Oh pity the poor funded startup founders of Boomtrain

Reading this article on Wired makes me depressed. A lot of us struggle building a real company without funding, bootstrapping and going without a salary for months yet Wired writes about a bunch of privileged funded startup founders as if their plight is so dire.

One Startup’s Struggle to Survive the Silicon Valley Gold Rush

Boomtrain landed a place on an accelerator with just a pitch (no product – the HBS connection probably helped) and a 450K convertible note. When they had trouble landing a Series A investment, the writer writes as if we should somehow lay pity on them. That each founder was drawing ONLY 30K salary from their original investment.

THEN when they finally get funded, the pity party doesn’t end. The writer talks about how unfortunate for them because they’re still beholden to their corporate customers.

Oh how the privileged suffer.

  • You sound bitter. That article was discussed on HN already and it was agreed it was a shitty article and they were douchers, but you will never get funded by an investor I can see that hatred and bitterness seeps through your soul into everything you do in life. Please stop visiting here and thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur.

  • Well written post, sometimes bitterness is good, if coupled with action to kill a dying idea and create again.


  • Bitterness is great for venting, then get over it and get back to work. There are a lot of douchy people getting showered right now (Clinkle anyone?) but your job is to be a rainmaker.

    • LOL! Yea, $30k seems like a fortune to me now. I could easily live on that. I don’t know why anyone would complain about making that much while working on their startup.

        • That wasn’t the point. The point was they are getting a salary. Most bootstrapped founders get jack shit when the company brings in no revenue.

  • I understand that the sob story aspect in the Wired article is kind of annoying, but it’s a welcome reality-check compared to the “I made a cell phone app I’M GONNA BE RICH QUICK” attitude.

    It’s also helpful to see just how much it sucks to work in an overheated industry where most people are striking out or hitting singles but everyone thinks–or pretends, I suspect it’s largely a ritualized performance piece–they’re going to knock the ball out of the park.

  • Now I’m doubly depressed. That Wired article hit me like a ton of bricks, because it is the very roller coaster that I’ve been riding for going on four years. If I had any feeling left in me I would have cried after reading it, because of the negatives it brought up. Now reading these comments I’m more depressed, because after working my ass off to turn an idea into not only a product, but also create a revenue generating company, bootstrapping for a year (I’m still paying those credit card bills), being fortunate enough not only to raise money once, but twice – once from investors who believe in me and my co-founder, now apparently I’m some kind of douchey complainer because I made 1k more than the founders of BoomTrain who raised a hell of lot more than I did. I haven’t taken a salary in 4 months so we could run on cash and I wouldn’t have to lay anyone off, take away paid vacation time or health insurance (that we pay for all employees, well except for the co-founders that $500 premium comes out of my 31k) so we could make it around the bend. Meanwhile I get 15 collection calls a day for personal accounts I can’t pay, I don’t have enough money to pay the co-pay to go to the doctor (no I really don’t have $25, I really really don’t), because I think I’m on the verge of breakdown after three years of having no life outside work and the crushing debt of my personal finances, why else would I be outing what should be my very private pity party on an anonymous start-up site.

    I knew what I was getting into, I knew it would be hard. It kills me that when everything is going great and you say so, people will knock you down for it and when things take a turn and can’t concentrate because you’re worried not only if, but how you’re gonna make payroll and you say “this is really fucking hard” you get knocked down for complaining how hard it is.

    So we lock ourselves away in our start-ups, put our heads down, and smile and nod, and when someone asks you how you’re doing the only acceptable response is “same old same old” with a laugh and a piece of you dies every time you say it and you’re left to wonder is there going to be anything left of me at the end of this.

    • Founder of StartupsAnonymous.com here: Would love if you would consider adding a bit more backstory and resubmitting it as a story. I think a lot of people can relate to the position you’re in and you’ll get more support as a story.

      Also, this would make for a great addition to the Pando series.

      If you’re not concerned with anonymity, you’re also welcome to email me directly at danaseverson at gmail.

