We don’t have any clients and time is running out. Help!

My cofounder and I have a B2B startup product for businesses. I’ve spent around 4 months working on it, have a full demo / MVP have met with tons of clients, have delivered 5 proposals and offered free trials, etc., but no one has signed up yet.

  • I’m doing this full-time, I don’t have any other income coming in and my allocated funds will run out by end of June.
  • My wife and my ‘baby on the way’ are counting on this.
  • Beyond the demo/MVP the product doesn’t exist yet, we’re waiting for paying customers (stupid/smart?)
  • My technical cofounder is servicing his few recurring clients from an already existing startup.
  • As the lead (and only salesman) there is only so many emails/calls I can make to promising prospects to follow-up, the sales cycle and internal approval process (sometimes to head office) needs to take its course

I’m scared to get a full-time job because not only will my heart not be in it, but I’ll likely have to quit after a month or two when some prospects turn into paying customers or agree to the free trial. How can I make calls and meet people with a full-time job?

I am a senior advertising / branding / digital guy, afraid to go out and find more website/social media clients because those custom projects take so much time to execute and will ‘take my eye off the prize’.

I told my wife that by mid-this year I’ll bring in $100k+ somehow (either my product or a job). That would mean approx. 8 to 12 customers signed on our monthly recurring model.

Is seeking investment the answer? I’m afraid that we won’t raise until we have the full product and can demonstrate customer traction.

Is applying to an accelerator program the answer? Same concern as above.

Would value other ideas, thanks for listening.

  • I’m in a similar position, so unfortunately I can only offer limited advice, but one piece would be this: TALK TO YOUR WIFE. I don’t know where that number came from, but you are setting her up for disappointment when you should instead be managing her expectations. Set a timeline for this project where you can give it your all assuming the worst (i.e. no income) and if nothing happens by that deadline, change course and find a job that you put all your efforts into. It’s not fair to her to be left in the lurch, waiting on the sidelines and hoping something works out over an indefinite horizon.

    • Great feedback thank you, I recently had another discussion about this and we’re back being on the same page with an agreed timeline. With her support we can achieve anything.

    • When the baby comes I will be entirely focused on it. I’m not only wishing and hoping, I’m also ‘doing’… the family will come first.
      But i just cannot rid myself of this burning desire to be successful and create something. I’ll be miserable back at a corporate job.

  • if $100k needs 8-12 paying customers, then 1 customer is paying $10k – and that is a lot for an un-tried, un-tested product. It may be good to talk to some of your 5 prospects to find out the reasons for not signing. Is your pricing model good? does it deliver the right ROI?

  • When there’s a child involved you must stop acting like a boy. Launch a business is a serious thing. Stop acting based on what you think and put facts in tour actions. Talk with your clients and improve your product, understand the reasons that makes you unable to sell it and work it out. Stop, organize your work, define some goals that are extremely worth for your business and focus on it.

    Many startups failed because CEOs are just trying to build a product they want to build, instead of building a product the clients need you to build. Think about it.

  • Kids come first. Once the baby is born you will be glad of a salaried job. Put the startup on hold for a year while you deal with no sleep and vomit on every item of clothing you own, then when you are in a good position again start up your business. If you put your business first at this stage you stand to loose a lot more than money!

  • Well its that time again to add more co-founders or passing out equity to get some more salespeople in there. Set up the strategy and find the clients and let them execute while you go to work.

  • Get a job and work on this in the evenings. It’s the unsexy thing to do, but if you have a kid, it’s your best option. It seems like your technical co-founder is already doing something similar.

    Building product always takes longer than you imagine, hoping customers are going to shell out $10K a month for a product that’s not finished yet is not likely.

    Unless you have a proven track record, raising capital at this point is going to be very difficult. Your time would be better served getting a job (even short term) and invest finishing your product IMO.

  • I have to agree with the others who say get a job. My amazing and supportive and patient wife put up with an enormous amount of shit from me and my unsuccessful startup for a couple years, but things got pretty tense in the household for awhile. Our 1st contract or investor was always right around the corner, I could feel it, I knew it was going to happen…but it didn’t, and she got tired of waiting and supporting the household on her own (for which I am eternally grateful, of course). I have little kids, and the non-stop startup lifestyle is just not conducive to parenting. If you get a job, trying to do your startup after hours will kill you. You won’t sleep for several months, and that’s if you’re lucky and your kid’s a sleeper (mine aren’t). Give yourself another month, all-in, then put it on ice if there’s no light obvious at the end of the tunnel.

    • That’s what I was imagining. Thank you for sharing your story. I am all-in for the next few.
      Good luck in your endeavor.

  • So you are trying to sell a demo? Aint going work my man. Get a job, get more people involved. Get more cofounders. Sell people on the business, and they will give you 20 or more hours per week. Give them a piece of the company. LEVERAGE is the most important word in business. You have to learn to leverage other people to build your company. If you con’t get people to join for equity, the idea might not be a good one.

    Best of luck. NEVER give up.

  • I’ve been in your situation several times before, and it is a very, very tough place to be. It sounds to me like you are trying to do your startup on too little capital and too little information. Go out and raise $250K so you can pay yourself and fund the business. At least part of the money should come from experienced people in your industry, who understand the value of your product, and can help you with connections.

    If you aren’t able to raise enough money in this environment, it’s probably a sign you should rethink things. You should try to get clear, honest feedback from the angels you talk to, and from the potential customers who haven’t signed on.

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