Why I Had to Shelve This Startup Idea

“Dude, this looks soooo good, there must be a way to use this.”

My business partner and I were staring at a college social app we had been working on for the past year. Revel (as we initially called it) would allow students to sign in with their school emails and automatically find social events that were associated with their university such as parties, concerts, fundraisers, clubs, etc. Everyone we talked to seemed to love the idea, but upon further inspection it just couldn’t work.

Quick tour.

If you’ve ever been to college, you know parties spread through word of mouth. There aren’t formal invitations or announcements, just texts, Snapchats, and end-of-class conversations. We understood this and thought we saw an opportunity. There must be a way to optimize this process. But we forgot something, college parties aren’t new — the invitation process works like it does for a reason. Why on earth would you want to advertise your party to the entire university, even if you were an open Fraternity? It draws way too much attention, often times from groups that you don’t want any attention from (faculty). Not to mention, the “word of mouth method” can be more fun.

So, we were at an impasse. We had a nice looking app that we had invested numerous months into, but no potential way to implement it.

Then we considered pivoting and making Revel into essentially a university wide dashboard in which all events and news would be available in one handy place. Yay! This was it! Nope. If you think about it, universities already have systems in place for information to reach the entire student body, not to mention the attractive exposure they get by maintaining a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account. Why would add another social service of sorts to their PR plate?

At that moment, I realized we were in love with the medium and not the service we were supposed to provide. We were forcing an idea.

Understandably, this was heartbreaking. How could there be no use for this? Did I just waste my time? Absolutely not.

It’s obvious that by working on extensive projects like this one, especially with a very small team, you develop and extend your ken — an entrepreneur is not just the spotlighted CEO, he’s everything that is required to make the business run. But to spare the technicalities, I clearly developed my designing and programming skills. But, there’s something even more important than that. I learned that this wasn’t failure or quitting. It was reevaluating what was important, adding my experience to my toolbox, and moving on. Because, when you think about it, rarely does anyone’s first startup succeed, nor does their second, and even their third. However, each new project gets you exponentially closer to the eventual “Aha!” project. As Sir Winston Churchill correctly stated, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” You’ve got to churn out ideas to find the one that works.

You can’t really “think up” a startup idea, you’ve got to build it from an eclectic array of experiences. To paraphrase Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From, innovation doesn’t come from sitting in isolation and thinking big thoughts, it comes from getting as many “spare parts” on the table as possible. But these spare parts can only be produced by “failing.”

Now, this may seem extremely discouraging. But think of it this way, during this necessary process, you have created a panoply of projects. You have accrued ideas that are ready to be implemented in some way for your final “Aha!” project.

Each cancelled project is never really cancelled. Instead, it’s poised for repurpose!

Now that’s exciting.


Thanks for reading and I hope you found it helpful! This is my first Medium publication so let me know what you thought!