I was going to write about what to look for in a co-founder; explain “vesting” and “cliffs,” explore the concept of equity and share an anecdote about a partnership that ended well personally but hamstrung our company’s product.
Instead, I have another message- Startups are hard and failing happens. No one is alone in this. Twelve days ago a young programmer posted this on Hacker News (an update-post from his original comment):
“Well, I did quit my full-time job. I wish I could say it was ‘the best single thing I’ve ever done’ or ‘why haven’t I done it earlier’ but I’m not going to say it. Just to offer the other side of the perspective. And because it wouldn’t be honest and I don’t [care] enough to be dishonest.”
“It was a bad idea. I moved back with my parents, my freelancing thing barely works, I’m constantly broke, on the verge of poverty, I’m deeply depressed and contemplating suicide. I have to constantly hear my father shout what an idiot I am for quitting a high-paying job. My friends make fun of me for making a retarded life decision. I can’t really do anything else, since apparently finding a new job is kind of hard, and I have to go through the whole step where I admit my failure and start over and I don’t even know what I want anymore.”
“I thought I would become free, but I’ve actually become less free as a result of it.”
There were 321 responses in three days. I read the thread and copied a handful below.
“I did quit my full-time job.”
So did I. Many times. About half the time it worked out great. The other half, it sucked, just like yours does now. You are not alone.
“I’m constantly broke, on the verge of poverty…”
Then get a job, any job. It doesn’t have to be programming. It’ll get you out of the house, get you with other people, and put a few bucks in your pocket. If you love programming enough, you’ll find time to keep it going on the side.
“I’m deeply depressed and contemplating suicide..”
Don’t. Contact me anytime (see my profile). When things are going well, they’re never as good as they seem. When they are going poorly, they’re never as bad as they seem.
“I have to constantly hear my father shout what an idiot I am for quitting a high-paying job.”
Fathers are sometimes wrong. Yours is now. Don’t listen to him.
“My friends make fun of me for making a retarded life decision.”
When things get tough, you find out who you’re friends really are. I know it’s not much consolation, but you just did. Be glad you saved a lot of time and energy. Anyone who makes fun of you was never your friend, just an acquaintance.
“It just didn’t work out and it feels very painful.”
Thanks for the warning. You may have just saved a lot of people a lot of pain with this post.
“Also, you’re 20. I’m twice your age and I’ve made far more serious mistakes at your age that have had minimal negative impact on my life. Don’t fear life.”
“Just wanted to reiterate two points: (i) you are never as happy or as unhappy as you think” and (ii) you can contact HNers, including me for support, just so that you see that you are not alone.”
“Let go of everything that you think you have to hold on to — your sense of importance, of self-worth, anything that might be holding you back or keeping you from making the hard decisions that have to be made — and just decide that you’ll buy it all back later. Then just take your life one day at a time for a while.”
I Started Out Skipping “Partnership” Only to End by Talking About Partners
If you’re starting something, remember a couple things.
- In Startup you spend a lot of time alone. But as evidenced above, you are never alone.
- You have to be naive to succeed.
- You have to be pragmatic to succeed.
- Not trying is failing.
- If you feel like you’re making it up as you go… welcome to the club.
Notes & Recommended Reading
- Hacker News is a great community for entrepreneurs of all experience
- Ed Weissman (first response) compiled a book on all his comments over the years. It’s an incredible read.
- Suicide is not an option. Call someone. If you’re an SU student, call these guys. They helped a friend of mine while I was still in undergrad. You can trust them.
- This kid’s father yelling at him struck a cord with me. My parents have been very supportive of my startup life. Were they otherwise, I couldn’t do this full time. “Fathers are sometimes wrong.”
- We’re all very fortunate – the internet is a strange and wonderful place full of inspiring people. Seek them out and participate.
Do you have thoughts on this? A similar experience? Add them to the comments, I’d love to start a dialogue.