SuchCrowd is over — key learnings from the CEO

Since everyone is taking a chance to say what they thought over SuchCrowd, here is my side of story.

It is very funny to hear “too much investment in development”. In fact, we never had an investment in development. SuchCrowd product was never grown from MPV to something giant. The non-technical founders never wanted to spend a reasonable time but always wanted a great product. In fact, they encouraged me to build a buggy product instead. And it is very disgusting that I am the one to be blamed at the end while they are maintaining their startup celebrity status. I was actually doing whatever they were asking me to do until recently last year where I strongly believe the strategy they were executing was totally useless. I took a lot of my time trying to discuss and my words were only fall into deaf ear. Right who am I to be questioning? After all, they are the startup gurus (maybe? I was convinced at least)

SuchCrowd had an on-going agreement with a large customer(don’t think I should mention the name) and we actually managed to make a sale and they were to start using SuchCrowd in February. We were already developing a better product for the customer until the other two came up says in November, “we need to turn SuchCrowd in to promotion engine”. They said ‘SuchCrowd were never doing lean startup and it was the time to start doing lean”. I am sure you guys will be as confused as me. Thought we were already doing lean since that is all they can talk about all the time uh? To be fair, I was really concerned with the deal with a large customer and was very worried that we were not be able to deliver the platform by February if (at least) I cannot commit on developing the platform (I am the only dev by the way). Then one of the founders told me in my face that it does not matter if we lost that customer. They were willing to loose that enterprise customer! And guess what? They blamed me for loosing that customer when the time come. Read along.

I was never comfortable with that decision to potentially pissed of the enterprise customer. I was actually dealing with their representative and personally promise the platform to be delivered. So In December, while they started to do some fruitless lean testing to transform SuchCrowd into what they called promotion engine, I spent all my days and countless sleepless night kept on building a platform I promised to the enterprise customer in case things goes wrong with their plan and at least we would have an original plan of partnering with enterprise customer as a backup.

In mid December, I actually have done some frontend development and with lots of UI enhancement, bug fixes and new payment integration. I approached the other founders to deploy the new frontend which will be used for enterprise customer and normal customers. But they wont allowed me to go ahead and deploy a new platform.

The told me if I deployed a new platform, it will be getting better, faster and will probably get more users and they didn’t want that to happen because they were doing (fruitless) testing on the platform and a new improved (better) product would give them a false positive. Genius. I never heard of someone intentionally do not want new customers!!!
 So I consulted with other startup community in states and they were very confused with that reasoning as well. One of them said, we would be measuring a wrong thing and applying lean wrong!

So I went back and have along phone conversation with them again. But they were to arrogant to listen anything that is not in their plan. This is where I lost faith in working with SuchCrowd. As a CTO, I could never say a word that actually put into consideration. These decisions I was so strongly not agreed were never been reconsidered. I was actually treated like an employee at best. SuchCrowd did not need a CTO, it just need a cheap developer who would do anything the other asks without questioning. I was giving up and told the team, I will be leaving in February.

But I did consider staying and trying to trust a team again before February. but I ended up leaving even earlier than February. Here is a catch. One day morning, the enterprise customer we promised to delivered out product sent a very strong complaint letter to us and says how they were disappointed with the platform that were not delivered as promised. SuchCrowd’s CEO was quick to redirect an angry customer to me straight away even thought she knew the reason why the platform wasn’t delivered. I had to talk and apologise the angry customer. It is very funny. I actually told them in one of the meetings that the customer would be calling exactly like that and I was gonna be the one to handle if we not keep our promise and deliver. At this point, I was totally through with SuchCrowd and decided to leave straight away.

I did not leave SuchCrowd and just left them to dry out. I built SuchCrowd using Java/Scala and they were having problem finding a skilled Java/Scala developer who is willing to work for them. So I offered them to rebuild a SuchCrowd platform with RubyonRail in two weeks for free. They declined the offer saying they were not convinced I can rebuild the whole product which was taken a year to be built. Actually the product did not take a year to build, it is all those mucking around with side tracks that taken as a year. Not an actually development. Any experienced developer would agree that it is totally doable in 2 weeks for what we have. After all, SuchCrowd really is a very small platform.

I admit I wasn’t a very lean developer nor trying to be one. For me, it is all about pragmatic rather then following a simple set of rules with closed mind. I am not saying I did nothing wrong. As a CTO, I did a lot things wrong.

  • I never learnt to understand more business side and put total trust and control over a manipulative co-founders.
  • I never leant to say “No” to the feature request or unreasonable deadline
  • I stopped fighting for a quality product in the name of lean as other co-founder suggested and get blamed for buggy platform at the end.

I trusted my co-founders a lot in their passion, abilities to do things. I do not regret trusting them with business stuffs even though it ends up being a failure. I actually thought I had built a good friendship. But it is very sad things to learn how people treated each other at the end. I am not sad SuchCrowd is over but I feel sad that a friendship also went along with it. Bottom line, we all makes mistakes and it is not necessary to blame each other in order to maintain ones’s social status.

This is all I want to say. There are more to it but I think this is enough. I left SuchCrowd quietly and never raised a word or explain why. I did not want to blame anyone. I consider this a real learning experience. But recently I have seen communications between investors and (now this posts) and felt like I need to step up. Anyway what was done is done and I have already moved on with a new venture and learnt not to repeat the same mistakes. I wish everyone good luck!

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