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The idea of giving up is worse than of it killing me (2014) (michalsobel.com)
88 points by michalsobel on Jan 7, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments

I don't mean to be overly harsh, but I cannot figure out what's going on half of the time in this post. I get the breezy style and all that, but I'm not sure what happened or what the lessons are that we can take away from those things... that happened...

Edit: I noticed there is a Czech version of the post, perhaps it's just a lost-in-translation thing.

I completely disagree, I think the manner in which the author shared this story is full of the sort of insight (and emotion) that is often left out of these stories.

This is a human story, not a manifesto or technical thesis. For someone like me who has attempted similar, and have failed similarly, its good simply to know I'm not alone in the emotional roller-coaster these scenarios create. I find it kind of inspirational how he found meaning from seemingly banal events and comical misfortune.

Had to reply to my own post. After reading the rest of these threads.. damn people, you are so cold. Lol. Sounds like the lot of you jaded old know-it-alls. You forget that once upon a time, you too knew nothing about starting a business. Some of the criticism here has been constructive, and kudos to those who took the effort to comment something thoughtful.

The author made some mistakes, maybe a lot of mistakes, but we all have, and we all will. I'm very happy for you all for your "better" methods for success though :).

Thank you kind stranger! :)

I agree - I have no idea what this guy is doing. I didn't bother finishing it as he's so all over the place...

Hm :/ that's really possible. I wrote it for Czech startup scene not for international and obviously it makes more sense here then out there.

I have tended to feel like you become an entrepreneur because you have a great idea - possibly from having worked in an industry and discovered an opportunity. Declaring one's self an entrepreneur first and then coming up with an idea seems backwards to me. But, it seems to be the way these things happen here and I'm probably too old school.

Regardless, to anybody who puts in this much time and effort, I sure do wish you the best and hope that project #9 is the one that takes off.

I became an entrepreneur first. The effect was that I was now actively looking for opportunities. Most people have opportunities for making money around them, but they don't notice, because they're not looking.

There are many hazards to this approach. I could have simply failed to find anything, and failed. But it's certainly viable.

Yes, we were learning by trail & error. But if you don't know how to sell... and don't know that is your problem, as was our problem, you're pretty fucked.

Thanks! I really don't hide that this is story more about how not to do your startup. And how entrepreneurs are not born.

This is evidence that we are exporting some toxic memes out of California that cause young people all over the world to try to kill themselves to do what we do here with no understanding of what's going on.

Spot on - OP's blog sounded like textbook cargo cultism, imitating the superficial aspects of the SV startup scene (which in itself is fairly cargo cultish). He has learned all the right grandiose rhetoric, but seems to lack the most rudimentary understanding of how a business operates, let alone something as weird as a VC-backed startup.

It looks like we're right back to the bad old days of the dot-com bubble, where there's a total disconnect between the word "startup" and building a business that creates meaningful value for customers.

His idea of a startup seems to map exactly to the old joke: 1) Get funded. 2) Build an UberFaceCrowd clone. 3) ??? 4) Profit!

What was strange is that... after all that struggle, they seemed to hit on a better idea, and the investors (?) dismissed it, and told them to continue to build the original clone which was clearly not working.

Always annoys me when people who don't know how to do something are adamant that doing what you recommend will "take too long". I don't hit to too much in my own work right now, but plenty of colleagues hit that on a regular basis. "Well, we can't do XYZ because the management said someone else said that would take too long, so we need to finish ABC". WTF? ABC has been in dev for 18 months, is clearly broken, and ... XYZ is a half-done skunkworks project that needs 3 more weeks.

Non-workers who hide behind "that will take too long" need to learn to clearly pronounce "I'm threatened by your knowledge/ability/insight." At least be honest.

I feel you.

On the other hand I understand that it is a business. So the business thinking is „not to throw away what you do last 18 month“.

But as you pointed out, if something doesn't work, you should not be scared of a change. Even if it mean to delete everything what you did and start over.

My guess is existing investors are going to try and peddle the product to less knowledgeable investors and cash out. Instead of risking existing investment on an entirely new product, cut your losses.

