How I Failed a Startup: What I Learned
This could have been a motivation article, but it’s not…
In this article, I will tell you how we went from zero to one, how I convert an idea into a business by giving examples from my own experience. It will be a long article, so grab your tea or coffee :)
I’ve talked and talked for a long time. I had many dreams and plans for the future, most of them didn’t happen. I made promises to my friends, investors, customers and said, “Wait, we’re doing it, we’re almost there”. Ideas were beautiful, dreams were great. However, there were so many things we forgot :)
Every detail we forgot and foresee was a lesson on its own. In time, I realized that I could talk for a long time on “How not to build a startup” Mistakes have accumulated and turned into experience, I started to write what you need to know and the forgotten steps when starting a startup.
Let’s get started if you are ready;
The Problem, Co-Founders, Valley of Death
I would like to say “it all started with a business model canvas!”, but it did not…
As four cofounders -two software developers and two managers-, we had a “very solid” idea; and we were working for it. From training to customer interviews and value propositions, we finally got the news we had been looking forward to for a long time. We were planning to take our idea to America, sell it, and grow with investments. However, there was one thing we forgot; There was no functioning product yet.
Then the journey into the depths of the valley of death began.
On the second day of my arrival at Draper University, one of our “technical” co-founders left. The software developer we agreed to complete the product also abandoned the project and left.
Draper University is one of the entrepreneurship programs in San Francisco. Throughout the program, you have the opportunity to meet many investors and entrepreneurs and tell them about your idea.
Isn’t it a great opportunity for most of the early-stage startups?
Let me tell you that; If you’re going to Silicon Valley without “traction, a proof for that your product will grow, it doesn’t really matter what you say. For listeners, you are not different from anybody who has a startup idea.
There we missed the opportunity very well. At this point, which could be a turning point for us, we were left without a product and we lost a team member.
We realized that we needed a technical co-founder and we started searching. Thanks to the investment news, we made our name and the co-founder announcements started to work. Interviews with talented and enthusiastic candidates were going well, but this time we started to fail to communicate with our other technical co-founder and he also left soon.
At this point you understand that there is such a thing as the Valley of Death; we were at the bottom. Every day we couldn’t bring the product to life, we were losing a little more motivation.
From the times when we had the highest motivation :)
Our search for a team-mate continued whiningly. During this period, we participated in many startup events, hackathons, and ideations in different cities; We informed our colleagues working at startups, we had numerous skype calls… I can say that we have tried many ways to create the right team.
What can two business partners do with an unfinished code-base left in their hands?
Let me tell you the answer at first hand; they can’t do anything!
They can start learning programming, of course. Can there any better reason to start learning! Of course, there can’t be; But let’s not forget that you need motivation above all to actualize it. Since our motivation decreased and reached the end, we had no power to do so.
In the end, after so much “negative” experience, I was left alone on the way started with four people.
The idea, The Right Team, The Product
I stopped looking for a new team and I started reviewing my mistakes. For almost two months I was often trying to answer questions like “Where did I do wrong”, “what's next ”, “What was the biggest mistake”, “What did I spend most of my time on”?
Then, I had a lucky break.
I met a friend who knew I was looking for a co-founder. After a little talk, he talked about some of his software developer friends who were interested in entrepreneurship. We arranged a meeting and met after a short time. I explained my two years of entrepreneurship with pros and cons, and they talked about their experiences. After a few meetings, we realized that what we wanted to do and our goals were common, and we soon started working together.
Thus, the foundations of a new startup were laid.
The team had come together. But what would the idea be, what would we do!
We didn’t have a conversation that started with “Let’s find a good idea ”. We all knew it would be better to try to solve a problem that we know rather than to sit and look for ideas. Do you remember how I stepped into the Valley of Death? What was the biggest problem with my start-up that I couldn’t solve?
My biggest problem was that I couldn’t find the right team and I couldn’t develop an MVP (minimum viable product) without the team; Everything we built on it was destroyed. I learned what was recommended at every event, in blog posts, and books the hard way.
I found my teammates with the right qualities to walk on the same road in close proximity while looking for them far away. We were all excited by the idea of developing a brand new software, even if we had to learn from scratch.
We decided to develop a product that would make it easy for entrepreneurs like us to find cofounders and team-mates.
The idea of solving one of the most important problems of entrepreneurs and creating a new product helped us to work for months without losing our motivation. We were happy to do what we love.
We wanted to solve the problem quickly and easily. We decided that the simplest option was “matchmaking” Users would be able to easily understand which qualifications they needed for their teammates; We were inspired*
To run an efficient team, you only need three people: a Hipster, a Hacker, and a Hustler. -Rei Inamoto
Being a team was more important than anything. I’ve experienced in the hard way that a team who says they do software needs a “Hacker”; Fortunately, we had three :)
“Hustler” means, in short, an enterprising, exertive person who does not give up the struggle. I’ve accumulated enough mistakes to be a Hustler, but I wasn’t the only one struggling. It’s not easy to learn something new from scratch, and it’s not easy not to give up after countless errors you’ve encountered during the coding process.
In this trio, Hustler’s role is not as clear as the others. They can be useful in everything, but they are usually expected to handle the sales, financing, and operation processes 🙃
“Hipster” can be defined as the person who brings the artist’s point of view to the startup and focuses on the user experience.
We shared the role of “Hipster” with Yiğit. When I realized that I couldn’t maintain the interface and design issue by outsourcing ($), I started improving myself. I tried to handle the User Interface-UX part, and Yigit took care of the front-end.
After sharing the tasks in the team, it’s time for the “Value Proposition”. Our value proposition is briefly The easiest way for entrepreneurs to find co-founders and team-mates. “Tinder meets Startups” 🧡🚀 It was fun to find solutions to our own problem.
I did what I couldn’t do for two years in six months with the right teammates. Now we had a functioning mobile application.
In 6 months we didn’t just create an application, we became a team!
From the moment you say “I have an idea”, there are a lot of mistakes to make. Each mistake takes its turn and every mistake teaches something different. We have developed this product for you to make these mistakes with the right people.
Of course, it is very important to learn from the mistakes, but I have witnessed many times that the right team can react much faster. Isn’t entrepreneurship a quest like “try-fail-try again” after all?
Thank you for reading so far.
For any questions and feedback, please contact me on Twitter.