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My startup failed, and this is what it feels like (medium.com)
1084 points by wbharding 895 days ago | hide | past | web | 252 comments | favorite



I met Nikki while I lived at a Hacker House in Mountain View for a few weeks in January 2012, having recently moved to the Bay Area. I remember being impressed at the time by her intensity, and by the fact that she actually had a real product with real users that solved a real problem.

An audible "oh no" came out of my lips when I clicked this link and realized I was reading about someone I had shared a few dinners with.

It's important for little pieces of history such as this one to be recorded. For the founders, to whom it gives a sense of closure, and for the community. So that we don't forget our comrades who didn't make it to the other side, but still have insightful lessons to share.

The press likes to glorify the AirBnBs, the Googles, the Facebooks - but as founders, I think it's important for us to be realize that this is only a tiny visible part of the iceberg, and that at the end of the day, there are so many factors at play that it would be foolish for us to focus solely on the "how many millions did they make". Human stories are never boring, and experience is one of the most precious thing others can share.

Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this, Nikki. We're with you.

---

"Investing money, creating new products, and all the other things we do are wonderful games and can be a lot of fun, but it's important to remember that it's all just a game. What's most important is that we are good too each other, and ourselves."(http://paulbuchheit.blogspot.com/2012/03/eight-years-today.h...)


This.

I remember sitting opposite Nikki in co-working spaces (Fishburners) and incubators (Pollenizer) back in Sydney throughout 2010 and 2011. Her gumption, determination and focus back then was (and is) a force to be reckoned with. If there is anyone who's failure I would never question - it would be hers.

It's heartbreaking to hear these stories, even more so when it's someone you know. But Nikki - thanks for sharing. We're all made a little stronger for it. For the rest of us it should serve as a reminder that no matter how hard we strive there will be always be forces outside our control that shape our destiny.


I'm kinda failing to see the failure here. Yes, the business failed, but this reads like a fairy tale. Support from family and friends, investor backing, media coverage - all while failing to make a dime.

Try running a successful and rapidly growing business for 8 years while everyone around you tells you you're a crazy fucking idiot and that you should give up and get a job. No investor interest as we make money, which investors hate. That's failure.

I am a crazy idiot. I keep coming back for more. I will lose my mind before this is over. I am a failure.


While I feel for your situation, I had to downvote you because your comment smacked of No True Scotsman and attention hogging. Sorry.

A startup folded and left several people with nothing to show for years of effort. It seems pretty callous to me to assert that she didn't fail, when several measures say she did, and she feels like she did.

I'm glad she shared her story. Do you think your comment encourages others to do the same?


No need to apologise, it's what the downvote button is for :)

My comment wasn't intended to be callous - rather to reflect the fact that success and failure aren't as absolute as "the business failed". She is a success, insofar as she has a great support network, a laudable track record, and a press that wants her to speak her piece. The business going to pot means that it failed in its principal objective - but doesn't mean that it failed as a vehicle for those involved. I suppose what I'm saying is the business failed, she didn't.

I am a failure, in the same light, yet my business functions and grows like a weed. It is not a vehicle for me, however. The business is a success, but every day feels like a failure, as I had not intended to still be doing this eight years down the line.


I read your parent comment with a large level of irony (i.e. not literally). Your parent is bitter that actually building a successful business - by the metrics you just cited, as your parent claims to be doing -- feels/reads/is lived like total failure compared to the feeling of reading a "faery tale" of running a business into the ground while getting incredible levels of support that were "unearned" (if I try to put myself in your parent commmenter's shoes) because the business wasn't actually profitable.

Your parent commenter is bitter about the fact that a total lack of viability - making money - gets support, while he has to bootstrap in the face of derision.

madaxe_again: I recommend you get off of HN if you are interested in building a real business. This is a community for building things that investors here would be interested in. If it's not a problem that a rich man with nothing to do all day but look at Internet metrics can see as something to solve, then building a business is not going to get any support from this specific community.

You should forget about investors. When has an investor ever backed anything that they couldn't have related to within 15 seconds of hearing a pitch for it? But investors don't represent the people of the world.

If you want investment, play with investors. They'll give you $200,000 to stop making money and make a messaging app. If you launch one before you talk with them they'll raise that to $600,000.

It is what it is. (Don't read my comment bitterly. I love this ecosystem.)


Yup - nail on head. Not bootstrapping any more, we did that bit years ago, but I didn't still want to be here, doing this, eight years down the line - hence this is a failure. A moving, growing, functioning, successful failure.

We don't want investors, actually - we don't need 'em. We do, however, want to sell this thing one day, as you can only stare at the sun for so long before going blind. Until then, however, it's fail all the way.

And yes, I'm bitter. Amazingly so. Largely with my own naïvety. But the mask is strong.


(EDIT: I'm not a journalist). If you have an email I would love to talk to you [EDIT:] as a fellow founder. There is a much wider ecosystem in private equity than just HN-style startup investors. The 100 VC's you'll hear about here represent a tiny sliver of a fraction of private equity. I don't know much about the whole market, but I'll tell you what I do know about it and exchange thoughts.

-

[EDIT:] I wrote this comment first, but following the journalist's response also asking for your email am adding these edits.

1. I would consider giving the journalist your email as well (or email him) as having a story written about you can't hurt -- maybe someone will read about your metrics there and want to invest. You explicitly complain about this in "Support from family and friends, investor backing, media coverage". Now, here's your chance. The journalist has a profile reading "Columnist @ Slate. Contributor @ Priceonomics. Co-host of the Stratechery Podcast (stratechery.fm) with Ben Thompson (currently on hold; please stay tuned)."

2. On the other hand you may be wanting to keep a clear separation from this online identity, which I would respect but the journalist would have to prove through showing you other stories they have written that don't divulge the source.

You can give me a pseudonymous email, it's fine.


I may have come on a little abruptly, and if so, I'm very sorry for that. To clarify my request: I'm not a fairweather journalist who just registered an account, looking for a scoop or a "gotcha" piece on this thread. And to whatever extent my post came across that way, I apologize. I'm a founder and reasonably longtime HN member (1330 days, evidently. I wish I could have written this comment 7 days from now!) who got involved in journalism through working with a YC company early last year.

When I say I am "inclined to be sympathetic," I mean it. I have a very simple agenda here: I think the media, overall, give too much attention to certain tropes of "success" and "failure" stories w/r/t startups. In this person's story, I am intrigued to see that he's built an economically successful business at which he feels trapped. You don't see that kind of story every day, but I suspect it's not entirely uncommon. At the very least, it's worth exploring. Maybe a story comes out of that chat, and maybe it doesn't. My goal would be to have a friendly chat, and to see where that takes us.

If he'd need to talk to me under condition of anonymity, that's totally fine. If he's willing to go on the record, also fine. And if he decides he doesn't want to talk to me at all, hey, totally cool. I would respect any of those choices out of ethical integrity, professional code of conduct, and sympathy for his predicament.

As for me: I use my real name on this account. That means both that my journalistic output is easily searchable, and that I'm holding myself openly accountable to anyone I engage with on HN.

No pressure intended, either way.


Would also love your email. I think your story sounds fascinating, and while I don't know the particulars, I'd love to talk to you about them in greater depth.

My contact info is in my profile. Hit me up if you're ever interested in having a conversation with a writer who is inclined to be sympathetic to your dilemma. Not sure if you're media-averse at this point or not, but I'd love to explore your story for my column.


Before you can sell the company, it sounds like you need to find a way to hand the day to day operations and management of the company over to others. At that point selling or keeping the company becomes an investment decision - either way you can step back from it somewhat.

Why do you need to remain involved day to day?


Sad to see her fail she's a very driven person and admire her for that, most likely if she had a little more funding she would have made it.

I think the most important lesson here is that the team makes all the difference and getting a awesome team is the most important especially for a non technical founder.

She spent a large amount of time and money just getting to the point where she had a reliable team.

Keep one eye on your team and the other on the product and be brutally honest with your team all the time if they can't handle it or can't decide to stay or leave this will make them leave sooner giving you more time to find someone else.

Don't shield the team from bad news this is a group effort and they need to feel a part of it.


> "... but it's important to remember that it's all just a game. What's most important is that we are good too each other, and ourselves."

These things are easy to say for a very rich guy.


Your personal health and well being are much more important than your startup that just failed, even if it doesn't feel like it at the time. Nothing will teach you that faster than losing your health or talking with people who have.


And what if you don't have personal health and well being to begin with? What if you need money to pay off the medical bills, money that you know an ordinary job will never suffice for? Making money is not just a game for everybody, just because it's a game for you.


Is there anything he could say that wouldn't invite the ad hominem? I'm trying to imagine him saying "Yup, money is pretty damn important" and I suspect the response would be exactly the same. It seems like the only thing you can do if you're wealthy is keep silent.

FWIW, I'm hardly very rich and I've believed that since I got out of college. Mostly because those who believe success in business is just a game and don't get emotionally attached to the rewards tend to do a lot better in business than those who must get rich quick.


"Every woman can be beautiful in her own way" - Random top model


Doesn't make it false though. Perhaps the opinion of someone who's "got there" and looks back counts for something more - in some cases - than that of someone early in their journey.

I'd rather this than "Yep - it's all just about the money" anyway...


It's weird how rapidly money ratchets down the priorities hierarchy... once it's in the bank.


Exactly. Not in that position myself, but I'd guess once you have a certain level of comfort, security and perhaps the option to indulge in some of life's luxuries, it's much like electricity or running water: desperately, terrifically important and yet so easily taken for granted.


