A surprising feeling when you shut down your startup

Chris Lee

If the day comes that you have to shut down your startup there are countless emotions you’ll be feeling at once: disappointment, regret, embarrassment, etc. These are all pretty expected, but a feeling you might not see coming is relief.

Before that fateful day, you’ve actually known all along that things aren’t working. While you may not have admitted it to yourself, the signs were there all along right under nose. Maybe you haven’t been hitting your metrics or maybe your list of awesome new ideas is smaller and less inspiring every day. Maybe team morale has been declining for a little too long. There are plenty of signals to watch out for. But everyone knows that startups are full of challenges, so you’re going to look at all these warning signs as hurdles to overcome and keep on pushing.

To support this lie, you apply that entrepreneurial ability to sell a dream and spin all warning signs as temporary obstacles. You’re not that far off from hitting your numbers – a 50% bump is just around the corner. Your brainstorming is just in a rut and with a little more time (and an offsite!) you’ll get that killer idea to turn the ship around. These are all lies you tell yourself to avoid admitting that this is a rocket headed back down to earth. It’s true that sometimes the rocket just needs an extra push to get back on course, but if you’re being honest with yourself you’ll know when that isn’t the case.

Eventually something forces you to face the grim reality of your situation. Maybe it’s something external like an advisor or investor asking a really tough question that gives you a wake-up call, or maybe it’s you just getting sick of banging your head against the wall and getting nowhere. Whatever it is, when you finally decide to shut down, you’ll be devastated (it’s your baby after all), but you’ll also exhale because you’re finally admitting what you’ve known for a while. And that’s a relief.

    Chris Lee

    Written by

    Chris Lee

    Head of Product @ Neji. Previously @ Apple, Dropbox & LendingHome. Passionate about startups, blockchain, network infrastructure & security and design.

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