I know, and you're right.

Ummm, there's hundred to thousands of similar stories out in the valley and throughout the nation.

Start-up success stories are a minority, so this story isn't that out of the ordinary.

THough 11 projects. That is a large number. I'm On my 2nd and half since 2008. My war wounds/stories run from being invited to demo our tech to a huge entity in the valley who baited us out there with promises to buy our tech (they squashed like a bug after spilling our secret) to seeing an original idea i created 6 years finally take off via a European start-up (they have $3 million in funding & millions of users).

I'm too old for this pain!

I totally understand. And good luck! :)

You're absolutely right. Media presents startup scene with success story for every day. It kinda seems that you can make success out of everything. Obviously that's bullshit. But ofcourse it's not Califronia or SV's startup problem. This was just my idiocy to not to question why do exactly this and even if it makes sense.

Well, this was really expensive knowledge.

Most startup media coverage is techporn. People can become addicted to the startup-life fantasy much like they can become addicted to porn. Doesn't happen to everyone, and I've seen a lot of success in my peers, but I've also seen a lot of the downside too, and that rarely gets coverage.

Exactly. If you don't know what you do, it's gambling.

It's what The USA does best: spread our ideas. That doesn't mean they are all good or that there are good outcomes.

I have seen first hand that Coca-cola isn't just a soda and Friends is what a good portion of the near east thinks new yorkers are really like.

Well the idea of doing something that helps people solve tehir problems is good idea. I just didn't get it right.

I don't really get what's going on here. Do the OP and his friend know how to code? If so, why bother raising money when you could bootstrap your MVP?

if not, what were you doing with the 7 projects that failed?

I'm a graphic designer. But my friend Premek ofcourse know how to code. But after many small „projects“ we wanted to make it the right way. Well obviously „the right way“ wasn't the right way, we only thought it is at that time.

And what we were doing? Well... we were stupid. We were able to produce but not to sell.

Funny that this is listed below this article "What Heroin Addiction Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits"

Maybe if we took some heroine we would deliver at least one good product.

It is a market which is sadly underserviced (same with semi-legalized marijuana): - Dealer price comparison / location / reputability (Although silk road has shown how this might work.) - DealExtreme / Groupon type incentives - Deal and shipping insurance - Apps for dealers: CRM, money lending calculators, shipping calcs, inventory. - Health and life insurance.

Hey just cus something is not a financial success doesnt mean its not good! :)

Well you're right. It was a source of enormous knowledge from real market. Not just idealistic theories.

Few things that came through my mind reading that:

1. In average you're giving each project about a year. That's not really enough for determining if something is good or not. It seems like when you're encountering the brick wall that's real world market penetration, you fall out of love with your venture and move on to the next thing.

2. You're focusing on very general problems where it seems like you either don't have a horse in the game (as you're not suffering from those problems personally) and don't have any kind of specialized domain knowledge. That makes your job much harder. You don't understand the dynamics of the market, the competition or what users are looking for.

3. If you want to win in really big markets, you need to have a strong financial backing from great investors, and make world-class execution. Getting the right idea is never enough. Focus on smaller problems - or at least less alluring ones.

4. Being in the Czech republic doesn't help your ideas get traction, as you're somewhat culturally removed from the trendsetters and the networked individuals who could make your product popular.

5. You can - somewhat - use #4 in your favor by focusing on your local market (and to a lesser extent the EU market). But ultimately good products win globally, which is why its best to think smaller.

6. You may have prevented yourself precious experience and understanding of business processes by going with the startup game too early instead of getting some real world experience first.

7. Don't count on your admirable determination carrying you through. You can only stress yourself so much before something breaks. At some point you're going to need a success to your name. Going to venture #15 might not be enough.

Ultimately I'd advise you to go work for a successful startup somewhere like Berlin, London or ideally Silicon Valley. Go to a place where you can focus the same determination on your dayjob, learn and network. Save some money too.

You need a change. Different people, challenges and atmosphere. Your time and ambition are the most precious thing you have and between these two, one is lost forever and the other can irreparably disappear if siphoned too low. Now, making this change is hard.