      • Hi Dana. Thanks for starting StartupsAnonymous.com. I’m still consumed with start-up paranoia that if I give away too many details about my story that I’ll no longer have my anonymity and the wrath of investors and others in the community would rain down up me for speaking out of turn. I’ve never felt more muzzled in my life than I do as a founder. I’ve felt that choke chain dig into my neck one too many times for saying things I’m apparently not supposed to say. But tomorrow’s another day so I’ll sleep on it and talk to my co-founder and who knows maybe sometime soon I’ll resubmit as story. Thanks, again for creating a place where a lot of us can feel a less alone in this.

        • Thanks for the kind words, appreciate it more than you know.

          Completely understand your position and paranoia. If you do consider submitting as a story at some point, remember you can do it as cautiously as you choose. No reason to give away anything that risks your position.

          Again, thanks for the support. Sorry to hear about current struggles. It gets better.

  • Hey. Well, the article does raise the important point that Silicon Valley is resembling Hollywood, a dream machine where people come to make it huge and most fall by the wayside, and ultimately become mere laborers in the industry.

    I don’t feel sorry for the boom train guys, I do have a large amount of empathy for them.

    The commenter above who noted that you get to a stage saying “same old same old” has hit a nail on a head. There is a rut, and you have no idea if you are leaving opportunity behind by walking away.

    My first startup idea left me with no lunch money in a foreign country one day, and I decided that I had to quit. So I started a far less sexy business that brought in dollars almost immediately and has grown nicely. I have learned lots about business from the experience. I did learn from prior failures, I still yearn to learn from huge success. So now I’m a bit bored as the second successful business needs capital injection to grow but it’s not 1000x payback business. And I need a hit.

    So, I am seriously considering getting into an MNC as a senior employee and using that position to scout for opportunities. A staging ground, as it were.

    I hope the boom train guys make it, their product sounds like it’s chasing something useful. When I see “machine learning” though I am concerned, as that could be a dead end, dependent on one key programmer delivering. I’m a shareholder in a start-up aiming to do some machine learning, it’s not a guaranteed outcome. You need teams of smart guys to play at that level, or else start really niche and simple.

    Either way, they’ve only been at it just over a year and got almost half a million to get started. More than most receive

    Finally, I think convertible notes with personal guarantees are a bad idea. I hated seeing a friend paying off his long after he’d gotten a job after his start-up went busto. He was years ahead of Google and Facebook (which was part of the problem) in aspects of his vision, but that is all he can brag about. He has to put on a worn smile when the topic of those four years – with a faithful wife living in a one room shoebox while he pitches over Skype at midnight to corporate prospects everywhere, “Hey buddy, great to hear from you, let me tell you about…” – is brought up, and he’s not able to accept the failure completely.

    Like many, he got by on dreams and denial until I suppose family called time

    I’m relatively fortunate I deluded myself for a mere year. And more fortunate that I realised I could be a success doing something unglamorous

    • PS I never took a dime of investor money. My family offered bits and pieces at the start but until I was generating cash I could not see a reason to take what they offered. I never generated cash. I held down part time jobs and realised that I needed real investment funding and I had no idea how it would pay back (when your sister offers you some of her savings you think really hard about taking them). So I quit.

      Boom train has a sophisticated idea. It could take years before you realise it’s all a fantasy. My start-up was very simple so I got to that point pretty fast. Nah. It’s not gonna work. Time to learn from this wonderful failure silicon valley loves so much. And Google loves too. Cause they know you’re chastened and grateful.

  • I’m waiting for a meeting so I’ll keep going 🙂

    Almost everybody I know from business school who started a business failed, and failed utterly. Those who succeeded had often simple, ordinary businesses where there was untapped demand. In my case, it was really plugging into a vast established market and being a little better and smarter at marketing.

    The hot tech startups all failed. In general, the guys went to work in silicon valley (as I say, Google loves failures) and the women made babies.

    It really is time to review this tech VC industry, is it a social plus or minus? I’m open minded, but the debate and awareness has to allow people to express frailty and insecurity and feel good about it

    Hey, business idea : The Pity Party!! Screw the pretentious burning man, have a camp where tech entrepreneurs who are feeling the heat meet, eat, drink, laugh and cry. And nobody has to be a success

    Jeez, I want to get started on it straight away!!

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