It struck me when she glossed over how/why her two co-founders left. There's got to be a deeper story to why two "co-founders" would leave right when 1.2M is secured.

She said they decided to tell me they were leaving the company without even a hint of warning - my guess is there was no agreement in the first place or a lot of unnoticed warnings. To conclude she's just too trustful is almost certainly a flawed conclusion.

I'm sure she learned a lot from this experience, but she seems to write off the deserters as flaky. I'd be asking myself what I did or what lies I was telling myself that made me think I had co-founders when I really did not. That sort of character judgment is as important as product judgment.


Hey Andrew, I actually glossed over that out of respect for the 2 guys. My purpose was not to bitch about them, and many people who will read this post in my network will know who I'm talking about. There were mistakes made on both sides, but in the end I bent over backwards to accomodate them and as soon as YC was over and they could say they were YC founders they bailed. I'm not saying its entirely their fault - I should have picked up on the warning signs but I was off fundraising for 2 months and didn't notice. But I did consider them my friends, and they didn't care what position I was left in if they were to leave. Anyway, I'm sure we both learned a lot from the experience.


I think it's great that you take the high road and don't resort to dragging other people through the mud. You definitely seem to place the responsibility all on yourself, which I imagine is not always the full truth. Not providing any reason at all, actually makes it sound as if the two co-founders just randomly and completely bailed on you. (Which may be exactly the truth)

I was trying to imagine a logical scenario, for example they had an even better opportunity. Or perhaps it was better to split before the stakes became to high. Maybe the salaries were not going to be what was expected, there were disagreements on responsibilities, etc. I can imagine a lot of scenarios.

Not to diminish your article, which I found extremely interesting. It was just a point that definitely seems like there was a greater story to be told.


Hacking learning institutions 101:

Step 1: Learn about their interview process

Step 2: Interview well and make it in

Step 3: Quit after a fair amount of time due to some plausible reason

Step 4: Carry around the signaling benefits of having attended the learning institution, without any of the pressure of finishing the course

This method has been successfully practised by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and quite possibly, the 99dresses cofounders.


Well, if you Google around, you get Peter Delahunty. It looks like he's gone from being a CTO at a few places (including 99dresses) to just working under a CTO. It looks like his strategy didn't pay off.


Confused that he doesn't list Posse on his LinkedIn page, if he's the guy you're talking about.


Perhaps a good approach in this type of circumstance is to explicitly leave it unanswered. (eg. "both left for reasons that are not the point of this post")


I find it refreshing that we got this level of truth and detail from a startup post-mortem. The price for that transparency is selective opacity in a few still-sensitive areas. I get the deal.


I experienced a co-founder split not too long ago and I can definitely tell you from my personal introspection that you may need to look deeper than "it was my fault for not seeing the warning signs".

It always takes two to tango and you're right to not bitch about them but then saying you were stabbed in the back is silly. Being a founder is tough, having co-founder problems is tougher, clearly understanding what your part in the dynamic is or was is even more difficult.

Sometimes, too, to get this level of internal depth takes distance from the people and the experience. It took about six to eight months for me to figure out what was rightfully my fault and what was rightfully my co-founder's fault - beyond "seeing the warning signs early".

Also, I don't know what your captable looked like but if you were the controlling interest you cannot and should not expect anyone to care about what position you're left in - you must be prepared to shoulder the burden on your own for a bit if they decide it isn't worth their time anymore. The more you own it the more you own it.

Hope you're okay and sorry if this comes off as admonishment, it actually comes from a heartfelt place. You're welcome to contact me personally if you want more support.

[EDIT]

Re-reading my comment, I might be coming off too much as an armchair psychologist, I'll leave the comment up for posterity and maybe you'll find something useful in it or not. Either way I think you've handled yourself well and hope that you yourself are doing well.


Just a few points:

1. Even though I'd already spent 2 years on the startup, the first co-founder I bought on had the same equity as me. He wanted it, and I wanted someone fully committed.

2. I was off fundraising for 2 months, and my mistake was not communicating that really well with them. I wasn't a great leader at that time. However, I did notice something was off but I just thought it was post-yc depression (which is actually a thing, apparently). I asked them outright if everything was ok, and they said sure, that it would all be fine when we got back to Australia and moved on. I trusted them, and they lied to my face.

3. I think they were very naive, not malicious, in how they left. They thought everything would be fine if they just left, but thats not how startups work.

4. One of them refused to talk to me or give me an explanation after he left. I had to practically force him to meet me for some closure. Its like getting a divorce with no explanation.

I made mistakes too so its not all on them, but at the end of the day a co-founder is supposed to be your partner through thick and thin, and they bailed without talking through the issues at all which equates to stabbing me in the back. And they made sure to tell me this after I'd reimbursed them for thousands of dollars in expenses for their YC adventure.

The purpose of this is NOT to discredit them. I'm not a huge fan of them, but they dont deserve to be villified. I'm just trying to be a bit more transparent about what happened so that its helpful to some readers. I'm sure they've learned from the experience and will treat their next cofounders differently if they do start something else.


Such an excellent write up, thanks for this.

In progress on a startup now, and I have realized the most important thing is trust between the cofounders. There is a lot of people who want to be 'cofounders' but don't understand what it means, the real consequences and also what real company control means.

I also think YC might not be helping here - since being a YC founder is such a cachet resume item, the value of growing a company is discounted. This results in real problems as you have illustrated.

In the end, if you don't trust and know your cofounder as well as your SO, it's going to make the hard things that much harder.


I was in the same situation. In my case the reason why the co-founders left wasn't told was because the reason was that they thought their partner was too naive and incompetent to work with. Not something so easy to say straight to the face. In hindsight, I think there was no wrong in feeling betrayed in my case, but at the same time the co-founders did no wrong either. We were too inexperienced to handle the situation gracefully. Break-ups can't be amicable all the time. Everyone has their side of story.


"There were mistakes made on both sides"


The point went over your head, in any failed dynamic there are always mistakes made on both sides. I'm trying to encourage her to think deeper (not write) about it beyond not catching the "warning signs" which places her in a victim position. Whether she was or not, victim cycles create repeat patterns until the person sees their own role in it.

I'm encouraging psychological healing. I've very much been through a very similar experience.

[EDIT]

It actually sounds like it turned out well since she did end up with a solid co-founder relationship anyway. I'm leaving this up for posterity but now think my thoughts on this are unwarranted.


I'm curious what YCombinator has to say about that kind of behaviour. Is this a unique case? Has it happened before? How do you prevent it from happening? What's the benefit of being able to say you're a YC founder?


>What's the benefit of being able to say you're a YC founder?

Being able to attach the YC brand to your resume is probably very helpful when seeking investment for a new venture or applying for a job at a BigCo.

Although I have no knowledge of the situation beyond this (very well written) post, I don't think it's farfetched that a couple developers would join an existing company just to experience YC and improve their Valley credentials.


I can see some truth in that if you follow through. Bailing from something with high visibility will hurt your reputation rather than hinder. I assume that the prospective partners of these two people would be able to use google to find out just how substantial their YC foundership was.


Indeed. Being instrumental in loosing money for people by not following through on commitments is hardly a good rep nor resume line.


YC already knows the dangers of "co-founders" who don't have a working history beyond getting together for this startup. Technically, it should have filtered her out of the application process.


Technically, it should have filtered her out of the application process

Why do you say so? Surely that's just one signal among many, and not an absolute indicator of anything?


I didn't mean it absolutely even though I wrote it that way, obviously there are many other factors and exceptions, but this is one factor that would work against a person.

As for indicators, I think that people who have worked together for a shorter amount of time are more likely to break up. This is because fights and disagreements between co-founders are inevitable, and in startups they are more intense compared to regular business working relationships. When you have history with your cofounder, then you've likely survived those fights and are more likely to get through the ones coming.

Of course, this is simply one of many factors.


You are 22 and female. I kind of hope you will cut yourself some slack. As a 49 year old woman, I kind of wonder how much this whole thing was impacted by your gender. It took me a long time to realize how many doors are just not open to me because of my gender, how many subtle ways I get cut off from information I very much need.

Of course, male or female, you did a helluva lot for someone your age and I really think you should feel fine about the entire thing.


you say in the article you were "stabbed in the back" by your co-founders. that's provocative language and an extremely strong indictment against two people that are not anonymous.


Sometimes people do get stabbed in the back. It is not provocative it is true. We don't know if there's another side of the story, but leaving without warning just right before a round close is really crappy.


I'd recommend the author substitute it with "let down", even though it doesn't as accurately describe how she likely feels.


Political correctness is bullshit. They stabbed her in the back at the worst possible moment, its called stabbed in the back because had they not lied to her about their motivations she could have gotten real co-founders and not be left out without a team at the worst possible moment. They are lucky they got the treatment that they did on this post-mortem. They deserve to get outed publicly. If not only as a service to others who would not knowingly do business with those whose word holds no water.


We don't even know the full story (& probably never will), yet you're already advocating mob justice? That's about as bad, if not worse, than the political correctness you're railing against.


I couldn't help but notice this irrelevant detail.

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=nikkidurkin

created: 1000 days ago


It's glossed over because it requires more than a single party to represent the "story" in a fair light and it would unprofessional for her to write about her biased emotional experience.

I think she is 100% in the clear for glossing over it and I personally would have left out bits like "backstabbing" &c... They may or may not have but describing her personal emotional experience while leaving out the hairy and sticky co-founder dynamics is a great way to share an experience of the "dark underbelly" [that is startups].


But can you reliably judge the character of people who are incentivized to deceive you?