The EASY thing, for you, is to start another venture (although it seems the other way around, even to yourself). Don't fall into the trap of starting yet another venture instead of changing your situation around and thinking of yourself as someone who does the hard thing, just because you chose entrepreneurship yet again.

Keeping the same course is always easier than changing things around.

First of all, thanks for your detailed response!

1. Yes! That's exact.

2. You're right, of course. There was always bad reasons why to do some of the projects. The term „spray & pray“ is accurate.

3. Today I would do it differently. We made mistake on every corner we took.

4., 5. We wanted to go out of the Czech Republic, but that phase never happened. Of course, it should be the phase one.

6. This was an ego problem. We thought we're ready. How foolish of us.

You're right. That's actually why I left the WeLoveMail (last project that is still in progress). There have to be some real change.

But hey, thanks again for your advice! I really appreciate it.

"A few idiots fight for their lives while the guys at top are having fun." Love it.

The Hunger Games way.

So... one lesson might be that if you drive 9 hours with the intention to meet people, don't leave after being there for 6 minutes and not actually talking to anybody.

Unless the intention wasn't to meet people, but to 'get in the techcrunch'. ??

I won't hide that the intention to get in the techcrunch was the main engine for this.

Actually, the Warszaw story was my wake-up call that we're doing something terribly wrong. And that we're not good enough to make this happen. Since then I knew that this project will go to hell, because we lived in our own bubble how awesome we are.

Unfortunately, your story probably isn't all that uncommon. These stories tend not to make the front page of any news/blog sites, though.

I really hope this serves as a wake up call to others with your mindset. Your story hopefully will help others make corrections earlier than you did.

Thanks for the story.

I hope too.

Well, thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it!

good (but difficult) read, good reminder that not everywhere is SV, and not everywhere is the USA, and the old "1 in 10 succeed" pseudo-statistic is true.

I do my own side projects from time to time, and seeing what they went through is a real eye opener, maybe I'll be a little less naive when I do launches from now on.

I am glad that they got back to a lean startup model towards the end though, selling someone an idea is such a shaky way to do business (despite the fact that it's used so much), it makes so much more sense to bootstrap at least a little bit (even if it's just drumming up non-paying clientele).

I'm sorry for that.

I think we skipped the learning phase by „Fail fast, fail often.“ where we should get better with every small thing we did every day. Instead we taught we're doing it right.

Oh absolutely nothing to be sorry for -- you were writing it as you remember it, and I thought it was worth reading to endure a tiny bit of stream-of-thinking writing.

I was inspired by the post, glad you guys worked so hard at making yourselves a success! Also thanks for sharing so initimately the process that you guys went through

Thank you!

> assumption: java surely isn't as bad as they say. reality: it is

What exactly are 'they' saying? Java is a fantastic choice for server-side code.

I have worked on several successful projects with Java back ends (and even a successful Java desktop project or two). It doesn't have to be a disaster.

Nevertheless, "fantastic" wouldn't be how I'd describe my experience. More like this:


I also don't get why the specific Java bashing. I agree with you in that Java is awesome for server-side code.

Using Java was like... killing a fly by nuking it from the orbit.

It sounded to me like he became an entrepreneur out of trying to be an entrepreneur, which in the end was a pretty neat trick.

Fake it till you make it.

The problem was, we didn't know we're faking it back then.

When I read the title I thought it was some translation of what one of the cartoonists killed in yesterday's attack said:

Je n'ai pas de gosses, pas de femme, pas de voiture, pas de crédit. C'est peut-être un peu pompeux ce que je vais dire, mais je préfère mourir debout que vivre à genoux.

For some reason I was really irked when I found out it was something different altogether. I also find it a bit strange that there is a deafening silence about this in the frontpage.

The OP is a very good designer. Why does the killer achievement have to be an app?

Thank you! It's simple. I don't want to be just a designer, I want to push it to another level – entrepreneur level. But this wasn't how to do it.

I thought it was a good story

It depends...

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