July 29, 2020

Who has shut something down lately?

Josh Ho @jlogic

We always hear about starting up. It's exciting and new! Great for everyone to cheer each other on with moral support and constructive feedback. But then it goes quiet....

I think there also needs to be light on the shutting down. The burn out, the reasons to quit, the burn-in lessons of things you swear you'll never do again...

I'd love to hear and start a thread on

  1. Why you shut down?
  2. What you were trying to do?
  3. What your 1 big lesson was?
  4. % chance you'll do this again
How long did you work on it?
  1. 1-2 months
  2. 3-6 months
  3. 6-12 months
  4. 1-2 years
  5. 2+ years
  1. 6

    I shut down sendcheckit.com - the original thought behind it was that I'd give people a secret email like [email protected] that people could put into their email software's "send me a test email" so that it could be tested for things like images that were too big, broken links, etc.

    Everybody I spoke with loved this idea as they all had horror stories of sending out a very important email on Black Friday only to find out that the main CTA link was broken.

    It failed in two ways:

    1. People don't really care that much about the quality of their emails (people will just resend)

    2. The UX of the whole system really matters, not being built into the ESPs even people who were very enthusiastic would forget to use it.

    Now the site is just a content engineering project to test subject lines that I'd originally made to promote the larger service.

    1. 1

      I feel a bit sad about this one, peeps at Ministry of Testing used this for their 'sanity email checks' at one point. But yeah, we probably never would've paid for it ☹️

  2. 4

    I can start.

    Back in 2006 (ish) I started UberNote. We were a competitor to Evernote before Evernote was on the web (we even had an elephant on our front page before they did, which royally pissed me off when they did that too). We were a Web2.0 web app first consumer notes app, this was pre-smart phone and we had this thesis:

    • Everything was web-app vs downloadable software (we were WRONG as Evernote rode the mobile app wave while we sat on the sidelines)
    • Consumer's could pay $5 a month for premium notes app you could access anywhere (HA this one burned into me as it is one of the core reasons I started a B2B SaaS later)
    • Anyone could use it. starting with a consumer first, scaling up to businesses as a shared knowledge base (what notion is doing now, but the struggles they have gone to get where they are... not for the bootstrapper/faint of heart)

    We shut down officially in 2015, but it was dead for years before. Basically burned out due to low growth and practically no revenue.

    Big lesson (just 1) - Sell to businesses

    100% do it again as I am with Referral Rock

  3. 2

    I'm terrible at shutting down old projects! I definitely always have this idea that I'll return to something or that some new idea or pivot will make the thing successful.

    I guess the other factor is that if a project is basically stagnant there isn't much reason for me to shut it down. I can use it as a portfolio piece. Or I can use it as a domain to propel future projects forward like by cross posting on the old blog.

    When I really want to shut something down is when it is a drain on my time, but isn't proving to be financially worth it. I have a WordPress theme for sports teams that I sell, and at one point I had the bright idea to make it an optional hosted platform, where teams could just pay $10/m and get their WordPress install already set up with this theme. It ended up to be too annoying, and I only ever had like 5-10 customers at a time. Keeping people from churning, dealing with their sites and domain names, and hosting on an aging server made me want to get rid of it so badly. I finally just got the last few customers off of it this past spring.

    I go back and forth. Maybe I should learn to shut more things down, I don't know. I probably need to make a decision about an Electron app that I never finished and I'm not sure I will ever return to. I still have the website running and a few other elements of it.

  4. 2

    About 6 months ago I shutdown mortarq.com. The premise was "a better ERP system for smaller companies". The idea came from talking to a friend in the manufacturing industry who was complaining about the existing products.

    It failed in a couple ways:

    1. I spent waaay too much time trying to build the "perfect" infrastructure. As this was my first start up and I'm from the developer community, I shied away from doing the equally important work of marketing. Bad plan.
    2. ERP has a bad rap in manufacturing, especially small business where it's often implemented incorrectly. Gaining reputation and trust in this market is a lot more work than I ever could have imagined. If I'd know this going in, I would have approached things differently. This is probably the biggest reason this project failed.
    3. ERP is really stinking hard to get right. It's just a hard nut to crack. There's a reason it's only giant companies building ERP software. Classic me was like "how hard can it be, we'll split it up into small manageable chunks". If I'd realistically thought through how much work this would be to implement to an MVP level, I wouldn't have started the project.

    Now I just have the source code sitting around. I sometimes bring it out when I'm getting to know a more technical client who wants to see that I can "do stuff".

    1. 2

      Some of those tunnels like ERP can run sooooo deep!

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