In my experience, most people are happy to keep their options open, and most people discount volatility pretty hard when forced to make their life choices path-dependent. Not just to start a company, but when it comes time to commit resources to something, you find that even those who you believed would carry through, whether thanks to their track record or particularly convincing talk, will drop out.

I think of it as them having a high discount rate. The NPV of choosing a riskier path with later reward is thus lower than the stable, short term higher returns of stability, and the cost of "flaking" (the likelihood of you choosing not to do business with them ever again if you get to a position of such success that you can afford it) very low, especially if you are not currently in a position of success. Plus, you'll "understand", right?

I've gotten better over time at spotting those who'd drop out, but still have a 30-40% failure rate. I chalk it up to flakers being good at convincing other people - too good for me to spot them - and factor that in as a cost of doing business with good people which pays off in the long term. If you have a reliable way to spot flakers early, I'd love to read about it.

(FWIW on the original subject - Noam Wasserman's data show the highest rate of failure for "family/friends who become co-founders", followed by "fresh hired co-founders" with "people who worked together before as co-founders" being a significant predictor for co-founding success.)


I'd be interested in that too. I am a research scientist, and the experience of trying to get some decent innovative science done appears to be similar in terms of emotional stress as running a start-up. Will it work? What do I need, who will give it to me, etc, etc.

One thing I have learnt, though, is the people are harder than science; if you don't have your working relationships aligned all hell can be created.


I was definitely curious about that too - inquiring minds want to know!


I was in the same YC batch as Nikki. The thing I remember most about her was her enthusiasm. I also remember that her presentation on Demo Day got the loudest applause and most interest. Sad to hear 99dresses didn't make it, but I'm sure Nikki will have a bright future. Few young women her age will have gained the experience and insight that comes from founding a company and seeing it fail. As Michael Jordan said "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."


What I like most about that MJ quote is that all the stats link up. If he has made those 26 game winning shots he would have had not lost "almost 300 games" and he would have missed fewer than the "more than 9000" shots that he missed. Man, he was awesome.


Also interesting is that he knew those stats in order to make the quote. He was known for remembering every little slight, stat, etc... in order to use as motivation. I picture a little piece of paper with 25 written on it, and him thinking he does not want to write 26.


I think that quote was from a commercial so he probably had some help remembering. Good quote though.


Man, that quote was awesome!


Well written. One thing I always find funny about the startup world is the idea that hardship is good. Hardship isn't good. Hardship sucks. Sometimes hardship is something you need to survive to accomplish your goals, but not always. While there are a lot of successful startups that went through a lot of hardship, there are a lot of them that didn't. It seems that based on a lot of factors that were outside of your control you were playing the startup game on "hard mode" and you gave it a pretty good run anyways.

Also a pretty good lesson that having a good job and comfortable life maybe isn't so bad after all (a very un-silicon valley lesson).


Hardship at a lot of startups is the result of entrepreneurs not respecting the old adage, "It takes money to make money." A lot of entrepreneurs don't really know how much money they need, and young ones often start their companies before they know where it's going to come from.

The good news is that now is a great time to be selling equity in a tech startup. The bad news is that even if you're successful in trading your company's equity for capital, there's no guarantee you'll get enough capital, or that you'll be able to get more of it when you run out.


Gotta agree, startup is not some glorified zero sum game. Losing two co-founders nearly threw me into "depression". A special hell I created around myself of self-doubt and why-me.

Personally taking time off startup helped and made mentally more stronger. I can't even imagine what she went through with so many big ups and downs.


I disagree. I think hardship is a valuable experience that everyone should endure.

1) You only really get to know yourself when you find yourself eating rice for the hundredth time in a row, and live on the floor of an abandoned building.

2) "never again" is one hell of a motivator

3) you gain the knowledge that all these things, all this crap we fill our lives with, is totally unnecessary

4) empathy. Live below the bottom rung for a while and you'll understand far more keenly what poverty is like. The idea of being in that situation and not having the skills, knowledge or gumption to not bootstrap out, or not having the vision to realise you already have, is terrifying.


Hardship in itself is crap. Hardship that leads somewhere might kinda be good in retrospect, maybe. The startup world seems intent on getting people to buy into the idea that all hardship is that sort of hardship.


Or as Lefty Gomez artfully pointed out, "I'd rather be lucky than good." The more time I spend working on my startup, the more I appreciate the wisdom of this quote.


Hardship isn't good. Hardship sucks.

The point is a bit more subtle. There is the russian roulette aspect of probability, and then there is failure from lack of character. Unfortunately, outsiders can't see or relate to the important distinctions. This makes dealling with use a bit more cognitive overhead--and that's what sucks. Explaining things to folks on the outside who don't have the inclination or understanding to care. That's a different kind of hardship vs. waking up everyday and doing difficult (but tractable) things like problem solving be it in math or marketing. But my guess is those are problems many will never have the privledge of having, for good or bad, one way or the other.


>hardship sucks

Isn't that why we have a name for it?


One thing Nikki has going for her is that she's young. At 22 and already having the experience she's had, she has a great opportunity to learn from those lessons, tap into the network she's built, and ultimately do something great.

I love the aggressiveness and the spunk she clearly has. Looking back on my own life (I'm one of the "older crowd" in HN terms), I wish I'd been that ambitious at that age. Or, maybe ambitious isn't the word, maybe "focused" would be better. In either case, I wound up waiting until my late 30's to found a startup and now I'll be 41 in about a month, and we're still looking for the mystical, mythical "traction". :-)

The downside is, being this old, I feel a certain sense of "this is my last shot". If I fail with Fogbeam Labs, I doubt I'll have the energy, passion, drive, and mojo to try again. So if there's a lesson in my experience, that I'd try to share with the younger crowd, it would be "Be more like Nikki, and less like Phil". :-)


Strange, I just turned 40 and I feel better prepared than ever :)


Yeah, that's kinda the "catch 22" of it all. I'm definitely more prepared now, for sure. But my feeling is, if this startup fails, by the time it fails (and I won't give up until I'm verging on death anyway), I don't expect to be able to muster up enough mojo to pour this kind of energy into another shot. Whether it's emotionally, mentally, spiritually or physically, I think I'll be spent once this is over.

Now maybe I'm wrong, so who knows...


You're putting a lot of energy because you're learning on the job. Nothing else. If you knew what you were doing, it'd be much easier, of course.


That's a fair point. All I'm getting at though, is that there's a lot to be said for taking a swing or two when you're younger and have more time for "second chances" if you fail. At my age, if I fail, I don't see starting all over again as being in the cards.


I think one of the biggest things people should learn from their first startup dying is that it's better to say here ran a coward than here died a lion though.


Flipside, if she started 99dresses at age 32, would it have failed for the same reasons?


She would not have had teh same idea but if she did, she would have dealt it lot better IMO.

The advantages of age( if you are still open minded & not set in your ways) is huge but seems discounted in the YC and VC world. from y'day https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7930428

from long back https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7455757


While YC and VC are nice social proof, the best social proof is a healthy business with customers and growth.

I mean, total kudos for being 19 and following her passion. I know at 19 there would be no way I could have been the dominate force I am at 34.

And I wonder what I'll be like at 54.

Probably look back and think, "Man I didn't know anything when I was 34"


At that advanced age, due to ageism in the tech field, by the time it failed, she would be lucky to be hired as a people greeter at walmart, much less be permitted to "ultimately do something great". At her current age, she will be OK.

You can do great things as a retail cashier, or a waitress, its just easier to do great things when your job has at least something to do with it.


So I see another startup failed story. Thinking I'll read it later after getting something done. an hour later, I start reading...

Right in the first sentence I see "99dresses". I have to admit, it took me a minute to process what's going on. She has been receiving significant coverage in mainstream Australian media. As someone, who is running startup from Sydney (there aren't so many of us), this felt like someone in your family has passed away even though I've never even met Nikki.

I'm not even sure what I'm writing here... I just feel sad.


I did the same thing. Thought I would read later, saw 99dresses and kept reading.

Sydney is pretty insular and almost everyone knows everyone else if not by reputation then personally.


I am based in Sydney. I am not running what could be called a startup since my tech business has been running since 1999, but I do have a lot of experience with the the whole startup process. Is there a meetup of startup founders in Sydney?


Get a desk at Fishburners.org ... that's where I met Nikki :)


Almost daily. All over the place. Meetup.com is flooded with them.


I am sure - I should have been more precise are there any good meetups :)


I felt exactly the same. I'm based in Brisbane and have seen 99dresses mentioned many many times in the media and startup communities around here. I'm amazed and incredibly saddened that it didn't work out.


You should get a desk at Fishburners.org!


I met Nikki in Sydney while at a start-up camp.

I will admit to being slightly jealous because she did get a lot of attention due to what I thought was solely being a tall attractive female that dresses well. However having read this seeing and seeing how this played into her impostor syndrome  has made me re-evaluate my thinking. The attention might be useful, but I can totally understand questioning if its because its who you are or what you are doing. Since everything in the start up world is about what you are doing I can see this attention leaving you with self doubt.

She certainly has done more then I have, and at a far younger age.

Sorry for the bad thoughts Nikki. I had been following 99dresses loosely over the years and I had hoped you would succeed as there are so few start-up stories that come out of Sydney. Wishing you the best of luck with whatever you chose to do in the future.


You're a good person for acknowledging this and offering her such kind words. Everyone's got biases and resentment, but you just discharged yours with genuine dignity. Please take care.


Sometimes I wonder how non-technical founders can sleep at night with all the stress. It elevates cofounder risk to a single point of failure for the entire company.

