30 Days to Live: This Is What Happens When a Start-Up Is Failing

His company was thriving. Then he joined a startup accelerator. Now he's going bust. Is start-up culture to blame?

Entrepreneurs love to talk about success. Failure, not so much. Indeed, when the dreaded f-word is mentioned, it’s almost always invoked as something to be proud of, a badge of honor.

Perhaps that’s the appeal of a new blog called My Startup Has 30 Days to Live. Launched today by an anonymous CEO whose technology company is rapidly circling that drain, the blog is bracingly honest and should be more than a little frightening for young, would-be tech moguls.

That’s because, if the blogger is to believed, the startup was killed not by tough rivals or a crummy economy, but by a company accelerator, overly ambitious peers, and greedy venture capitalists--indeed, by startup culture itself.

Here, for example, is what he calls his biggest mistake:

We listened to our investors

They were proven entrepreneurs that had made millions (sometimes nefariously…) and they believed in us. If only we would:

  • “Make feature X free”

  • “Stop focussing on revenue, someone else will pay the bills”

  • “Grow $VANITY_METRIC so you can show a hockey stick at demo day and look good”

  • “Cut out that pesky client that generates 80% of your revenue, they’re a distraction on the road to executing $OUR_BIG_VISION”

We drank the Kool-Aid and went all-in. By the time demo day came around, we had cheques being written and were all over the press. Still, I had this nagging feeling eating away at me. That nagging feeling was disbelief.

I didn’t believe the shit I was selling investors. This was not the company I put my life on the line to build.

No surprise, the blog has sparked a lively conversation on Hacker News. Some commenters argue that the poster’s problem is that he intended to build a “business,” rather than a “start-up.” "I have come to the opinion that if you are bootstrapping, you have no business calling your company a startup. You are building a small business,” writes a user named gregghinch. Adds another, michaelochuch, “We say in this country that getting rich slowly is the virtue and that get-rich-quick is the scam. Yet VC is obsessed with the latter.”

The anonymous blogger--who ends his inaugural post with the chillingly definitive statement, “I’m scared”--also gets his share of advice, the best of which, it seems to me, comes from Hacker News user tptacek:

Your startup is going to die, you're going to get a new job (which you'll have no trouble doing), and sometime in the future you'll start another company. Maybe you'll do the next one smarter, since you'll have more experience.

Signed,

Been There

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