I’m Shutting Down my Startup — Here’s Why
The last few years I have experimented in building a business. I recently closed it down. This is a synopsis for my friends, family, team, customers, and a convenient link I can send anyone that asks me about this going forward.
For sake of your interest, I will briefly describe the four sections — feel free to jump around. “An Unintended Convenience”: the mission of Dive that extended farther than I thought. “Interest & Passion”: uncovering a self-delusional thought pattern justifying my behavior. “Main takeaways”: a broad overview of what not to do in future ventures. “So, What’s Next”: what I’m thinking about now. “Closing Remarks”: was this a hard decision?
An Unintended Convenience
What was the mission of Dive? To deliver convenience. I always found this applicable in three separate contexts: it’s convenient for our customer who can get things delivered really fast; it’s convenient for our delivery partners who can have an easy side-income opportunity while in college; and that it’s convenient for our retail partner who can instantly gain a full e-commerce platform and delivery service, adding a new channel for their business.
But, there was a fourth way Dive was delivering convenience. To me. Dive was a convenient business for me to start as a person with no tech background, essentially zero money, and my proximity to my customer (classmates, neighbors, and fellow Isla Vista residents).
Dive started by accident. I was just trying to make a few dollars when I began delivering dice. After that worked I thought I could sell more if I offered more products and made it easier to order. So I bought a domain name, bought more products, and gave the operation a name.
I remember a friend saying something along the lines of, “So, you’re really serious about starting this business?” I said yes, but I hadn’t realized I was trying to start a business. From my perspective, I was just experimenting with selling some party supplies and trying to make it easy for people to place new orders. I hadn’t come to that conclusion after analyzing industry, trends, or competition. I just viewed it as something I was capable of starting given my experience, so I ran with it.
That is to say, it was convenient for me to start.
Interest & Passion
I would talk about the business and note that I didn’t find it to be exciting, world-changing, and immensely interesting. From day one, I optimized for learning opportunities over business opportunities.
To justify my time and money investment, I created a narrative that I do believe in: the ultimate life is to do exactly what you want, every second of every day. This correlated to Dive because in giving consumers the option to stay at home while we do their convenience store shopping for them, they could spend their time doing what they want, thus they could better control their time.
This underlying message allowed me to consciously sell the idea to myself and others. Then I would think, “If I was doing something I truly wanted, I wouldn’t need to create this tangential reason justifying my behavior.” Occasionally I would be deep in working on a problem that was interesting (most likely creating some function in Google Sheets), then I would realize I was just trying to automate how we count the number of Hershey’s bars we sold last Winter quarter… and laugh to myself because of how miniscule that problem is to the world.
In order to compete in the on-demand delivery space, I would need to dedicate the next five to ten years of my life heavily investing more of my personal money, and eventually other people’s money, into the business to even stand a chance.
The question then became: Do I want to invest countless time and thousands of more dollars into something I fundamentally don’t find interesting?
To do so would undermine my thesis of optimizing life to control time. So this decision is actually quite easy to make. Dive, as we know it today, will no longer exist.
Main takeaways (to avoid in the future — for me)
About the customer:
If you know me well, you know I don’t love school. College was great, but I don’t think I would want to do it again. Even though I have known this about myself for many years, I ended up building a business around the college experience because, like I said above, it was convenient. However, once I graduated I found myself still thinking about college, the school schedule, community events, students, and Isla Vista to stay relevant to the psychology of my customer. I want to move on from college, and having this business kept me attached and connected to the college experience more than wanted.
Additionally, selling to customer with a tight disposable budget is frustrating at times. One of my most memorable deliveries came from a freshman who took advantage of a free delivery promotion and ordered when it was pouring raining. I showed up in less than 15 minutes with her order and stood there soaking wet after riding a bike and watched her count out 57 cents to complete the $2.57 total. One thing I learned: you won’t get tipped if you don’t ask for it.
About the team:
I was building a tech company without a dedicated tech partner. I was the only person heavily invested in the success of the business. I was the only person who provided capital and worked on the business everyday.
Building a team was one of the things I had the most difficulty with. Maybe it was trying to work with other college students all juggling multiple priorities, maybe it was my inability to provide sufficient compensation, or maybe it was my inexperience in managing people. It probably was a combination of all three, but at least now I have some experience and insight into what kinds of people I enjoy working with and how I best collaborate with others.
About the industry:
The thesis of the business is right. Instant gratification of the consumers’ desires appearing right at their door in under 20 minutes… makes sense. Obviously our world is moving towards mobile commerce and on-demand delivery. Consumers value time more than ever before and delivery services are saving consumers time. Insert Amazon….
Within the past few months, Postmates, Uber Eats, and Instacart have entered the Santa Barbara / Goleta market ready to spend endless dollars forming partnerships, reducing prices, and acquiring customers. The omniscient beast of Amazon is not slowing down anytime soon in creating more competitive and compelling services for the end consumer. Long story short, I’m interested in getting involved in an industry less obvious, developed, and invested in than the on-demand delivery industry.
So, What’s Next:
I want to get back into what I abandoned once starting the business, while researching what I find interesting. First, I will be getting back into fitness, refocusing on exercise and what I consume. Second, I will be focusing on sharing more ideas through this “blog” environment to continue to discuss the ways in which I move towards a world of controlling my time. And finally, I will be developing a voice application built on Amazon’s smart assistants as a personal challenge. I’m excited to talk more about this going forward as I continue to make progress, but I’ll leave it at this for now!
I originally thought it would be scary detaching from the business. I identified myself as one with the business, it was something I focused on every day for over two years, it helped me grow as a professional and person in countless ways, it challenged me in ways I had never experienced. I was Dive.
However, thinking through the reasons I shared above makes this decision extremely easy. Continuous introspection and curiosity has helped me navigate my life to optimize for what I truly value. To anyone that is looking to change something in their life, please take time to understand why you want to change and what is causing the discomfort in your current circumstances, and I believe you will begin to figure out what direction you want to head next.
Hey, my name is Reese. I temporarily have stopped writing, here’s more info.