You can fail even if you are backed up by 100 million+ users company

I got a job in one foreign startup who opened office in my country, you wonder why, well because we were very cheap here but we did our job very well.

They hired around 20 people from the very beginning + paying a lot of freelancers, between 40 and 50 of them. So salaries, brand new office, rent, bills, equipment, traveling, marketing (buying user base, paying for downloads…), I guess their monthly burn rate was really high.

So I found out that one important guy from huge company *100 million+ users company* is backing up this startup. I even met him, so I know it was true. He even had a power to “give” or “forward” some of the huge company’s users to that startup, which never happened for some reason. This guy had the power to really make this go viral, believe me. I mean, having direct contact to some of most important people at that huge company.

I was their employee for 8 months. I was team leader and lead developer, managing mobile developers and planning whole tech infrastructure (web and partially mobile), so basically I was taking care of database, whole web infrastructure and API for mobile app. They asked from me to build a virtual warehouse (something for gathering data for internal analytics) like the huge company has built. I don’t even know how I ended up “in charge” with CTO being there.

But it fell apart pretty quickly. I quit because of following problems:

  • Lack of communication — you have to talk to each other. You have to know what each of you is thinking, you have to brainstorm and exchange ideas. That’s how you can grow and stay focused and make app and team better. Unfortunately, communication between team members was very very bad.
  • CEO thinking he is the God — our CEO thought he was the God, everything he says is the best and no one else’s opinion matters. Things we suggested and that are proven to be right he rejected. He wasn’t willing to listen to anyone, even when he was listening us talking he was mostly ignoring.
  • Bad team, location of team members — CTO was a guy who doesn’t know anything about programming. Team members were located all over the world. Everyone with their own culture, in their own country, in different time zones. Skills of each team member was not on a level it should be. Can I even call that “the team”?
  • Buying users / Bad marketing— our CEO thought that buying users was the best way of marketing. He said: “I was buying users for so long I can’t even tell you how complicated that is.”. It’s like paying a hooker to love you, she will as long as you paying her, once money is gone, she is gone. The same thing applies to users.
    You must have good marketing plan, good launch time, know your users and their needs, target specific group of people
  • Grabbing too much at once — they wanted to have everything at once. All features at once, conquer every big and small markets at once, implement all major languages at once, having too much categories. They were trying to compete to every major competitor in every country. Be humble, conquer one market and one language and then move on to next one.
  • Lying to yourself and to team members — we knew that, but CEO was lying to us, I guess to himself as well. Maybe it was a way to keep us working there or a way to comfort himself because things are going the wrong way. DO NOT lie to people, lies never last forever.
  • Not being flexible — they had that one path they thought is the best ever not willing to move to another path. Be flexible, DO NOT be stubborn trying to accomplish something that is not possible at that moment. Move around, try new things and new ideas.
  • Spending too much money —Their burn rate was really high per month. Result of that was: spending too much money, not getting users.
  • Don’t know when to quit — when you see that your current plan is bad and it’s not working, change you plan. Or if you see that users are not interested and you cannot do that anymore, quit. It’s not bad thing to do, focus on another startup or another idea you have.
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