Non-technical sole founder thinking about quitting before launch.

So I’ve been busting my ass for 19 mths to build a pretty decent product. I won a few competitions for the product. It’s taking much longer than I thought. It’s my 1st startup. I’m in my 30s. Overcame a ton of obstacles with finding a solid potential tech co-founder (my network is small) that never cane through. I overcame a huge learning curve to get it built on my own using dev contractors to this point (a pretty detailed beta) . I’m bootstrapping the entire thing and I’m exhausted.

The guys I have are solid technical but are offshore & have very little knowledge of front end UI & wireframe flow. I’m explaining, drawing, pivotal-tracking every minute detail & doing everything myself, from researching industry standards, processes, options, to sketching wireframes, fonts, design, servers, bandwidth, security, third party apis, trademark, licensing, ideal stack, Q&A, testing, everything.

I’m exhausted, family is looking at me like its taking too long, its b.s. and I’m a failure bc they can’t see it get off the ground. Others are mad at me because I haven’t taken their ‘unaccredited’ offers of investment bc I must be “greedy & don’t want to cut them in when”, really I’m afraid to take it bc i don’t want to risk my relationships & I don’t understand the full consequences of doing so.

I’m really emotionally tired of being super broke, not having money for basic bills, car broke down, health issues, social activities. I do this full time. My whole fam are younger corporate types with ‘everything’ on track. I walked away to do this bc I believe in this product & the social good that it can do. When I would pitch, people would always tell me how passionate I am.

I’m just overwhelmed & mentally exhausted with worry that I’m going to make the wrong decisions in this final stage before launch in establishing pricing plans or the UI and users wont ‘get it’ or I screw it up and it not be as successful as I believe it could be. I need this to work bc I take care of an elderly parent. At the rate these guys are going, it may take another few months.

So what would you do?

  • I’m on the same page and looking for an easy answer. I would say: there are other ways to fund a startup.

    You don’t need to sacrifice.

  • Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship. You have two choices.

    Keep going, which is painful and would last another couple of years. But it might succeed.
    Quit, which is devastating but you will recover in a few months but your business is dead.

    Which one would you pic?

  • If you need cash quickly, there isn’t going to be a magic bullet. Even should “real” investors start expressing interest – it will be months before actual dollars hit actual bank accounts.

    If getting friend/family support is possible – and you make sure that you’re not taking blood money – I’d do it. Just be 110% crystal clear that the investment is extremely risky and will most likely not end up well.

    I’d also note that it appears you are going into far more detail than necessary. Built a minimum viable prototype and don’t worry about crap like trademarks until you have validated your MVP with actual people. Ditto for scalability, documentation, security (except for payments, which you shouldn’t expect for early beta anyway), etc.

  • Taking money is not a bad thing as its all about building valuation, financial structure and getting the needing funding to continue on. Suffering as you are doing is tough especially if can get some much needed dollars to take some of the pressure off – it’s very tough to kill yourself and deal with both personal and business issues.

    Build out an offer sheet, take a couple of bucks and would think you would be better off -‘this will also help with building a valuation which you need anyways.

    Also the comments on an MVP and getting some feedback are spot on. Iterate and improve, rinse, repeat.

  • Get funded or get a job and don’t give up. If someone else is building, you have 40 hours to work another gig. If you already have a job, then why give up when you came so far?

    I have a similar problem, but no one to take care of myself. So maybe this is easier for me to say, but I know what it’s like to work 70 hour weeks. It’s hard, but you’re so close.

  • I’m in the same spot, a lone non-tech founder. I worked at my bootstraped startup for +3 years and got burned out by taking all the weight in my shoulders. Take a break to think things through, money is important to some degree; but your mental well being is way more important.

    If you aren’t centered on the inside, you won’t be able to lead. Work on yourself first and foremost, then try again if you wish, the startup game.

  • 19 months and you haven’t launched? That’s mistake #1. 19 months and you haven’t learned to do it yourself? Mistake #2. Learning to build what sounds like a web product does not take 19 months even if you’ve never programmed before. If you can’t do that you shouldn’t be making all the technical decisions you’re listing.

    Why don’t you have a technical co – founder? I don’t buy the small network thing. Have you looked for one in 19 months? If so, why haven’t you found one? If not, why not?

    Startups are hard. Doing it yourself without a trusted complementary co – founder is extra hard. It’s also unnecessary.

    Get a tech co – founder who believes in the product and has skin in the game. Doing it alone with no tech skills (or the ability or willingness to learn them in 19 months) won’t get you there.

    • OP here: Thanks as I said. I did have/search extensively for a solid tech cofounder. 2 in fact and lost 9 of those 19 months in limbo with their inability to fully commit and produce. Not at the same time. One and months later, found another to experience the same runaround. Both were very talented but overly committed to their full time jobs as evangelists or SV big salaried roles. Both kept setting deadlines that were rarely met. I tried briefly with another not so experienced dev and they kept trying to pivot into a direction that reflected previous projects they worked on and against what the concept won award for and the research is built around. So, after much frustration & lost time, I went the route to research & weedout dev contractors, until I found the team Im working with now. I havent searched again for a tech cofounder, bc honestly previous experiences fell through and wasted much time. Even with well-intentioned, very talented devs that were very passionate about the project. I’ve found most talented “trusted” devs arent willing to walk away from 6 figure salaries, benefits, trips, stock options, their own side projects and back burner their financial responsibilities to cofound someone else’s idea even if they love the project and concept. So, to keep moving, I figured once its built & i can go after funding at which time, I can offer a solid dev a co-founder role and offer some type of income when I’m in a position to do so. Btw: I did start to learn to code. I used to QA devs for a very large startup but in a diff lang but I know enough to know I could not build it as quickly & solid on my own as an experienced dev. Had I known then my path would take this long, I wouldve started out from day one learning the lang I needed to build it.

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