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Lessons Learned After My Startup Failed

A few months ago, my startup went up in flames because of Covid-19. Two months ago, I was sulking and feeling like a total loser, swearing off entrepreneurship and startups because "this is stupid, and I'm not cut out for this." A month ago, my friend who co-created the previous startup called me up. Yesterday, we launched Recoon, our community for beginner podcasters, on Product Hunt.

Here are the 5 lessons I learned about getting back up:

  1. You're really not that important. No. Seriously. I had to learn this. I was ashamed and embarrassed that something I built failed, even if the reason was outside of my control. EMBARRASSED? As if there are hundreds of people thinking about my failure 24/7. You're not that important.

  2. When they say "fail 10 time, get back up 11" - they don't mention the part where it f*cking hurts. And sometimes, you need recovery time. Let it be. Crying in the shower. Not crying. Being over productive or sulking. That's all up to you. Do whatever you want to do. It's your big "shit day / week / month" time.

  3. Mr. Wonderful's quote of "sometimes you just have to take your idea behind the barn and shoot it" is brutally correct. We, as founders, sometimes become so solution obsessed, we don't realize the glaring problem areas we've missed. We get carried away. It's very, very, very difficult not to - between finding investors, creating the 923843 version of your pitch deck, designing and developing the product - there's practically 0 time left to "dig deep". Sometimes, the market screams no, but you take that as a challenge. And like a good student of Lean Startups or whatever other "holy-godly" startup help book you read, you chose to fight through those hurdles. Learn to differentiate between something being difficult vs. painfully, heart-wrenchingly, doesn't-make-sense difficult.

  4. Not everyone is smarter than you or knows better. I truly believed that. Which ended with me accepting and implementing everyones contradicting advice. Should you have 10 slides or 8 for a pitch deck? Should the team slide go first or last? Should you raise money now or leave it for later? Everyone and their mom has an opinion. Only take the advice from people who have actually done what you're hoping to achieve. Would you listen to a carpenter about how to fix your motor? Probably not.

  5. While it's definitely not an easy journey, remember to have fun. This one I truly struggled with. I stopped having fun the minute things got serious. Re point #1 - not taking myself too seriously. You quit your job for a reason. This journey appealed to you for a reason. Yeah, sure, "stability" sounds really great right about now. Try and remember why you chose to take this journey. Remind yourself of this when things get exhausting.

  1. 2

    "Only take the advice from people who have actually done what you're hoping to achieve." For me the biggest learning for myself. Took me some time to even realize who are the wrong people to ask.

    What I also learnt. Sometimes I spoke out loudly my thoughts which were mistaken by asking for help. I just wanted to let it out from my mind. New approach is to write it down or even speak to an animal but don't tell people who carry the wrong mindset. They will always find an 'answer' why you couldn't make it, whereas it is just excuses why they can't do it themselves. The amount of people who don't want to leave their comfort zone is bigger than you even can imagine.

    If you want to become a drug addict, surround yourself with drug addicts. I don'thave many friends - actually nobody - who is trying to get the same as I do, side hustle and turn the 9-5 job I need to do right now to paying bills into a fulfilling job, realizing my ideas, projects, ... They all are 9-5ers, I don't tell them anymore. I - if even - just show them the results.

    For my part, it is a solo battle and sometimes it's really hard. Having found the indiehackers forum helps me surpass the sad, bad and difficult moments; as I can see I'm not the only one. And there's good advice here.

    So, thanks for you post, it's insightful and helpful. I feel you and wish you all the best and success!

    1. 1

      I just want you to know, I'm reading this on a Sunday, and I feel my spirit has been uplifted. Thank you for sharing your insight. "Sometimes I spoke out loudly my thoughts which were mistaken by asking for help." This sentence is just...perfect. I completely relate. I've learned the hard way - they'd suck the energy and life out of that idea that sometimes you're like..."why did I think it was a good idea in the first place?" Just because they were a bit jealous / feeling insecure about where they are in life.

      I'm a grateful and feel blessed to have found this community.

      Thank you for your kind wishes, new friend!

      1. 1

        Thank you for your nice words! :)

  2. 1

    Really liked this post, @maggieryan! Thanks for sharing it.

    May I ask you what was your startup about? I run a website where I weekly interview the founders of failed startups so as to get to learn about their failures / mistakes, and think that it could be a really great fit.

    1. 1

      Totally! It was a beauty startup called sofetch. It’s mission was to connect salon owners to stylists, and stylists to customers. You can email me and we can discuss it further if you’d like :)

      1. 1

        Just emailed you, Maggie!

  3. 1

    Great advice, Maggie. Thanks for sharing.

  4. 1

    @maggieryan When you are hungry for success, you will make it happen. For me, I have had lot of failures (I call it life experiences) in my personal and business life. Every time it happens to me, I doubled down my Curiosity level and Open Mindedness.

    You will be successful.

    "If you want to understand the universe, think in terms energy, frequency, and vibration.” - Nikola Tesla.

  5. 1

    thank you for being so open and sharing, learned a good lesson thank to you

  6. 1

    Spot on! And very well written.
    Having been in the same shoes as you, I think the wisdom you get from the failure, is a success itself.

    1. 1

      Thank you! Means a lot. I completely agree - it's like a self funded, crash course MBA :D

  7. 1

    hey Maggie,
    Resonated with your post.

    Knowing when to push through is as important as knowing when to call it quits.

    Having fun is one of the most important metrics in my book, when it gets frustrating in the wrong ways it's a sure sign you gotta step away.

    Appreciate you sharing this and wishing your next one will be way better.

    1. 1

      It's inspiring to see others resonate with my journey - doesn't feel so lonely! I couldn't have said it better myself "it's a sure sign you gotta step away." Thank you for your kind wishes, friend.

  8. 1

    "Rowing harder doesn't help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction."

    Something I think all young entrepreneurs need to hear. The number of people working their asses off while facing negative metrics is staggering.

    If no one wants to buy your product/service, and you've asked hundreds or thousands of people already... Stop rowing. Just, stop.

    It's so easy for people to say "well I just need to optimize this, build this thing so-and-so said would make it all great, etc. etc.". As you've quoted: "Go to the barn & shoot."

    Brutal but required.

    1. 1

      Fantastic insight. I was shocked when I learned others make landing pages and wait to see if they get enough pre-sales to THEN UNDERSTAND if they need to build it in the first place. So much time...and money... could have been saved. We live and we learn!

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted a year ago.

      1. 1

        Well I'll be damned. That's fascinating. Never heard it quite like this before. Thanks for sharing, great food for thought!

        1. 1

          Struggle porn - tbh honest....kind of spot on :D It becomes an identity. Thank you for sharing!

  9. 1

    Having an ego is never good. You set yourself up for failure.

  10. 1

    Regarding 2), I'd also say the "height" from which you fall is also pretty important. If you've spent 5 months developing something, it's going to hurt way less vs. spending 2 weeks and releasing it. So don't commit too early :)

    1. 1

      Ah, great point! I definitely made the mistake of committing WAY early, because that was the conventional wisdom then. You know the whole "if you really want to do something you'll sacrifice everything you have and live on friends couches for years to make it?" And oh boy... that was REALLY not the best method :D

  11. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 1

      Same! And then I realized that no one really even cared about my failure to begin with. Which gave me courage to get back up. Shattering your ego is definitely necessary!

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        This comment was deleted a year ago.

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