Seeing through "developer bullshitting" is a dark art that is hard to master without spending a bit of time as a developer.


Indeed. As a former non-technical founder (now semi-technical), the worst part of the fear of failure is that your "job" is keeping companies alive. If your company dies, not only is your company a failure, but your only "skill set" is called into question. Knowing that fact and simultaneously being unable to contribute directly to the product, wondering how hard you can push your technical co-founder/team (or how far is right?) is enough to drive one insane.

It was easier (and more beneficial) for me to learn how to program. I'm not the most technical one on the team, but at least I can pitch in and work instead of wonder.


A thousand times this.

The worse case scenario is much, much worse for non-technical cofounders.

They often don't have a deep, specialized skill that is easily used by other companies.


Sales is a skill that is in a high demand by many companies.


Similar position, I see start-up memorandums by full or mostly tech founders in which their common concern has been around building the wrong product or not knowing the customer. Yet being a 'non tech founder' or even 'semi tech founder' raises red flags.


Sometimes I wonder how technical founders can sleep at night with all the stress. After all, the number of technical founders who can effectively sell is small, so most of them have a single point of failure too, just on the other side of the business.

The harsh truth is that lot of non-technical founders set themselves up for failure precisely because they're limited to the pool of developers who will consider a co-founder relationship. If you're a solid developer with a proven track record of shipping, there's very little incentive to join a venture run by somebody you don't know very well for less than market pay, and in some cases little to no pay.

You typically get what you pay for, which is why more entrepreneurs should skip the technical co-founder nonsense and hire an experienced contractor or shop with a solid portfolio and references. If you don't have the money to do this, it's worth rethinking whether you're in a position to start a business in the first place.


Fantastic. I think technical founders think they're set, only to realize building something is only part of the equation. Marketing, selling, customer support, customer happiness/retention are all skills necessary skills to make a business successful.


> Seeing through "developer bullshitting" is a dark art that is hard to master without spending a bit of time as a developer.

Or figure out how to get a technical co-founder you trust.

Developer Bullshit is a people problem, and if you have that problem, no amount of dark-art mastery will help your company survive.


When you start learning the difference between "poor" and "broke" the stress usually goes away.

For anyone that doesn't understand - being poor means you have nothing, being broke means you are still accumulate wealth, it just means you don't have cash, but more intelligence. I suspect Nikki has banked loads of intellectual wealth from her journey.


Broke is a circumstance. Poor is a state of mind/being.


> Sometimes I wonder how non-technical founders can sleep at night with all the stress. It elevates cofounder risk to a single point of failure for the entire company.

This is not exclusive to non-technical founders.

> Seeing through "developer bullshitting" is a dark art that is hard to master without spending a bit of time as a developer.

Within a group of people striving for the same success, the idea of "bullshit" is often coined by those not wanting to take the time to understand the perspective of others. There is a communication and priority disconnect in most companies between the technical and non-technical; with both sides to blame.


Nikki, I just sent you a request for an interview on Mixergy. This is a courageous post.


Would be great to hear about Nikki on Mixergy. (Hi Andrew)


Update: She's in. I'll post it on the site soon.


Haha and I just posted a list of my favourite "fail" interviews from Mixergy :)

I'd love to see the interview!


is this a joke ? why are you telling others ?


No joke. I've gotten some of my best guests by commenting on Hacker News. The community here is incredible.

I would usually just leave it at an email, but I imagine her inbox is flooded after this incredible post. Also, I'm hoping her friends will see this and help me connect with her.


Aren't you meant to be on paternity leave? Still working?


Nikki made it very clear that she felt talking about failed startups is valuable, and even suggested a curated collection. Mixergy would bring a nice big spotlight where she asked for it.


It's sad to read stories like this. But I have to wonder... if the concept is profitable what keeps it from being executed without 2 million dollars in investor money? So maybe you stay smaller... who cares? For you, it is about what you are making, not how big the company is. How much does it really cost to set up a database driven website? Hmmm?

Now, I realize this doesn't apply if the end game is a high dollar exit, but if you can make a decent living with your application/web site ("startup" and "founder" are overused terms in my opinion) who cares?

If you can't make a profit long term, then maybe you your idea doesn't deserve to live. Simply passing the bomb on to the next set of suckers be they the public at IPO's, or acquires, or VC investors hardly seems like the right thing to do (although no doubt it is done all the time... sometimes with incredible profits).

There is life outside the VC world. If it's a good idea and profitable and you love it....stick with it. If you are looking for a billion dollar exit... that's another thing entirely and it's time to move on to the next idea.


I generally agree with this perspective, but a two-sided marketplace is one of the business models that really does need to grow fast. No one would install the Uber app if it didn't have any drivers, and no one would apply to be a driver if there were no riders.


OK. That's a very valid explanation in this case.

Kind of like all the ebay replacements that never seem to get anywhere in spite of how awful ebay is.


It's a valid point. I think that certain types of ideas do require capital to start. Uber, for example, probably needed a lot of capital to get their infrastructure going. If you have web-based startup with minimal expenses then investment capital may not be necessary until you are ready to make a big move.

Here on HN it is overly glorified to read "company gets 1.2 million investment." It puts things in perspective to think "company takes out 1.2 million dollar loan and now has 10 months to figure out how to stay in business." But that's the reality of going the venture capital route before your company has any income.


22 is so young.

At 21 I was on a plane headed home from another country. I cried in the office. I cried on the plane home. We'd Burned almost half a million dollars, a couple of years of work, let go a team - and had nothing to show for it. With no degree, no more money and no job I moved back in with parents.

So I suppose this article resonates, and in the most literal sense - I've been there.

I think the hardest thing for me at that moment in time was I didn't really have a handle on just how young I was and how much more I had coming. It was all I'd really done with my life up to that point.

It's taken me quite a few years to gain that perspective, and it's a difficult thing to communicate. The world is inconceivably vast and expansive and you have the next half century to build within it. Yourself, your ideas, your creations.

At that age and on that scale it's only a failure in the moment. Then, as time passes it becomes just another step along the way. It imparted knowledge upon you, and opened doors you don't even know about yet. All of the parts that hurt fade away and you're just left with the experience gained.

The fast-paced echo-chamber of the technology startup world is a particularly hard environment to step back and get a real sense of perspective in, which makes it a particularly hard environment to fail in, especially as you'll always be reading about someone else magically killing it.

I've failed since then, and I've succeeded since then. But as the years roll by, I've come to realise that the winning and losing don't even matter, because the journey just keeps on going regardless. If I saw myself now, when I was on that plane at 21, I'd have thought I was looking at someone who had mythically 'made it'. But you know what? I haven't. It's exactly the same: I've got another 40-odd-years of succeeding and failing ahead of me, in both my personal life and my professional life.

Personally I find that quite cathartic.


22 is young. yeah, when kids in other countries can't even get food , walk 10km for glass of water we are wasting money on these so called , self proclaimed "start up" people and promote such behavior.


Dude, every single post you've made in this thread is negative.

Yes, hardship is relative. Yes, hardship in a first world country is relatively easy (compared to your example)

Some of these startups are targetting the developing world - if it takes a few fashion startups to get there, so be it. You don't know what Nikki's second, third, fourth or fifth venture will be.


Thanks for posting this! It sounds like it was incredibly difficult at times. Hard to imagine, but thanks for making it vivid.

I would love to hear more about the following (not holding my breath):

"After hiring a few people and finding an office in NYC we were ready to launch. We solved the chicken-and-egg problem using techniques that we promised never to speak of again because they squarely sat on the grey/black spectrum of naughtiness. If there was a line, we definitely crossed it. We had to. These hacks were harmless to others, so I figured it was only a problem if we got caught."

Edit: ++empathy.


Your story is mostly about you not getting a VISA, getting back-stabbed by people, spending 2 months fund-raising, media coverage, personal issues, your age, your gender. There is hardly anything about why the startup failed.

But maybe the article isn't about the startup - it's about the emotional ride. Maybe that's why a lot of startups fail - they get so involved with other things, it's not about the startup anymore.


All the issues she mentioned are HUGE parts of building a successful business that absolutely everyone will go through.


I really appreciated this article. I'm on year 5 of my "startup" which has struggled and kicked and clawed and just barely hit profitability at the end of last year. I have to admit that it feels totally uncool that we have hung on all this time instead of just quitting after spending somebody's millions of dollars in 6 months. (We never had millions to spend, but anyway). There are so many times when you feel like things are just not going to work. Working hard and persevering are ideas that don't always jive with the "fail fast" strategy.

Even after all this time and things beginning to look positive, I still worry constantly that we will backslide or somebody will come along and take our marketshare or any number of other things. I wish that 99dresses had a different outcome, but still it is an encouraging story. No doubt with this kind of attitude and experience Miss Durkin is going to find success. I think it is extremely important to know that not every venture has to take off within six months to be successful. It's a long haul for most of us.


Strange as it might sound, I'm rather envious of Nikki.

Although the business didn't work out, to have gained so much life experience at such a young age is incredible.


There's some very old entrepreneurial wisdom that says if your business can make it past year 4, it has staying power. I thought that was bullshit until I made it past year 4 and right about that time we discovered efficiencies, lucrative markets, a kick-ass business model and what we are really good at.

And yeah, not having money is really really awful, especially when it goes on for years with no certainty that it will ever change. But as entrepreneurs, that's how we do.



Here's one more.

Hiten Shah used to run a web hosting company.

http://mixergy.com/interviews/kissmetrics-hiten-shah-intervi...


Sweet! Hadn't seen that one yet!


