How My Year of Startup Drove Me To Rock Bottom (And How I Have 0 Regrets)
Christmas Eve, we had opened our gifts. My girlfriend had come over to my parents’ place. A rare occasion since it took years for my parents to get over the fact that I was not dating a Korean girl.
Then, about an hour before midnight, I exploded. The exact detail on the surface was that my girlfriend’s dog suddenly popped out of nowhere and peed on the carpet, which threw me into a fit of shouting and yelling. I took the dog by its collar and threw him in the bathroom, then went outside to punch the wall for 10 minutes until my knuckles bled.
This is a story about my rock bottom year. It also happens to be the year when I went full-time on my digital publishing startup, Tabulit.
We started out 2016 with a lot of hopes. Our first prototype site was up in February. We had a decent group of writers gathered around us.
Then that first prototype threw us into a tailspin. It wasn’t gaining any traction, and the strategies we had employed weren’t working. Our CTO quit shortly after, and we were back to square one by April.
We gathered a fresh team. This time, pivots. A lot of pivots. We tried one thing after the other. Went for another prototype. This time we even spent good money on design and promotion. That was released in November.
Once again, we were back to square one by December. Nothing was happening. We spent a year and a half, drained a lot of our savings, just to arrive at a revenue of 0, and a dismal level of traffic. Funding was nowhere in sight with this kind of performance.
Then, last week, my cofounder basically threw in the towel. He told me that this was enough frustration for him. It wasn’t working, and it was driving him mad.
His departing words were: ‘You know what the problem is? We started from the bottom. Now we’re still at the bottom.’
Indeed, that is the problem. We hit bottom many times actually. We went through 2 other technical cofounders until we found the guy with us now. Heck, I even taught myself coding to hurry up the dev process. We were bootstrapping it all the way. It was just always a journey to the bottom and then back again.
So at this point, out of the 2 original cofounders (we had started out with 5 and dwindled down to 2), there is only me left. We have a product that guzzled up a lot of money and time.
Which brings me back to Christmas Eve.
My father had seen enough of what I was doing. His insistence was that I needed to wise up and go to law school. He thought I was running out of time, and that all this startup hullabaloo was accelerating my road to becoming what he considered society’s garbage: middle aged, unemployed, no skills, and no sense of reality.
And then there was the punch to the gut from him:
“Your mother and I had so much expectation for you. We thought you were destined for great things. Now we realize that you were just worthless all this time. We should never have put any trust or faith in you.”
That, is how my fit of rage happened.
So not only did I lose the confidence of my best friend and co-conspirator of the startup, but I also lost the confidence of my greatest ally. My parents.
And yes, I can blame my startup for all this. It’s Tabulit. That’s the reason. That’s my curse. Tabulit’s the reason why I’m getting dragged through the mud over and over and over and over again. I built this thing to become the physical representation of all my beliefs and passions, and now it’s killing me slowly. I have no money, I have no prospects, I have nothing. With my business partner gone, I’m now CEO of a failing company that makes 0 money. He was the one who had all the investor contacts. He was the business guy. Now I have to pick up his role too. I have no connections in the right places. The only thing I got going for me is that I have no student debt.
But there is one reason why I want to just keep going.
I still believe in my idea.
I still believe in it. I have no regrets that I started this company, even at a point where my life is just in absolute shambles.
And that’s how I know. I’m still doing the right thing. Even as we head into 2017 absolutely shaky and uncertain, it makes me giddy every time I think about my startup and what it can accomplish. I’ll have to find a job, put a lot less hours into it than I want to, but I have no reason to doubt my idea.
People have told me to just let go of something that is visibly wrecking my life. It’s true. This startup is killing me. The fact of the matter is though, I’d rather die trying.
To me, that is a true wonder of startups. It turns absolutely crappy times to ones of exhilaration, of excitement, of adventure.
In fact, the one silver lining to this is that I have no regrets. And that shows me that this is what I’m meant to do.
So here’s to 2016, my rock bottom year. It sucked, but I’d do it all over again.