We’re Shutting Down and I’m Scared

After over two years, backing from a well-known accelerator, nearly one million in funding and a decent amount of traction, we’re shutting down.

I’m scared. I’m also sad, disappointed, ashamed, embarrassed & deflated. But mostly just scared.

Nobody but my cofounder and I are aware we’re shutting down yet. It’s been a few days since we made the decision and I haven’t even gotten up the courage to tell my family.

We haven’t paid ourselves a salary for some time with the hopes that we would raise more money, but also because we couldn’t afford to. My wife was counting on me to raise more money, now I have to tell her the news.

We didn’t leave enough money in the bank to pay off our debt, so now we need to tell people we can’t pay. Are they going to come after me, or my house and my car? I’m broke and I’m scared.

Our investors believed in us. They believed in what we were building and our abilities to execute on the vision and future we painted for them. Now we need to tell them that we lost their money. Will they forgive us? Will any investor ever trust us again?

What are we going to do now? I can’t afford to start from scratch again. I’m broke and it’s not fair to my wife to go any longer without pay. Even if I could, what would I even do? Will I be able to get a job? I can’t go much longer without a paycheck. But, I can’t imagine working for somebody else. I wish my wife understood that.

Are we going to get ridiculed for failing? What’s more scary, is anyone even going to care? After all, maybe that’s why we didn’t make it.

I’m not looking for a pity party, I just needed to get out my thoughts and feelings (and maybe searching for answers and advice). Maybe I’ll follow up with a post-mortem after I’ve had time to grieve.

Thanks for hearing me cry.

    • Hello “scared”

      I am the sole owner of a small company for the past 7 years. I am the only one who knows that we will have to eliminate and at a minimum, on a temporary basis, 2 to possibly 3 of the 6 employees .

      We are in the business of remodeling of residential properties. This reduction will happen within the next week in order to minimize expenses (stop the bleeding is more accurate). At this particular time we simply do not have a backlog of new customers which we have always had over the past seven years.

      This has caused me a lot of anxiety, guilt, shame, feelings of failing, etc. I simply care a lot because all the workers have been loyal and with me for at least 5 years. I can not find another alternative because there simply is no money available to “ride out” a period of time where no revenues will be coming in.

      So in closing my comments, I too am scared and can not reduce the anxiety I feel over this. I believe strongly and care greatly about what we do everyday, but I feel a HUGE personal and professional loss from theses next steps that must occur.

      I’m sure the next months will be painful and financially very tight. The facts, however, speak loudly because some of the employees over the past several years have made more than me the owner. I of course believed this would change for the better. I expected that I would create at least some financial stability as a result of the consistent long hours and efforts that I poured into my company over the past 7 years.

      I expect to analyze this, learn from it, and adapt to re-arrange things that will create a stronger business, but at this moment I’m a bit overwhelmed with the realities of not currently succeeding.

      • To the asshole who said fuck you. You sound like a worthless, insensitive, piece of shit.

        Kick somebody when they they are down. Does that make you feel big, you slimey little turd. Fortunately you are an anomoly., an outlier…an insignificant waste of time.

  • Hi there,

    My company is in a similar position. I really empathize what you’re going through. I’ve spent the last 7 years of my life (3 years fulltime) building a company that I strongly believe it. Now we’re looking at possibly missing payroll, that I might need to get a job, and potentially even move back in with my parents. Scary stuff.

    Here are a few things I’ve done that help me cope with my current situation.
    1) meditate mindfully. It’s a great 10 minute period during my day where I fold into myself, and can ignore the stressful burden of “what if”.
    2) exercise helps me physically vent frustration, anger, and relieve me of some fear.
    3) journaling about what I’ve learned (personal growth). Imagine your startup was 1 year class at college, and you’re now at the scheduled end period. What did you learn? What would you do differently?

    By focusing on personal growth, it has felt like much less of a personal failure, and more like a learning experience. I can get behind a learning experience, even if the immediate future might be painful. (I also believe that reflection will be like candy to potential employers, and help reframe my “failure” as just a step on the journey of success.)

    I hope you are able to take a moment and step outside your immediate anxiety. What have you learned about yourself/your company/your market/life in the past year?

    Please know that you are not alone. It’s a high pressure environment, but if you reframe it in terms of what you learned, you can still benefit in the long run.


    • Well done Travis! Solid advice that he can put into action. Being in action makes you feel better. I would advise the original poster to follow all of the advice in Travis’ post.

      You did not fail. You tried something, it didn’t work the way you hoped but you should be proud that you had the GUTS to at least give it a go. That’s no small thing and it took something.

      And remember, if you did it once you can do it again. Go through your grieving process, make your lessons learned list and figure what what your next right move is.

      One day at a time. Everything WILL be alright.

  • It’s ok to be scared. The reality is that every founder has the fear of failing and that’s what drives success in the long term. Remember these three things:

    1. Your startup have you unique experience, skills, and a network that you’ll be able to leverage in the future so it absolutely won’t be a total loss. You’d be amazed at how much you learn from your failures that will eventually lead to your future successes.
    2. Your investors understand the nature of this business and will understand that sometimes venture funded startups fail. In fact, they will likely not be surprised and if anything, probably saw it before you did. Don’t hide or be non-transparent with them. They will understand and will help guide you through the wind down.
    3. Put things in perspective. You will likely get multiple job offers in the next month or two. You have your health (which if you ever haven’t, you know how important that is). Your wife and friends will still love you and think no less of you.

