I got this note yesterday from a founder who has, over the years, become a good friend. I asked him if I could share it as an honest and raw reflection on shutting down, in contrast to the acquihire-dressed-up-as-victory announcements or self-serving post-mortems we often see when a startup doesn’t make it.
To the team, you are the kind of people and these are the relationships that keep me motivated, and keep me from becoming cynical in a town and industry that makes it pretty easy to become so. Thank you for the things you’ve taught me along the way, they have been many.
This email will contain the final update on the status of [Company], and a brief collection of thoughts here at the end of this journey. Below my signature, you will find the last investor update email which outlined the situation
I have submitted the Dissolution paperwork to the State of Delaware. You will find this attached for your files if needed. With that, it’s over.
What we set out to do, we did not accomplish. When we first started this journey 5+ years ago, we wanted to solve a problem in a big enough way to build a meaningful business and return money to our investors. We started by building simple forms and web pages to help [do x]. That grew into a fairly complex system to [do z].
We were fortunate to have the support of a small handful of angel investors from here in [place] early on. Your belief in us allowed us to continue to pursue our goals. Raising that first round of money was truly amazing. It was the first money I had ever raised, and as I look back, your faith in [co-founder] and I was much greater than where we were as a business.
But the business grew. Providentially, we were introduced to another investor that saw something special in us. Being selected to join [accelerator] was validation that we may be on to something. New and existing investors decided to back our efforts further.
Along the way, you all were so supportive and helpful. Whether it was a phone call or a coffee meeting. Time and time again, I knew that I had investors that truly cared about our team and our pursuits. Even after we decided that the best opportunity we had in front of us involved a pivot of the business into the [related] space, we never felt the type of tumultuous relationship with investors some of our other founder friends have shared with us. For that, I count myself truly blessed.
Truthfully, the past two years have been very hard. Realizing we weren’t going to be able to raise our next round. Having term sheets disappear. Even walking through potential acquisition offers, through tons and tons of conversations to no avail.
Having investors that believed in us, trusted us, and supported us was truly a gift. I pray that you know how hard we tried. That [co-founder] and I had many many long conversations about how we could “solve this problem” or “make it work”. That when things got tough, we always strove to give you our investors a voice in our decision making. That being good stewards of your money was a real driving factor in the decisions we made.
I’m certain that we didn’t make all the best moves along the way. We certainly learned a lot. Much of what we learned came from conversations with you all. Some of the most valuable insights I received over the past 5 years came from you.
I wanted to write this email to tell you that [co-founder] and I are truly thankful for the opportunities that we have been afforded because of you. We have grown as entrepreneurs immensely. We are both hopeful that this email in some small way, or future conversations will help you pick winning founders.
I’m a bit dismayed by the state of the union in the tech/startup world right now. Too little care for the people involved. Founders, whether intentional or as a product of the environment, with little concern for ethics. An ecosystem too quick to celebrate success at all costs. It is my hope that in some way soon, we can share a voice contrarian these trends.
So now we must move on. The journey is over. It is was and has been a sad realization. I’m certain some founders just blow up companies and move on. I’ve seen it. But that’s not us. We’ve labored together to try and make this a win. So it’s not that easy. But it’s time to turn the page. It’s my sincere hope that your other investments make this loss insignificant.
So what’s next for us…[co-founder] and I have joined [a company]. This will be announced as a acquisition to maximize our impact there from a PR standpoint.
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