Pinguin has closed its doors — RIP Popper.
It’s always hard as an entrepreneur to let something go that you’ve been working on for (as long as you can remember) almost 2 yrs — it feels like 10 yrs, but I digress.
Let’s start with why we set out to build Pinguin in the first place. For me personally (I can’t speak for the whole team) it was to inspire people to get out and experience new things and challenge themselves by building a better bridge between the gap of real life and our digital life. The objective was to promote ‘time well spent’ vs. time spent. This is why we chose to focus on following interests rather than following people and a conversational format over posting format. We wanted people to engage both topically and geographically. It was a lofty mission.
What went wrong? A number of things but to name a few quickly: we ran out of personal funds (we were bootstrapped), the team got tired, growth was stagnant, users felt they couldn’t interrupt conversations happening, about to make another big product shift, and the list goes on from there. However, the biggest deciding factor was certainly the team (and I’m not excluded from this). Somewhere along the way, we lost the fire and passion and for a startup fire and passion from your team is really all you have to fuel the company. Without it, you’re done.
What did I learn? I’ve developed so many new product muscles that I never even knew I had. I’ve always been great at building a product but managing a team of 6, investor relations, PR (landed a TechCrunch article), helping with growth marketing, developing retention strategies, and more. It’s been a wild 2 yrs and it had its major ups and its major downs and sometimes what felt like a free fall, but those are the most learnable moments. The saying “running a startup is like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down” is a grotesque understatement. It’s harder than that — It’s more like jumping off a cliff and building a wormhole that will land you in a precise location of your choosing preferably somewhere really soft. However, most of all, and this is ironic, I learned how to persevere through tough times and how to keep the passion lit during tough times and when tough decisions need to be made and for that, I’ll always be a stronger person.
Looking back — as a team in our company slack over 2 years we sent 17,105 messages between only 7 people total which is around 23 messages per day. Not shabby for a bootstrapped team with almost everyone remote. We had our product publicly live since Jan 20, 2017, and in that time we had over 50k app store impressions, over 10k downloads, over 30k sessions, and hit a peak of just over 1000 MAU. We had a reasonably successful Product Hunt launch with help from a TechCrunch article. We didn’t do too bad with having the very limited resources we had.
Moving forward — the other two co-founders are planning their own adventures (yes, we still live together and are still friends after all that, even after the long fighting nights). I don’t want to speak too much for them, but Bryan to my knowledge will be breaking off to begin focusing on his culinary passions and Devon will be looking to help other startups avoid our pitfalls and help them grow the right way by taking the learnings of our startup and applying them elsewhere. For myself, I’m working on something super stealth at the moment. I can tell you it’s called Ritty and will be making a public appearance with the technology Oct 20th at the Vegas hackathon. As my Grandpa always told me as a kid, when a door closes, you always have the opportunity to open another. I look forward to continuing with the Pinguin developers to bring Ritty to life. I’ll share more on that soon!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions regarding Pinguin or just want to chat about your startup. I am happy to help as much as I can and provide any advice I can that might help. I’ve learned getting advice is tough (even from people that tout themselves as advisors/helpers) and I would like to be a beacon of change regarding advisement and help.
For now, thank you to all that participated in our journey with Pinguin. You’ve made this entrepreneur a very happy one despite the sad day. You made what we were doing feel worthwhile and for that, I say, until next time.
CEO of Pinguin
P.S. Thank you Devon, Bryan, Muthu, Vijay, Reshav, and Jonathan for having my back and believing in me to lead this company. I will forever respect you all and look up to you. You guys are relentless warriors and I hope to all have a chance to work together again soon.