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What is the Trough of Sorrow, Anyway?

Oct 6, 2015 · 2 min read

There is a glamour associated with being a startup founder. Successful game-changing tech companies like Airbnb and Uber have created the image that life at a startup is about multi-million dollar investments, rapid growth and public popularity. The media eats these stories up and puts visionary entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk on a pedestal for all startup hopefuls to idolize. That is great. The public and media should be celebrating the game changers and startup successes. But large investments and exponential growth isn’t the full story.

The reality is, life at a startup isn’t easy. There is a ton of uncertainty, unexpected challenges and a pressure to succeed. There is a struggle with getting a startup off the ground. Paul Graham, Co-founder of Y Combinator, developed a term for that struggle — the Trough of Sorrow.

Trough of Sorrow refers to the period of struggle a startup faces after a setback. Following the initial excitement of starting a company is the challenge to find product market fit. Finding that fit requires significant amounts of determination and perseverance. Paul Graham also created a graph that depicts the startup curve and the trough of sorrow.

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Source: Paul Graham via

The trough of sorrow is so prevalent because the path to success is not a curve that grows exponentially straight up from the beginning like popular depictions may have us believe. Getting through the challenges following the initial excitement is hard. Really hard. When you’re consistently one month away from failure, it can wreak havoc on anyone’s mental health. The fact is, depression, anxiety and extreme levels of stress run rampant in the startup community. But until recently, nobody has talked about it. And often entrepreneurs feel alone in their responsibility to make their company succeed, which makes the trough of sorrow even more difficult to endure.

At Bounde, we don’t want entrepreneurs and startup builders to feel alone. We believe that sharing experiences with peers and coaches can be significant help in maintaining determination throughout the struggle, and leading to incredible breakthroughs along the way.

If you feel you are in the trough of sorrow, don’t go through it alone. Sign up for the Bounde today.

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