Heartbreak & Entrepreneurship: A Deadly Cocktail
Coming out of University, I had it all. A bright future and the girl of my dreams at my side. Together we decided to venture into the world of entrepreneurship and dance events. Every instinct I had told me: “mixing work and love is a huge risk” but hey love is blind right? On top of that, everything I’ve learned about entrepreneurship indicated that this venture was a dead-end somewhere down the road. We had no USP, no angel investors and no experience. Every event was literally a gamble with our savings. But we did well for ourselves, 2 years later we pretty much ran the city’s nightlife and cash flow was positive.
One of the things that made our relationship so strong was the fact that she pushed me to move up in life. “Work harder so we can retire at 35 with a house on the beach in Dubai” was pretty much the tone throughout our relationship. As a man I could appreciate the support and I needed that motivation, we had the same vision.
Organizing events is a brutally honest profession. You get exactly what you put in. If we wanted to make enough money to buy a house or anything like that, we would need a serious investment to begin something like a festival, but the risk was simply too high (something as unpredictable as rain could crush an event, and your investment). I saw the dead-end, so I decided to stop organizing events and start a new venture. Something that could last and withstand an ever changing market. Self-Service ticketing seemed like the best solution. I would be able to use my experience in the events industry, it is extremely scalable and the technology of QR code tickets has been around for about a decade, so I could learn about the tech quickly. I then found a tech partner and invested heavily into the startup. My life roadmap was ready.
One problem… No USP. In October 2016 we had built the software without any real USP. Yes I know this was probably not the best way to start a venture but the pressure was so high that I took a “shoot-from-the-hip” approach to this startup. I figured that a USP will come along sooner or later. “I need to get rich fast” was my initial idea. I had invested every last cent into the startup so it could not fail. Additionally, I had a girlfriend who was counting on me to succeed and I really did not want to disappoint her. I needed a real USP quick!
I spent the rest of 2016 obsessed with coming up with a USP. Stayed up late nights trying to figure out how to change an industry that hasn't seen any real innovation since around 2009 (Mobile phone QR code scanning being the last development). My mind began to worry about the investment I made, about the people I was going to disappoint and the embarrassment I was about to endure. My health suffered, no longer caring about sports or eating healthy. I never saw my friends and my parents hardly heard from me. I was also about to earn my Masters degree, I just needed to write my thesis. But that soon fell to the bottom of my priority list. I needed to achieve what my girlfriend and I had planned. I needed to get what we wanted.
By January 2017 I had an unhealthy body and a completely ruined body clock. Sleep was a luxury and food was a necessity to find some sort of comfort. I was so frustrated and focused on finding a USP that I completely failed to notice that my relationship was sinking fast. My girlfriend tried to express her unhappiness but I blatantly ignored it and pushed it aside. “I have bigger problems” is what I subconsciously thought. I had no idea that she was so unhappy. Looking back at our relationship over the last part of 2016 I now see signals that I completely missed then. She played silly games on her phone every free second she had, this must have been some sort of escapism. Her health also dropped as she no longer went to the gym and was eating almost as unhealthy as I was. She didn't tag me in funny things on Facebook anymore, and she stopped posting on Instagram altogether. We didn't go out or try new things anymore. I didn't even notice that our lives stood still. My mind was in a vortex of possible USP’s and business cases.
By mid-January we unfortunately ended our relationship as she was unable to find happiness among the wreckage of an obsessed, frustrated and depleted boyfriend. But I had no time to process it at all. In hindsight, it was actually quite a relief that I no longer had this immense pressure of providing for someone else (not that she needed me to provide for her, that’s just a male instinct I suppose). I no longer needed to force out answers and solutions about living together or about our future. Because honestly, at this point I had no idea how this was all going to play out.
Nevertheless, I needed to move on and I still had big problems. Its been almost 5 months without a USP and the clock was ticking. I began to look at the process of event making and tried to figure our where most of an events costs are made. DJ’s and live entertainment is by far the most expensive cost of an event. But I knew I could not possibly change that with my ticketing system. The rent of a venue or cost of lights and sound equipment is also pretty definite. Where could I make the difference?
Late February 2017, I no longer had the pressure of a relationship and a master thesis. I was able to fully invest my time into this project. I decided to take a birds-eye view of the situation. I finally had space in my head to think about where event managers lose their time & money. As I was walking my dog it hit me like a brick to the face. Promotion & Marketing!!! That’s where we can make the difference. Event promoters spend hours on Facebook trading guest list spots for Facebook reach, constantly asking people to share the event on the social media profiles, and causing a huge opportunity cost, every person on the guest list essentially wont be paying for a ticket. They spend thousands and thousands of euros on Facebook marketing, and annoy the crap out of people with prizes and sharing contests (share this and win a bottle of vodka is the most popular one). What if we can make that process easier and cheaper? What if event organizers can offer their customer a discount on an event ticket in exchange for sharing the event on their Facebook page?
Enter Ticketmonks.com We added a new feature to the platform that made us stand out from the rest. something that genuinely creates a win-win situation for everyone. Event managers can lower their marketing costs, reward their loyal supporters and customers benefit from a discount.
March 2017. Ok I had a solid USP and I need to make it go live as soon as humanly possible. My development team was swamped with other projects and my financial reserves were running low. I needed to think quickly about how to solve this issue. Turns out two of my friends had decided to become aspiring web developers and are able to help me get this product live very soon.
Now that this is all in motion, I have had time to think about what it has cost me to get this far. Getting rich fast is a mentality that comes at a price. Let me tell you, its not worth it. Forcing a USP was not possible, and neglecting your partner isn’t the answer. This idea came to me when I was walking the dog, it was a complete eureka moment, it had nothing to do with my relationship or my master thesis. Cherish what you have and don’t take people for granted. The impact I made on our relationship has only recently dawned upon me. I was too busy thinking about achieving goals that I failed to notice that I was already in a pretty good place.
So what now? I’m making the best of the situation. I wake up every morning at 8 AM to do my research, contact new clients and discuss with my new development team. I began eating healthy again and I find time to go the gym. I’ve not only financially invested into this, but now its become something priceless. Its cost me my relationship with the love of my life and a lot of dark days. I’m emotionally invested in this. This is perhaps the best/biggest investment you can make. That is why heartbreak and entrepreneurship is a deadly cocktail.