I take complete responsibility for this failure. Were other people involved in 99dresses? Of course. Was any of this their fault? Absolutely not.

I understand what you're going for here (and it's nice), but it's fair to let your team share responsibility for the defeat. Otherwise it never really feels like they were part of the successes.


At the end of the day, I am the CEO of the company. It was my leadership that got us here. Even if something wasn't executed right by one person on the team, that is still my responsibility. Furthermore, we were killed because we ran out of money - also my responsibility. That's the point I'm trying to make.


IMO whenever I have led something, I share the credits and take full responsibility of the failures. I say the same thing to my kids, be it their hockey game or drama team. If someone else screwed up in the team, they mostly know it and I don't need to point it out publicly. I do it privately. Its their choice if they want to own up publicly.

Again IMO Nikki's was right to gloss it over and doing so kept focus on the main theme.


Good leadership means personally taking the blame for failure while ensuring your team gets the credit for success.


I've just published a similar piece and came to an almost identical conclusion. I can't speak for her, but in my opinion everything is everyone's fault: success and failure. I'm assuming that's what she's getting at, the idea that if something's going wrong and none of you did anything about it, then it's everyone's fault.


>> You rarely hear the raw stories of startups that persevered but ultimately failed — the emotional roller coaster of the founders, and why their startups didn’t work out.

I feel like I've read this sentence, or a version of it, so many times that it self-refutes. You hear plenty about people who failed. Not as often as the next big thing (since no one puts in the effort to send out press releases about how their failure happened - although that actually might be an interesting strategy for figuring out a next step if the post-mortem is honest enough), but it feels like once a week or so a post like this hits the front of HN.


Yes, because you're on HN, where a lot of startup founders hang out. Statistically, there will be a lot of failed startup founders in HN.

However, you won't hear about those guys in Forbes Magazine, on the evening news, or in your business school classes.


Gotta hand it to OP. Sounds like she gave it her all as a very young founder. I suspect after re-grouping she could have a bright future.

The one thing that made no sense to me was why they didn't stay in Australia and go after local market. Does the concept not work there?


There are only 23 million people in Australia, and its a small population spread over a huge area. That means shipping is expensive, which isn't great for trading low value second hand fast fashion items. An item that can get shipped for $2.80 in the US would cost $7 at least in Australia.

Also, Australia Post doesn't have any APIs to automate shipping. Girls had to physically go to the post office to ship items, and there wasn't tracking either. This meant a lot of customer service headaches.


Hi Nikki

Consider one more roll of the dice, this time in the UK. We speak English and we have a postal delivery network.

Rather than chase the $$$ consider taking your idea to Oxfam - a British charity known for selling donated clothes. Your app will enable them to introduce a younger audience to the work they do. They also have people to pick up the phone, a marketing budget and that network of stores.

From a customer standpoint they really might be pleased to pay a premium to Oxfam if their clothes are going to a good home. It is a different 'doing good' proposition. Things that don't sell might as well go to the Oxfam shop as a donation - the app takes people half way there.

If not Oxfam then there are plenty of other charities that might be interested. You might not make money for the VCs of the valley but you will be able to make the thing work, perhaps to feed a few of those in The Global South as a spin-off benefit.

As far as acquiring new users, the idea of an 'Oxfam app' definitely has intrigue, people would do marketing for you by word of mouth. Plus they would 'excuse' themselves to get their next fashion fix.

Just to clarify, I think people should still get some money back, but with 10-25% or so going to Oxfam. Sure there would be postage to pay that might mean people are making pennies on outfits that cost pounds, but this would be psychologically okay if money is going to Oxfam.

You could also pimp the app to show the user/customer how many mouths they have fed through their trades.

This charitable outcome might also work well for those that have put money in your venture. To them they might not have earned $$$ but they will have done something for the greater good.

The UK market is small compared to the US but the geography is a lot tighter. Crack the UK with a partner such as Oxfam and then the other markets will follow, maybe with different partners. I should also say that charities do pay a living wage :-)

Regardless of what you do next, well done for giving it a go and I look forward to hearing about what you do next.


Trying to partner with Oxfam is a brilliant idea. They are also present in other European countries, so this could open you multiple doors in Europe where you don't have competition.

I happen to know someone who worked at the direction of Oxfam in Spain couple of years ago, so let me know if you are interested - it would be a super long shot though.


Thanks! Will look into it. I want to sell the assets if I can, but I think I'm just ready to move on and take a break.


Take a break for half a year or something anyway, and then have a look at the Oxfam thing, it sounds cool. You can also do that part-time, no need to force it. Good luck nikki!


The UK also has favourable visa arrangements for Australians - certainly more so than the US, which seems hell bent on rejecting any desirable immigration.


That's not the case. It's not very easy for an Australian to get a UK Working Visa in their own field (as opposed to "working holiday" arrangements).

OTOH, the E3 US Visa is quite simple - it's generally considered to be the easiest US skilled worker visa to get.


As a Canadian working in the US I would love to have access to an E3. It's way better than our TN visa.


+1. Postage in Australia is a very rough deal for many businesses. On top of internal pricing, companies overseas can often ship to here more cheaply than we can even ship internally. It's crippling and will remain so without either drastic overhaul or something like autonomous couriers years down the track.

Wine is big business in Australia, but where wineries in California seem to have < $10 shipping nation-wide, an Australian winery will cop $30+ to post a dozen to an interstate capital.

(I'm an Australian with one physical product which would be easier to sell if the shipping weren't so expensive.)


+1 It is cheaper to ship from China to Australia than domestically in Australia. This really hurts doing business locally.


sounds like an opportunity


Amazing read. And I recall when I first saw 99 dresses how much I recognized the need, where my wife has literally hundreds of dresses and doesn't wear much multiple times.

On mobile but will elaborate on this as I think the idea was amazing but could have also benefitted from something specific...

EDIT:

My wife as a great style sense - and also reasonable with her money. She would find amazing fashions at Crossroads in San Francisco where she could find desirable brands like D&G, BCBG and other smaller labels where women sold their designer clothes at a discount.

She picked up MANY amazing dresses from this place, as well as shoes. She hardly recycled dresses for events or dates and did it economically.

If 99Dresses had coupled with places like this where they had rental inventory as well, I am sure this would have been an amazing offering.

You could have had a daily rental price, as well as an option so that if the owner chose; a sell price.

A place like crossroads was actually pretty good at being discerning, yet well priced in their garments.

It would also had been an opportunity to provide brick-and-mortar fitting rooms... as well as local inventory. Connect this with a garment style ID and a "different sizes available via online at locations X Y and Z.

DISCLAIMER: Did 99Dresses have all this already?

I am amazed it did fail - I LOVED the BM and Idea.


It looks like they failed, because of a string of bad luck, despite having a good business idea.


As a very wise man once said[1]

"It ain't about hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now if you know what you're worth, now go out and get what you're worth".

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z5OookwOoY


Thanks for being so raw and honest about this - even the less glamorous parts. It isn't easy to talk honestly about issues like gendered expectations and approaching VC, black hat marketing, or emotional manipulation for Visa, and a lot of people would have chosen to gloss over those aspects, but it takes a lot of guts to be upfront about the darker sides of running your company.

Reading this, it confirmed an important lesson that I learned in a completely different setting (grad school). It's much, much better to do an impossible project with an excellent mentor and fantastic coworkers, than an easy project full of low hanging fruits with colleagues you can't stand.

People who were in the former condition all flourished, even if it meant pivoting to a completely different project after having invested 2 years in a dead end idea. People in the latter camp burnt out completely and almost uniformly dropped out of grad school. The few that stayed were basically running on spite the entire time.


> Reading this, it confirmed an important lesson that I learned in a completely different setting (grad school). It's much, much better to do an impossible project with an excellent mentor and fantastic coworkers, than an easy project full of low hanging fruits with colleagues you can't stand.

This really is a vital lesson, but can be difficult to learn. After the first startup I was in folded I helped found another with some of the same people, because I believed we were a good team that could go somewhere. Quite soon after we pivoted from an interesting problem to 'low-hanging fruit', and the team dynamics began to change rapidly, in a way that prevented progress (suddenly there was a lot of ego). It quickly became clear that things were untenable, so I left. Since leaving everything has pointed to it being the only correct choice. I still made the mistake of trusting them to tie up financials properly. Things can degrade faster than your loyalties account for, but you can pick yourself up and learn from it.


"Maybe its because most founders are men, and men generally don’t like talking about their feelings. Maybe its because failure is embarrassing."

That would be regarded as sexist if it were arranged with such a blanket statement the other way around.

I've seen countless stories on HN where guy founders talk about the emotional side of failing and their startup going under. I'm not sure where she gets this notion. In fact, I see the emotional side written about more often than anything else. It seems like there's a few new stories every week on HN by some guy that failed, and he's discussing dealing with the substantial emotional fallout (how it affected his life, his savings, his family, his sleep, and how agonizing in general it all is).


Bad luck. Though, where are all the expenses? Seems to just be an iPhone app with not much schelps, could your technical partner manage it part time?


I think it was a combination of bad luck, timing, and some bad decisions on my behalf. I learned a lot from the experience.

Actually, we had a team of 5 working on this. Running operations is really intense and time consuming. There is lots of customer service, community management and making sure items arrive at their destination. Then I was there to work on product and I had 2 developers as well.

I looked at the figures, and although it might be possible to cut out all the tech/product side and just leave operations, then we would really be in a zombie state. I thought it was better to cut our losses and move on.


