popularize a single project. The startup iteration cycle produces really amazing results when it works, but it also produces a lot of failures. If you've got the sort of personality that is discouraged by too many failures -- and again, you're not alone in that -- then maybe you should look at some of the more traditional business models. There are some very successful, under-appreciated people in our industry who have done just this.

> Each time, I have no traction, negative feedback, I demotivating and then I stop the project.

A successful project is one that you do not give up on.

> Each partners I meet seems too newbie to work with.

Is it possible that you're holding them to the wrong standards -- i.e., they're not "YC material" -- or that they've giving you good advice and you're not following it because it doesn't fit in with your expectations?

I don't know you well enough to give you more specific advice. (Nobody here does.) I deal with some of the same issues. Here's what I do to work around them:

- Change my mindset. I often remind myself that although things are not where I want them to be, they are still better every year. And, although I'm not running a multi-million-dollar-per-year business, I've still managed to make a real difference in the lives of other people.

- Make sure finances are comfortable and stay that way. I'm not rich, but I try to keep a little bit of slush in the bank, it keeps me from stressing too much about other stuff.

- Keep an active side project, something that I enjoy working on, that has no deadlines or associated stress.

- Take time to decompress, spend some time alone, recharge, whatever -- but find the desire again to keep chipping away.

- Realize that, even at 35, I'm still fairly young and the game's far from over.

- Just keep building. Even if it's just 5 lines of code on a day where I really don't want to do it, it's still progress. Everything I do leads in to the next project, the next step towards my goals. I build momentum this way. Slowly, but it's still momentum.

- Avoid the YC/HN drum circle. YC would be a ton of fun, an amazing experience -- I'm a two-time reject now! -- but realize that it is a very specific approach to a very specific class of business, that there are a lot of failures and people just don't tend to talk about them much, and that it's far from the only road to success.

Each time, I have no traction

Are you sure? How are you measuring that? How much traction did you need? Need to accomplish what next step? Are you trying to bootstrap from 0 -> profitability without taking funding? Are you looking "just enough traction to get funded", or "other"?

"negative feedback"

What kind of negative feedback, and how did you react to it? There's a difference between "this is a really stupid idea and you suck" and "this could be useful, but not until you add a FR$OZGIBIT interface".

If the feedback helps steer you in the direction of a better product, better product/market fit, etc., then it's actually a good thing.

I demotivating and then I stop the project.

Why did you stop? Did you have a concrete idea, going in, of what goals you were trying to accomplish, what metrics you would measure, and what your "success criteria" would be?

I read too much about pretotyping, MVP, lean startup, marketing

Hmmm... all of those things, in isolation, are potentially very valuable. I'm guessing you mean something like "I read all this stuff and saw conflicting advice" or "I read all this stuff and was drowning in information and couldn't find a cohesive narrative to link it all together" or "I spend too much time reading this stuff instead of actually building my $FOO".

In any case, I can only share what I've found valuable. Read Steve Blank's The Four Steps To The Epiphany and/or The Startup Owner's Manual. Steve's work gives you something closer to a "paint by numbers" approach than anything else out there. The Customer Development approach gives you a process to follow, so - at least - you won't just be drifting around doing random stuff because you read about it on a blog link from HN. Start with CD and then add in other "stuff" as you work through the process.

Guy Kawasaki's The Art of the Start is also an excellent read.

Now I don't even know what to do.

Well, you could give up, feel sorry for yourself, mentally berate yourself for not accomplishing more, maybe drink a lot, or take up a cocaine / heroin / crystal meth habit, or just spend all your time getting stoned and listening to Pink Floyd.

You could watch Glengarry Glen Ross about 100 times, and take the famous "sales speech" scene way to literally, get really fired up and charge full-bore into a new initiative, planning to kick the world's ass.

You could sit back, take stock of where you are, what resources you have, and what your passions are, think about where you want to go, and meticulously put together a plan to get from "point A" to "point B".

It's really up to you. No options are ever really off the table.

All ideas I have seems already made by someone else, and often better than I planned to do them

One: seems is the key word here. It's probably not literally true that you have no novel ideas at all. Two, it doesn't matter, as even IF you do have a novel idea, it won't stay novel long. There are too many people in the world... what ever idea you thought of, somebody else will have the same idea if they haven't yet. Who cares? Do it anyway, and out execute them.

Bob Parsons (of GoDaddy fame) once said something roughly like "Don't be afraid to enter a crowded market, just be better than everybody else".

Another way of looking at it... if you are working on an idea that nobody else is working on, it's either something really amazingly new that you've invented (congrats!) or it's a really stupid idea. If other people are working on the same thing, however, that is a measure of validation that the idea may, indeed, be sound. Now go out execute those scumbags... they are trying to take your lunch money!

Each partners I meet seems too newbie to work with

Fine, forget partners for now.

I think all those failures killed me and now I'm lost. What a waste.


Buy a Porsche

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