Officially Launched, and Failed…

I launched, just like how Mark Zuckerberg did it!

Recap: After episode 4, I officially got a co-founder who is taking this crazy journey with me. With 5 weeks left, I worked very hard to try to launch Last One Standing in Hong Kong (my co-founder couldn’t help because she is in South Korea and she does not know Chinese…). After 1 week of preparation, I am ready for the official launch, my first time showing this baby to the public

Being in San Francisco for 1 year, I have seen a lot of launch events. Usually they have a party in their head office, create a Facebook event, invite as many people as possible, provide free food and booze, and click the button to bring their “Uber for X” or “Tinder for Y” online.

I receive on average 5–7 of these invitation every week in San Francisco

While I don’t think Last One Standing is as impressive as any startups I have encountered in San Francisco, I always thought that I will do something ceremonial for the launch. But I can’t be more wrong than this.

Here is how I launched Last One Standing…

It was 9:37 pm on a Wednesday night. I just went back to my home in Beijing (I was working there during the summer). I just finished my box dinner while putting the final touches to the trailer video (the only polished thing I have for the race)

I waited for it to export, and then uploaded on Last One Standing’s Facebook page, with 0 like at that moment. I scrolled on my newsfeed until there is a notification:

You video is ready. View it in your page

I viewed it one last time to make sure that everything looks good. Oops! Something is not right. I went back to After Effects, edited out the error, reposted it to Facebook. Notification came. I checked and it looks fine. I tagged a dozen friends I thought would be interested.

and then I pressed post. That’s it, I launched.

This reminds me of a scene in the movie The Social Network, when Mark Zuckerberg sent to a few of his friend.

I launched, just like how Mark Zuckerberg did it!

I felt proud. No longer is this just something that exist purely as an idea, but it is reality now.

But I also felt empty.

Is this it? What’s next?

Getting my first ticket sale

Everyday after the launch, I look at how many people liked and viewed the page. But everyday, I only got a handful of views, and 1–2 likes on a good day. How do I get to 100 tickets sold? A goal that did not seem too hard now looked like Mount Everest.

Since I was wrapping up my summer internship, I had very little time to work this. I tried a few things that I could do on my 5–9 (more like 9–2 because I got back home at 9 pm every night): Direct messages to friends, posting on Facebook groups, Facebook advertisement…

I have sent 30+ of these in the span of 2 hours

A week of coercing, cajoling, posting, spending money on advertisement led to nothing. I started to feel powerless and hopeless. With 3 weeks left, how do I get 100 people to pay for this if I couldn’t even get my friends to pay?

One day, I got a notification on my Eventbrite organizer app. I thought it would just be a promotion of their pro tool. I opened, expecting nothing but a splash screen. But what I saw shocked me:

The first ticket was mine (just for testing); But the second one was DEFINITELY SOMEONE ELSE

All hope is restored. It officially became a business. People started paying. And that person, as I dug deeper, was not one of my friends.

WOW!! People actually WANT this?!?!

The feeling of progress felt wonderful, especially after feeling hopeless and almost closing it down. But this feeling did not last…

The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

The following week was awful. I felt that I had achieve something and made no progress at the same time. My emotions were dictated by the number of reach on our Facebook page and number of sale each day. I check my phone every 20 minutes to see whether I made another order. I was on an emotional rollercoaster.

My emotions are controlled by the spikes and drops in these few simple lines

2 weeks left before the event begins, I packed my bags and moved back to Hong Kong. Coming back to home after a year of traveling is great. But I was also very tired. For 2 days I did not do anything but eat homemade food, sleep and watch Youtube on my bed. I have never thought that homemade food can taste so good.

I didn’t even touch my phone for those 2 days. But as soon as I picked up my phone, I felt a surge of fear and anxiety. With 2 weeks left, I should have sold 100 tickets. But when I opened the application, it indicated 4 tickets sold.

I have not made any progress for a week, AND WE ARE DUE IN 2 WEEKS!!! I know what I needed to do, but I just was too burned out to be motivated to work on them.

But when I go and do anything not related to Lifeventure, I constantly think of the things I need to do in order to pull it off. It is driving me crazy. I can’t even get a good night of sleep because I was worrying about what needs to be done but have no motivation to just do them. I thought to myself:

How about giving up?

Giving Up =/= Failing

A big part of why I start this venture is to prove to myself that I can be an entrepreneur. In the past 3 years, I always talked about being one. Yes, I worked at a few big and notable startups, but I have never started one. So even though I was bragging about my entrepreneurial resume, I actually have no idea what entrepreneurship means.

So the thought of giving up on launching Last One Standing in Hong Kong means so much to me. It is a sign that I was not meant to be an entrepreneur, that I can’t even start a thing this small.

And to be honest, I have not put my 100% into this. I started when I was in the midst of my summer internship. And when I come back to Hong Kong, I worked on it for 2 hours every other day. I tend to be like this: I commit to things wholeheartedly for a few weeks, and then burn out and or give up because of the slightest obstacle along the way. Is this just me falling in to my old habits again?

While there are legitimate reasons why I should just stop (being a one-man team, not having enough time, legality issues, anxiety and my burned out state), I just wasn’t ready to admit defeat. I don’t want to tell myself I can’t start something from scratch, and I can’t follow through things despite of obstacles. Both of these skills are crucial for me in achieving my goals for the future.

But I realized that sometimes brute force just isn’t worth it. To walk further, I have to be strategic using me. I need to know when to push through, and more importantly when to stop. And the psychological signs tell me I need to stop. There are always going to be other chances to prove myself, but only when I am ready and energized.

I may lost a battle, but it doesn’t mean I can’t win the war.

Lesson Learned

  • You know nothing, and it’s liberating: as I mentioned, one of the bigger reasons why I do this is because I know nothing about entrepreneurship, and I need to experience it myself. By saying “I know nothing,” it liberates you from all the pressure that external expectations have on you, and allows me to unlearn a lot of things. I become more honest about my ability, more receptive to area for growth, more genuine with people I work with, happier with what I do, and just feel way better than always pretending I know things.
  • Excuses make people feel better, truth makes people feel good: when I was debating on whether I should give up on Hong Kong, I put legality as the reason. But I realized that it is an excuse I gave to myself. True, it is an issue, but I know there are ways to go around it. That excuse makes the giving up feel better, because I can blame on other things for my failure. But deep down inside of me, I feel guilty because I know it is not the reason why I gave up. It is when I embraced that I failed, and reflected on the intrinsic reason why that I feel good, because I learned more about myself, what ought to do and not to do in situations like this.
  • Sometimes we really can’t burden on ourselves alone on failure: while it is true that a lot of the times we can control the outcome of things, something is just not under our control. I didn’t choose to get burned out. Putting too much responsibility on ourselves for our failures will eventually ruin us. It is good to learn from failures, but also recognize we have tried our best, and we just couldn’t be gods and control all aspects of life.
  • Move on with the failure: take whatever we can salvage from the failure and move on. Just because we lost a battle does not mean we lose the entire war. The next battleground is always waiting in front of us. Whether or not we could win this time depend on how much we learned from our failures.

This is episode 5 of an ongoing series about me starting my first legit venture, Lifeventure. Our early bird ticket for Last One Standing Seoul is on sale. Please click here to buy your ticket. Early Bird discount ends on 9/30 so hurry!!!

This series is meant for me 10 years down the line to reflect back on my state of mind right now. But I appreciate your support, whether you have followed since the first episode, or just joined us. Hope you can find something that you can relate with your life, or lessons that speak to you. Thank you for your support with this series.