Makes sense. I actually stumbled upon 99dresses the other day after looking at Polenizer(I'm a Brisbanite). Hoping to grow a startup here, not because of some strict nationalism, just too lazy to go through the visa process =D


Curious -- where did all the money go? How did you manage to spend $700k~ -- you hired 2 developers (full time, why?) and took care of ops over 3 years? How long did it take, four years?


5 full time staff, an office, flights, marketing expenses - that all ads up. Apparently we were burning a third of what a startup at our stage normally is with our team size, and I even thought that was a lot.


Was your office in SF (SOMA?). What marketing expenses -- were you paying for user acquisition on mobile? Were you flying to Australia and back?

Lasting 4 years on 700k with 5 people and no income (or even 2 years) with some other minor expenses is relatively low burn, though. We budget 100k+~ / person / year. If your app involved shipping dresses to your office, unfortunately you need to run the ops for it and handle physical objects :(


Curious as to why I was downvoted ~


The "sky high heels" might invite more attention, but the patronizing comments part make me wonder whether it was the right kind of attention.

"99dresses was squarely focused on trading cheaper fast fashion (fast fashion is really hard to re-sell for cash)" I wonder how much demand exists for cheap secondhand clothes which go out of style quickly. Isn't it the point of this type of clothing that people can buy it new for not much money, and not worry that that it often doesn't hold up well? The clothes themselves are probably mass produced in third world countries for next to nothing. This seems like a very vertical online thrift store.

Does the world need another online thrift store?


That is a really good and emotional post mortem. I think we need more of these. Great lessons are learnt from failures.


M$ was founded in mid 70s and had not made a dent until the 80s. More so their killer product was launched in the 90s that put them as the definitive leader on the map. In a way, it took roughly 20 years for M$ "to take over the world." Not to mention Gates and Allen started off writing software for traffic systems and I don't recall that was a huge hit. “Innovation” does happen relatively faster these days. But it's really hard to do one-to-one comparison of companies that are mega successful (aka they make a lot of money) and those that relatively bring in lesser revenue. Besides this I believe one really has to derive the meaning of success on her own. I would not consider you a failure by any means as you gave your best to the startup. There is so much you can take away from this experience. For example, you can write a book about your experiences as you have got a good talent for writing. You can travel around and give motivational speeches at colleges and networking events. You have got a good story to tell and I bet many of us out there would be interested in hearing about it. Don't worry too much that you could not save up. I don't think this is any way puts you behind anyone your age. I bet most kids your age have spent lots on crack, booze, food, superfluous relationships, etc. Whereas you have built a pretty good reputation that really can take you far.


Thank you for sharing your story.

My YC startup failed two years ago and it still has an impact on me. I learned a lot and wish I knew what I know now back then. My cofounders parted ways within one year of YC and I became a self made single founder. One of the biggest mistakes was not taking breaks. I thought I had to work twice as hard to compensate. It just went into this vicious cycle: depressed & tired -> not productive -> worked every waking moments -> depressed & tired.


My uncle used to say that instead of having the handful of successful entrepreneurs come back to b school to tell their war stories -- they should sponsor at least one lecture of an entrepreneur who, in their most recent enterprise, failed. And I would tend to agree.

Very well-written. Makes your readers stronger in novel ways for reading it. Thanks for sharing.

It's all about knowing how to light up parts of the graph in life though. Now you know. Second time will go further.


So I remember hearing about 99dresses in the Australian press, and this write up does leave me wondering the same thing I was wondering at the time:

Was the product ever successful in Australia?

Fully 20% of Australia's entire population is concentrated in Sydney alone - what was the expected total market (for a product heavily invested in shipping physical items) that didn't work here that there was a need to, apparently, move so quickly and wholly into the US?


Hey Nikki. Have you thought about learning how to code? It's really never as hard as it seems to be. If you had a business model and some level of revenues then you might be able to sustain yourself financially, run everything yourself and keep it going maybe!?

Probably too late for that kind of advice though. But I believe a start up dies if you give it up. But you don't have to let it if you don't want to. Sometimes that's the most reasonable thing to do, but you don't always have to.

I'm in the same case as you. I had to let go of all my employees, Couldn't pay them anymore. And I'm now the only one on board doing all the code, design, marketing and everything. I'm just too stubborn to give up and I still believe in what we do 100%. (Damn I still say 'we' I mean 'I'. Just a reflex) I do feel your pain. But my best advice is to try to learn how to code and sketch things yourself. With all the skills that you accumulated you'll be able to create prototype rapidly, be less dependable and bounce back rapidly and next time you'll be fearless. Food for thoughts ;-) I wish you the all the best for your next adventures.


Nikki, thanks for sharing your story. You definitely experienced alot!

It sounds like you hit 2 of the biggest issues startups can face. Co-founder disputes and Product issues.

Re Co-founder disputes - once money gets involved and the cap table is in your favor in the early days, the st will hit the fan. Raising money dilutes everyone and that too has a negative effect of the minority holders and can create some bad energy.

As you found out working with the right people is super super important. What I have found that has worked super well for me is working with people I have worked with before. One, you know they are good (the ones you choose to start a business with them) and the honeymoon period doesn't exist so its all about execution. I don't believe in cofounder dating events.

As you found out having a mobile product is a big deal. People are mobile creates. Even more now then ever. So being able to reach them via the computer in their pocket is an opportunity not to be missed.

Regarding the Visas, E2 Visa would have gotten you into USA. Or you could have setup an entity remotely in USA and through the company setup E3/H1B for yourself and your cofounder. There are some obstacles to jump but possible with the right legal/immigration team.

Finally, I didn't see in your story mention of an advisory board? I have found that getting the right people around you can open doors to investors, industry people, advise on technology, product etc... highly recommended if you can use them wisely.

Overall I believe the experience you have gained at such a young age will only set you up for big success in the future. Don't give up and keep on going! Good luck!


+1 for the E2 visa, as an option to take into account (I'm an Italian in SF with a 5y E2 visa)


"Fail fast, fail early, fail often!” they all chant, trying to put a positive spin on the most excruciating pain any founder could experience."

Is it just an impression, or did she get this sentence the wrong way?

The whole point of this saying is to make you realize that failure should actually not be such a big deal. Failure isn't an dead end, it's a step forward on the difficult path of entrepreneurship. Therefore, saying things like "I couldn’t fail. This was my baby, and if it was going to fail it would be over my dead body." can only lead you, indeed, to excruciating pain in case of failure.

Resilience is an excellent quality, and I think the only way to give your best and surpass yourself is by facing real challenges, but please remember that you cannot in any way resume 4 years of ultra rich/challenging experience with the two words "I failed". Jeez, just having survived 4 years in her very first startup experience is already a success.

I sympathize with her pain; I just find it sad that she doesn't seem to realize the incredible experience and skills she gained from this adventure. Those years were absolutely not wasted; the chances of success for her next startup are incomparably higher than for her previous one, and I wish her all the best for the future.

Edit: A startup is first a human adventure. After it "failed", ask yourself the right questions: - Did I learn something? Do I know better? - Am I a different person? A better person? - Did I help some people in any way? - Did my social skills improve? Did my network grow? - What about my legal/technical/managerial/whatever-ial knowledge?

If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, than this adventure wasn't a failure at all. :)


I think in the article she does acknowledge that rationally, she knows that she did gain a lot of experience and skills, but she focuses on the uncontrollable emotions and feelings that she went through over the course of her last 4 years.


I understand the frustration and outright sadness at a startup dying. Its your baby while its there, and sometimes, you wake one day and its not. But that is the nature of startups. Like you said - the odds are against you from day zero. But we do it regardless for that 10% chance of "not dying" and the even more anorexic chance of "making it big". I think ultimately we're doing it for the ride. And I think every person going into a startup should be given a little laminated fact sheet explaining that he's joining an enterprise which will try to fight this statistic and nothing is guaranteed in this rollercoaster. Same way the banks have to warn you before you invest in a portfolio, that your investment might be buggered to hell, people should be aware the same applies to tech startups. If nothing else, that might cut down on the disappointment of letting your staff know its over.

Keep at it Nikki. Well done for your first round. Level up now and go at it again.


Wow I am kind of jealous of getting an opportunity to fail so spectacularly. It is obviously very hard but Nikki is very young and decades ahead of her to try new ventures. I call this great learning experience a success if you haven't lost your arm or a leg and can still function as a normal human being. She is definitely a winner, its pretty obvious to me.


I cringed at the description of "a lady who took an obvious immediate disliking to me" in the visa office. It made me sad to recall times that a woman has controlled my destiny and denied me for whatever reason when the men would have let me in. I'm so sorry that Nikki also knows what that feels and looks like. I hope my daughter never does.


It's not a gender issue, it's a U.S. bureaucracy issue. They're all little tinpot dictators who like making up rules on the spot - and U.S. bureaucracy design takes away many avenues of recourse, so they get away with it.

I've experienced them when immigrating to the U.S., at the DMV, when getting inspections for contractor work. The little $*(#@ get off on making you feel helpless.

Who picks on you seems to have to do with what vibe you give off. I did notice that both my partner and I attract a certain class of them, but thankfully we don't overlap. So by now, we know who gets to deal with which idiot.


I agree with the "who picks on you seems to have to do with what vibe you give off" sentiment. Perhaps I over interpreted from Nikki's description, but I have seen and experienced smart, young(ish), accomplished women sometimes get sabotaged by older women in bureaucratic or middle management type roles. I could imagine that whatever that thing is might have been what motivated the "tinpot dictator who likes making up rules on the spot" to choose Nikki to power trip on and feel helpless. I don't know whether they are jealous, they feel helpless and therefore like watching others feel that way, think they are protecting young women from roles they aren't ready for, are just having a bad day or they met that kind of resistance and now think it builds character. It doesn't really matter. But it certainly hurt 99dresses and that makes me sad.


