Depression After a Startup Launch

You remember the moment. When you finally had the balls to launch your startup. When all the work you put into something for months or maybe even years comes. It’s like a ton of pressure has built up and you’re now faced with the moment when your life is supposed to change…

And crickets.

To some those crickets last a few days, and for others those crickets last weeks or months. Some people are lucky enough to not hear crickets, but for most bootstrappers without a huge email list (which let’s admit, is most of us) a public launch of a new product or service can be seriously depressing. Like drinking-whiskey-while-smoking-a-cigarette-as-you-pace-back-and-forth-outside depressing.

THE THING WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IS THAT THIS DEPRESSION IS NORMAL.

Holy crap did I wish I would have heard this when I started my online businesses. Even Launchpeer, which has been by far my biggest success, started with crickets.

Why? Because who in their right mind wanted to pay a newb 26 year old kid and his friends to build a app? Sure, I knew what I was doing, but no one else knew that for sure, especially people who never met me before.

And what about the people I already knew in my network, who knew me, my skills and what I was capable of?

Well, I couldn’t tell those people the truth; the truth that I was struggling to make a sale, to run a business I’d never run before, to feed my family, to pay my bills. As entrepreneurs, but especially as husbands and fathers, we’re not supposed to talk about the hard times, the depression, the feelings of complete failure.

“As entrepreneurs, but especially as husbands and fathers, we’re not supposed to talk about the hard times, the depression, the feelings of complete failure.

Instead we’re supposed to go to startup events, entrepreneur mixers, after parties and talk about how great things are. How things are “looking up” and how my family is loving the new found “freedom” I have, when “looking up” really means “facing rock bottom” and “freedom” really means “working 80 hours/week trying to keep it all together.”

That feeling of hopelessness that happens to a majority of entrepreneurs is eventually overcome. For me it was when I finally figured out, after a year of killing myself, how to grow my business through small, surgical, frequent changes to my sales and marketing processes. For others it happens sooner or later, at some moment, hopefully not before they quit the entrepreneur life and go back to the 9–5 life.

So how can we help each other?

When the feelings of being a failure started sinking in for me after a few weeks in business and lasted for my first year in business, what I wish I had was some frickin’ honesty.

Everywhere I went there were other entrepreneurs who only talked about how awesome things were going, how great their lives were, how much money they were making. But I could tell that behind the scenes they were struggling too. Sometimes I found this out when they ‘pivoted’ their business a couple weeks later, they changed jobs, or them and their business just disappeared.

WHY DO WE FEEL THE NEED TO LIE TO EACH OTHER?

Can’t we just admit to each other that entrepreneurship sucks sometimes, especially at first. Not ‘it sucks’ in the most simple sense of the word, but ‘sucks’ in the deepest sense of the word. A “can’t pay your bills, support your family, thinking of going back to work, ready to leave the country to avoid the shame” kind of suck.

I’m resolving that this year I’ll be talking about the struggles, the hardship and the depression as much as I’ll talk about the great times.


Jake Hare is the Founder of Launchpeer & Excursionly. He writes about startups & growth hacking at JakeHare.com. He’s consulted Fortune 500 companies, is a former homeless teen, and proud Army veteran.