Especially now when all too many people become so easily enthralled by success stories the likes of Google, Facebook, Youtube, Digg, Twitter, …
It can happen so fast, losing oneself in wishful thinking, losing all reason in the process. I’m speaking from experience, this story really relates to me (although my project isn't as far down the line as yours yet).
If there is something like a Startup Failure Anonymous group, I would like to join it :)
you vs me:
and one more:
I just hope this article can be helpful to those who are doing their own startup so they can avoid the same mistakes I made.
I wrote it in part to remind myself to never make these same mistakes again and in part to give back to the community. I know there are plenty more like me out there and I’d love to hear their stories as well…
The "cool" feature I wanted to add and implement for the main app should have been filtered out immediately since it did not really add to the core need I was addressing.
That's what I failed to realize. The feature I wanted to add became the main goal and the main solution took a backseat. From that point forward all my thought processes were biased relative to implementing this feature. This of course is what I believe was the single biggest reason that led to its failure.
Who knows if I would have been successful otherwise. Maybe.. maybe not... It might not have been the next digg or even close to that but I'm sure I could have gotten to ramen profitable state. I will make a second attempt soon, minus the shiny features this time...!
Purchasing the servers was besides the point. I should have never even gone that far. I never would have purchased them had it not been for that feature.
Better luck for the next run.
Also would you like to share more about your situation after the failure? Your economics, how you handled failure in psychological sense? Your relatives reactions etc?
If it's rude to ask i'm really sorry.
I'm an eternal optimist so I don't suffer from having failed. It makes one feel alive actually.
Economically I'm wounded but still alive and healing. Without being too specific I am 10s of thousands in debt because of my failed startup but not all is lost. There is a lot of reusable code and designs for the second time around =)
My family and friends understood when I told them what had happened. I have pointed them to this article actually.
My situation now is revving up for round 2..! ;)
small hooray for shiney, unnecessary features that do get done in a day or 2 though! keep 'em guessing. =)
thanks for writing this.
A lot of people, including me, have made the mistake of thinking that creating the product is simple but fail to realise how much work debugging, polishing, designing etc. is. The devil is in the details.
"why is this vendor charging X millions for this crappy software, i could have done this as a uni student" the software may be crappy but they dont realize the amount of work that goes into getting the application polished, having correct messages for all actions and making it generally user friendly. Also the fact that it does the job that someone needs done is why someone is willing to pay X millions for it.
The devil is definitely in the detail ...
Mediocre programmer: "I don't know how this could be done."
Bad programmer: "No problem."
I think my original issue with iPhone dev was that POS NDA Apple had originally. It made the web a virtual wasteland for good info and advice on programming pitfalls and code snippets.
Coming from python and c# I was obviously spoiled =)
Good luck for your future endeavors. You have learnt a lot from this. Don't be disappointed and keep trying.
I think I also found an awesome developer to help out but I just directed him the wrong way.
The problem was I didn't find a co-founder, a person that could share the business and funding responsibilities with me.
Why..? I don't know. There were one or two people that came close but I knew I wouldn't work well with them. It's very important to work well with whoever you partner with of course.
Ironically the people I felt I could work well with didn't really fit the bill in terms of programming ability or skill sets...
We're dodging this problem by shelfing most so-called shiny features till we are making money. Thing is shiny features can be really useful--but once they take off, you are too busy maintaining them than figuring out how to make dollars that will fund the shiny features.
In some cases the shiny features and the $ makers are not mutually exclusive and there is definitely a lot of gray.
You can always improve incrementally but even just signing up a handful of payers in the beginning at a discount is huge. It proves that your idea is something people are willing to pay for.
If you manage to provide the service and run your startup at the cost of a reasonable fraction of your salary, you would never meet this "end of money" wall and your startup could run forever.
So first, check out to cut the costs to a minimum, eventually offering a more modest service, especially if it's free. User will understand this, as they will understand that an extended service would require sharing the costs of hosting. You should then make sure the benefit compensates largely its cost, from the user perspective of course.
You wrote that there was no need for such service. How do you know ? The users could come up with a usage, and thus a need, you didn't thought out before. This is what you can gain from offering the service for free. Collect feedback and suggestions, you might find gold gems and perls in it.
The freemium model would make sense, if you can keep the cost of free service to a minimum. It is preferable, if you can manage it, to provide the service without depending on fixed amount of investment money that will be running out soon or later. You can achieve this by reducing the cost to a reasonable fraction of your salary.
That's the plan for my startup. I will start by hosting the service at home and thus without hosting cost. If there is income, and its progression ensures break even may be reached, then I'll invest in the next step, and so on.
The trick is to make an investment only if a positive money flow balance is restored shortly after it, progressing by steps, minimizing the risks of "end of money" failure. With this policy, your startup can only fail because of bad luck, like being hit by lightning for instance.
Anyway, it was nice to be reminded that features are always secondary. Hope you do better on your next startup.
We tried on-device speech rec. The unfortunate barrier to entry for this technology is something called Acoustic Models which are basically normals data collected from voice sampling. The bigger and better your AM, the more accurate your speech rec. A good sized AM could be gigabytes worth of data and we're just talking about US English.
Not only that but the actual recognition itself is pretty intensive CPU/memory wise. Sure you can have local speech rec as Apple does on the 3GS but that speech rec is pretty constrained: only having to recognize several hundred contact names or song titles and even then has a hard time. Try loading up thousands of contacts or songs on your device and see how well or consistent it is.
At any rate, AMs are like gold and pretty much all of them are proprietary. Ever think why Google offers a free 411 service..?? They want to build out their proprietary AMs.
So you either have to make your own AM - very hard to do - or roll with an existing solution, most of which are server based. I used Lumenvox (lumenvox.com) since they seemed to be the most developer friendly and were a pleasure to work with. The Dragon guys would sooner compete with you then sell you a product.