"* it's a U.S. bureaucracy issue*" It's an issue everywhere, not just in the US.


In many other countries, you have the benefit of well-defined rules, and well-defined escalation paths. Both are notably absent in the U.S.


I think you can safely assume "a lady" is merely descriptive, and not accusatory, unless you're searching for prose to be offended by.

If it was a man, and the sentence included "a man" I could also imagine a snide comment from some male commentator accusing her of misandry.

Can't win!


I've worked with a weirdly large number of female-run and female-focused startups and clients over the years. I could write a long, blunt tirade about this.

Basically the cards are stacked against these businesses from the day they are funded.

Male tech folks make a lot of false assumptions about female focused businesses. For investors it can mean leaving a complicated business model under-funded. For developers it means blindly taking a “cofounder” title in exchange for an equity-heavy compensation deal without thinking through what it means to work on a business you aren’t passionate about, for years, at reduced pay.

In both cases, if there isn't an early slam-dunk hockey stick marker of success, guys don’t have the stamina to tolerate a female-focused business for very long. They bail. The company never gets its next round of funding. The engineering talent runs for the hills. Its not cool to work on a company for girls, especially a struggling company for girls. So male talent will just split as soon as the going gets rough.

Each time the company has a setback, the guys all start to bail. So the company needs to find new talent and appease many people at every little bump in the road. This is hugely costly and results in a lot of unnecessary crisis moments, doubts, and subsequent pivots.

The sad part is that a lot of female founders leave startups for good after one failure. I have a linkedin network filled with former female founder superstars who work in humdrum non-tech management roles. Women take the loss on a much more personal level than men do. So every time a female founder is stunted, and then abandoned by her male support network, she may be gone for good.

What’s the solution? I’m not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with adding more female investors and developers to the world. That and encouraging more former female founders to come back, mentor and try again


Just don't let it stop you on whatever your next venture will be! The experience will stand for you.

I had a startup crash and burn almost a year ago now. We wrote a blog post about it too: http://blog.piratedashboard.com/post/69595110761/out-of-the-... Basically, we made a ton of mistakes that ultimately led to a founder disagreement that prevented us from closing an investment deal which may have saved us. So we cut our losses and moved on. My new startup has evolved a lot from what is mentioned in that blog post and is doing well so far (but not yet at the stage where I feel secure).

Losing your startup is almost like losing a loved one. After putting so much into it, when its gone it sucks. Really bad.

But in the end, you just gotta move on and not let one failure stop you.


Post-mortems like this are always really enlightening. I'd really like to know more about some areas the author glossed over, though. What were the grey/black tactics they used to get past the initial chicken-and-egg problem? And what change did they introduce that caused a near-revolt of their userbase?


My guess as to the grey / blackhat tactics they used to gain initial traction were: 1) Fake "sell-side" accounts to provide marketplace liquidity 2) Manipulating app store chart ranking through bot downloads or download services to acquire "buy-side" accounts

It sounds like the service basically stopped growing once they had to abandon the black hat techniques they were using (possibly because they grew large enough to attract scrutiny from the platform operators). If that's the case, there was never a business.


No, that's not it. I actually ended up talking about it my mixergy interview


Quite a roller coaster of experience for 22! I'm sure we'll see great things from Nikki in coming years.

You kids doing startups in your early 20s have so much going for you! I wish I'd not waited until my 30s to get on this train, there's a lot more to lose (and less time to sort something out...)


Hey there Nikki,

Nice story, I have a similar one myself. I remember that I followed 99dresses quite closely two years ago, I was the technical co-founder of a Fashion & Tech startup, and we were trying to do something really similar for a while. (I'm also foreign, got a lot of local press coverage, traveled to Silicon Valley to work etc.)

I've been the leaving co-founder of a startup, mostly because I thought (and told) that my co-founder was incompetent and bringing zero value to the table. He took it pretty bad, but at least I was honest about that (and right).

You're very young, I'm 28... my biggest advice would be for you to get a stronger technical background. You can still do it, you are young, and it would greatly empower you.

If you wanna have a chat shoot me an email or add me on skype 'n_goles'.

Cheers!


Wow. Amazing story. I have heard of 99 dresses a lot - though women's fashion is farthest from my interest area. So you did build quite a brand. I am also pleasantly surprised to see that you probably have set up this blog just to share this article?

I have been an entrepreneur 5 years now, and I can totally relate with the part of showing a positive face when you have none - its an occupational hazard. Good luck for the next set of adventures.

BTW, I am sure the Valley community will be open to welcoming you back. You are an entrepreneur through and through - so if its not the Valley, Bangalore's doors are always open :-). Best of Luck.


Man, just reading the story gave me anxiety.


You have achieved so much at such a young age. Your whole life is ahead of you. I am 50+ and working on my first startup, with hopes that I will make it someday ! Glad you shared your story. See this link - so many stories here, some very close to home for you. (http://www.fastcompany.com/3029883/bottom-line/11-famous-ent...). Take a break, clear your head, and come up with the next big thing.


> I had to fly back to Australia to get a working visa as soon as the funding paperwork was signed, and the next day my two “co-founders” decided to tell me they were leaving the company without even a hint of warning.

Hindsight and all that. But still, don't just take on anybody as co-founder, easy come, easy go.

Super tough to read all this, I'm really sorry your hard work did not work out but you've done all that could be required of you and then some.

I very much recognize your trust issues, but over time even that will fade.


I have to agree. Co-founders suck. Everyone wants to talk and to have people look up to you. To imagine that one day you will rule the world.

The truth is that creating anything new in this world is a bag of hammers. Glory comes from the stupid, respect from the learned.


that's good point.


Thank you for writing this. I've bootstrapped my business. For the first 2.5 years, cashflow was tight. You've described the fears I had of seeing it all crumble, not necessarily because the idea was bad, but because the friction was too great.

I hadn't heard of your startup before this post. But from reading the comments here, you and your startup are very well regarded.

I doubt it feels that way right now, but I think you have a bright future ahead of you. Take some time to process and relax. Good luck!


You will do well II time around.


This is true. I don't have some a scientific study that proves this - just every entrepreneur friend I have that is kicking ass right now as an example of this being true.


I had a big failure years ago. It was horrible, and in retrospect there were a lot of really screwed up things going on from day one. This included a business partner who turned out to be a delusional sociopath, etc.

Nevertheless I learned a tremendous amount. You learn things by going through it in the trenches that cannot be taught in school.

Currently working toward attempt two, which is probably much more likely to be successful.


I like her so much! This amount of perseverance and strength is so overwhelmingly commendable and inspiring.

I wish Nikki all the best in the future!


Come back stronger Nikki. Best wishes and good luck


You rarely hear the raw stories of startups that persevered but ultimately failed — the emotional roller coaster of the founders, and why their startups didn’t work out.

Great post. However, when guys paint the other gender with a similar broad stroke as here, we go after them. I hope posts like this make it okay to state our general observations about the other gender.


That's because our culture is sick. Generalizations about gender has been the main stuff of art, literature, and personal correspondence for 500 years - only now are they offensive.


Nikki, I know so many people that would give 10 years of their lives to experience the highs and lows that you just had. There are already enough cliches on here to keep you going. My hat off to you for giving it a real good go and I wish you every success in the future. You'll do just fine and will look back at this with a smile.


I feel for the author, but in reading this detailed post-mortem it's clear to see there was a combination of bad luck, poor planning, and a number of incorrect decisions. Hopefully she learned from them, will correct what she can and ride out what she can't in her next venture.


Too few female founders around. YC should shepherd this girl straight back into the game and support her.


She hardly comes off as the type of person that wants affirmative action. I'm not being a white knight here but that comment is kinda insulting to her.


Not in the slightest insulting. All I see in this girl is that she is following the fairly normal path that non-Zuckerbergian founders go through. She's smart and motivated and getting some good experience under her belt early. If she is not supported to rapidly pick herself up and dust herseld off then she might not be back in the game for years. A failed venture can take years to recover from financially etc. The lack of women co founders is a constant issue now in the industry so when we find good ones then they deserve some extra help.


Well if this is some kind a support I really don't know, but I think she should be proud, because with only 22 years old and doing all this (trip to another country, leading a startup). I wish you more luck on your another attempt.


I know failure success. You just have to deal with it. Sometimes it's so hard that you have lock yourself in your room cry, and curse the world. That's fine.

That's just something you have to go through on your road to success.


The author took many, many hits and still kept on going. I have an immense amount of respect for her and hope that she will embark on a new venture soon where she can apply everything that she learned.


Just curious: why is there nothing anounced on 99dresses.com about this? Will the business go on after all? Are we in the final days and will it then just suddenly out of the blue shut down?


The part that I really am not sure of is the difference between failing and giving up or the difference between failing and pivoting. Or is failing just when you have to get a full time job?


The site is still up and you have a core group of people who love it. Can't you just keep it and the app running for now? The costs for the servers can't be that high.


Even if i obviously understand why she felt that way, there is something really wrong in the way she thinks: she didn't fail. It was the startup that failed. She felt bad because she impersonified her project. But a person is not the things she creates or tryies to create. That is a misconception. And this wrong (even if understandable) way of thinking, may drive people to depression and other dangerous situations. Please, remember that we live once and that we are not the things we create: we, as people, are much more valuable than anything we can do.


Ya'll too soft around here. Truth is all the youth and heart in the world won't save you if you don't know how to throw a proper jab.


Hi Nikki, shame to see 99 dresses go down, wishing you the best post startup run.

If there were three things you would do differently, what would they be?


I don't think I've ever read a story about failure that felt this motivating and inspiring. Thank you for sharing it.


I wish you the best of luck in your next venture, whether it's a startup or not. Lots of people are serial entrepreneurs!


Oh, the other co-founder was Dan Walker - he's a bit of a flake so this isn't at all surprising.


> “I just knew I wanted to solve a problem I personally experienced: having a closet full of clothes but still nothing to wear.”

These are the kinds problems we are gunning for. These are the kinds of things investors are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into. This is the scope of problem our industry is solving right now. This is why I'm often embarrassed to work in tech.


First, this stuff isn't small potatoes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharing_economy

Second, if that kind of thing isn't what you want to work on, fine, don't. No one is trying to push you into that. Knock off the hating.


Embarrassed to work in an industry that can welcome and support founders solving problems as profound as enery/cleantech, health, transportation and food, but also diverse enough to address real frustrations and economic problems faced by women?

Like everything else in life, nobody is forcing you to buy the product or join/invest in the company.

But to sneer at its right to exist is both short-sighted and mean.


Let's again recap the "problem" this is "solving":

> "I have so many clothes but I still don't like any of them, ugh"

You honestly think this is addressing real frustrations and economic problems faced by women? You honestly think this has value because it adds to the "diversity" of our industry? You honestly think this is a problem worth big investment dollars, and multiple people spending years of their lives on?

I see startups pouring millions of dollars and many brilliant minds into solving first world problems so frequently, and I honestly try to cut them as much slack as I can. Maybe uber is a huge first world problem, but at least they are creating jobs for people that need them. Maybe airbnb is a first world problem, but at least they are connecting people and communities in a meaningful way, and spend a lot of time encouraging and highlighting stories about this.

I don't just go around being an asshole to any startup that isn't aiming to eliminate world hunger. But this particular description of the problem is so entitled and self-indulgent that it just makes me furious. Even you saying this is valid because it "addresses frustrations and economic problems faced by women" is absurd. I'm pretty sure 99% of women in the world would be overjoyed if they suddenly faced the problem of "having too many clothes and not knowing what to wear".

I think saying that I sneer at its right to exist would be an understatement. It actually makes me furious that people are dedicating their careers and pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into solving "problems" like this. If that makes me mean, so be it, at least my view of the world extends at least a tiny bit outside the absolutely ridiculous first world bubble that this could only be accepted inside of.


Yeah, you failed... but you put yourself out there... that's what really living is all about.


Literally, the best thing I read today. Well thought out and written. Keep rocking Nikki!


This is what failure feels like. I hope it helps.

It does help. Keep writing. Welcome to the club :)


Great write up. I look forward to when she is recharged and build the next great thing.


Maybe I missed it, but how did the author get going with 99dresses as a non-technical person with no college degree?

EDIT: Nevermind. Found the answers. Turns out to be a pretty cool story actually: http://wpcurve.com/y-combinator/


I think your startup was doomed to fail because your business idea just sucked.


I just knew I wanted to solve a problem I personally experienced: having a closet full of clothes but still nothing to wear.

Maybe her real problem was picking a big "problem" to solve that wasn't.


A problem is a problem if enough people think it is. There seems to be a large amount of people who agree with her.


Great article!


The crazy thing is that people go through this experience and want to do it again. A failed startup leaves you burned out, emotionally wrecked, and financially crippled. Why take another ride on that roller coaster? Pride? Status? Money?


For the same reason you ride a roller coaster: For the thrill of the ride.

You also get to work for something you care about.

And yes, there's the possibility of high financial rewards, but that's unlikely.


For many of us, we just can't help it - it's an innate part of us - to build something.


I've developed a survival guide for creative geniuses. It's called Die Penniless, and people can sign up here for first access: http://diepenniless.com


[deleted]


"Let me tell you — failure fucking sucks."

"I felt like I was drowning in a black ocean, and I couldn’t see any light at the surface. I didn’t know which way to swim."

"I was fucking tired — physically and emotionally. I wasn’t sleeping properly."

"I had no bandwidth for anything else."

"I felt physically sick all day"

"I felt shame, guilt, embarrassment ..."

"I was scared I’d meet someone new and they’d ask me what I do"

"I was also embarrassed because I couldn’t afford to pay for anything..."

"I wasn’t depressed so much as disappointed."

..and on and on.


She describes feeling undeserving of heaping praise, panic attacks, sacrificing relationships and friendships in the name of enterprise, hitting bottom, wondering if she should have quit sooner, and finally, relief and hope for the future.

In a world where most tech-related articles mythologize founders, it's sobering to read one that doesn't.


She did mention an "emotional rollercoaster".


[deleted]


Jesus. What a horrible comment.

She crushed it starting this business, got traction, built up a community, and was getting close to scaling what was a real business, with a real business model, and real money.

It's phenomenal how much her team accomplished on that money - which is not very much for a team of 5. Until you've run a business yourself, it's hard to understand just how much overhead truly does walk on two feet.

If this company had gotten to scale, it could have provided food for hundreds of thousands of men and women, selling extra stuff laying around their closets. And that's off a glance at their site and app. If your comment was your first response to an amazing post like this, you should look in the mirror.


This comment is completely unwarranted. Accounts like your should be banned.


This account was created 4hr ago just to write negative comments on this thread.


[deleted]


Just telling it like it is. I could have lied, but how does that help anyone?

I'm a firm believer that with gender issues you can either whine about it, or you can find the positives in it. If your whole startup depended on you getting a visa approved, you'd use anything at your disposal to get the job done. If that meant fake crying, then so be it. It worked.


Good old manipulation, making the world go round.


Downvotes? Sheesh, calling a spade a spade, folks. I don't think the OP would even disagree that it was manipulation.


Immature? Starting a company in another country when you're 19-21 is hardly the mark of someone that's immature. She's not giving anybody a bad name - she's got a handful of experiences and accomplishments that will help her career immensely.

And comparing her to the Collison brothers? 2 incredibly smart guys that were well-accomplished and millionaires before entering YC?

Nikki, I really enjoyed the write-up. Looking forward to see where your next adventure takes you.


It's very easy for one to snipe at single quotes in any article reflecting on failure. It's unfair to isolate Nikki's honest reflections on gender, failure and emotions and call her "grossly immature" and "a dud". When YC interviewed her she had traction, persistence and appeared to be building something that people want. Even though Nikki's first startup may have failed very visibly, she's been graceful enough to help us learn from it.


It takes a lot of courage to write a post like the one she did. It is much easier to criticize her from a throwaway HN account. Why don't you back up your criticism with a real identity?


[deleted]


Green has nothing to do with YC batch. It means it's a new account.


That's a little harsh there fellow. And it sounds a little on the jealous side of the opportunities she arranged for herself as well.

I think of myself at 22 (I'm nearly double that) and I know damn well I was immature. I doubt I would have made it as far as she did without blowing something up at that age. I understand some of the reasons behind investing in such young founders, and not to be ageist, but nothing like maturity set in for me until my mid-late 20's. Before that I was basically a big kid who was smart enough to get into trouble and old enough to buy beer. I was arrogant, undisciplined, self righteous, and judgmental while lacking sound judgement myself. Your experience may have been different, but I sort of doubt it.


"It got to the point where I had to call the consulate hotline every single day and split test different types of crying…”

"for some reason a 5'11 woman in 7 inch heels commands more talking time and attention from investors…”

"As a woman going out in NYC my nights were normally cheap because cute guys would buy me drinks, but I am not the kind of woman who expects that.”

Why did YC ever bet on such a dud? Like honestly good on you for trying and all but you sound very immature. I don't mean that in a negative way I mean that in having read your post that's how you come across. Your cofounders decided to leave you and you are calling them out - I wouldn't blame them at all - they made a choice and their equity would not have vested. Cofounder’s have walked away from much larger startups than yours and its for the reason that they did not believe in your vision. Seems kind of immature to call them out. No one wants to be led by someone who responds to their problems by sobbing.

Its a shame YC bet so big on a non-technical founder because you give non-technical founders a bad name. They got you in Forbes, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. The Stripe brothers had a billion dollar company before even getting half the notoriety you got. For a two-sided marketplace that's like getting to start a mile race with a kilometer lead. Any startup that gets such a ridiculous head start (global publications covering you before you get to 100,000 members) comes down to a failure to execute.


She's being ultra honest here about her feelings and opinions. You can agree or not but before you judge too hard, think twice how hard is it to tell your startup story when it fails. We are all young and naive once, hence we learn and grow.


Good story. On a completely unrelated note, this girl is very beautiful, so that's rather positive


"Aussie Nikki joins Silicon Valley millionaire factory"

Y-C = Millionaire factory? Who knew!


Is this what HN has become? A fail-blog? :(


Would you prefer survivor bias?


I'd prefer to read HN and not get depressed as fuck.


It's all a matter of perspective. I don't think the article was depressing at all.


Stopped reading after the fourth misspelling of "it's".


My TL;DR: a founder ran into some painful but survivable bumps along the road, plus one killer.

The latter being there are people in the US government who would rather burn down the whole economy than share any of it with a dirty immigrant. Even a white, English-speaking one!


"...I was going to go big or go home"

Ms. Durkin I think you just need to go bigger next time. Don't just solve a small problem, solve a dire one that we all (man and woman, black or white) have in common.

Why disrupt a market when you can create a new one while simultaneously destroying four others? You know, that sort of thing.

Good luck!


Please point me to said markets so that I can become a billionaire!




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