    I know it may seem hopeless but realize that this is a moment in time. This too shall pass. As an investor, I’m more likely to invest in you now than in your first startup. Failure is an important learning process and you’ve experienced that. If you need to talk one on one, or need unbiased perspective, I’d be happy to connect. Just reply here and I’ll post my contact info.

  • You’ll be fine. Find a job with a regular paycheck, pull yourself together, stabilize all things at home and give it time. Refocus and try it all again. It’s tough, but you’ll pull through. I went through a similar phase 2 years ago, now I’m hoping to bounce back soon. Working for others sucks, but we do what we have to – provide for your family. Hang in there.

  • “I can’t imagine working for somebody else”

    This is your biggest hurtle. You’re in a situation where you need to make ends meet. The unfortunate truth is, most people don’t like going to work every morning. Lots of people hate it. But we do it because we’re adults and we have responsibilities. I’m assuming you’re in the tech industry, so finding a job shouldn’t be too hard (compared to other fields right now).

    Got a job. Get your life figured out. And then try again.

  • Hi, just got to know the reason, why would you “can’t imagine working for somebody else”? Is it too proud? ot thinking working for someone else is a waste of talent?

    After all, working for others has nothing to risk.

  • Take a job doing anything to bring in a paycheck so you can take care of your wife. Software testing, Sweeping floors. Check out the help wanted ads. Get yourself on your financial feet, pay your personal bills and take care of your family.
    While you are doing that, reflect on what went wrong and why.
    Come up with a new product idea or a better version of the previous.
    Keep your costs down. Ask your friends for help (someday they may need help). Network. Beg. Get busy. Move on. Upward, ever upward.
    Deal with the old company’s problems as best you can, honestly and equitably, but get going.
    First, get a job – any job!

  • Are you in San Francisco? If so, try working for Lyft or doing some other non-startup job for a short bit to get some financial runway, breathe and let yourself recover.

    Also, have you considered trying to sell the assets to a competitor? Tried ExitRound? You may be able to get some cash back to your investors and for yourself as a “consulting fee.” I’ve shut a company down before after raising $1.1M from Google and others just 45 days after my son was born, so I know the pain you’re feeling. Email me at matt at mirel dot es and I can talk you through some of it.

    FWIW After a year and a half of mourning, I’m now finally back on my feet and getting ready to raise money for startup #2. It will suck for a while, but you can always recover. Investors will want to know more what you’re doing next rather than worrying about your past. The Valley (metaphorically speaking) is filled with entrepreneurs who’ve failed hard once, twice or more and then later took those lessons to heart and hit it big.

  • It’s obviously very hard to go through something like this and not take it all personally. But it isn’t just your failure, it is one for everyone involved, regardless of their contribution. Try thinking about all of them first.

    This is the kind of thing you can wear around your neck for a long time, but it’s also where most founders end up. Your investors should know that. Your peers should know that.

    If I can suggest anything, you have probably grown a lot from this experience, and that’s just how it works. You might find yourself less scared and upset if you focus on helping the rest of your crew as much as you can. If you can help them to a softer landing, it will do a lot for your ego (not saying that in a selfish sense, it’s just the way it is).

  • uhhhhhh…. “I can’t go much longer without a paycheck. But, I can’t imagine working for somebody else. I wish my wife understood that.”

    You have no choice you idiot. Family first. You made your bed, sleep in it.

  • Try again?

    You can’t imagine working for someone else, then don’t.

    What’s the point of even getting up in the morning if it’s to do some crap you don’t actually care about, just so you can pay bills?

    So find a way to keep doing what you want.

    I know I’ve oversimplified this, leaving out the steps, effort, sacrifices involved, but…

    It’s really your only option.

  • Talk to your accelerator and your other investors (assuming they’re typical startup investors), they’ll have seen plenty of other startups fail and will be able to give you advice how to handle the situation.

    They’ll also know which of their other startups are hiring and should be able to setup introductions to help you and your employees get accelerated interviews, etc. to help with the transition.

    [I work for a VC so this is coming from an investors perspective]

  • You’re only scared because you have a wife and the responsibility that comes with that. Lesson learned: don’t get a wife.

  • One of the most liberating experiences you can have in life, and one of the healthiest, is to have your ego utterly decimated. Its also really really hard to go through. You’ll find out what you’re really made of. The real liberation is when you abandon for good that voice in the back of your mind that tells you you are special. When this really happens, like on the deepest level possible, you will be free of egoic attachments to outcomes, and others perceptions of what you are or have done. The result is a massively increased ability to be creative and solve real problems. You won’t believe the clarity in vision it brings. Thing is though this only comes if you reach the bottom of the well. If you cling to the stones on the side you’ll just hang there and suffer indefinitely. Either way, you want to climb out of the well. The question is will you bring your sense of entitlement and expectation with you. Maybe you’ll want to – feeling scorned and betrayed can be an awesomely powerful motivator. Just be careful. If you are caught between channeling rage to avenge your loss, and relinquishing all attachment and ego-based motivation in order to re-appraise your role in the world, you will be caught in the purgatory of resentment. You don’t want to be there. Its a horrible place. So make a decision. Embrace ego destruction and accept that you will emerge a different person which you can’t currently fathom, or stand your ground and continue the fight as it was. Either is noble. And if you don’t know which path to take, have a kid. Dead serious. Your shit will be sorted out one way or another real quick lol

    • Nailed it. Just do yourself a big favor and don’t hang around in self-pity land for longer than necessary. Life happens, we all learn some new lessons…and we all move on. Let go and move forward. Life is too good for beating yourself up over a failed idea.

  • It’s actually quite straightforward to get through this failure psychologically. The main thing is to make sure you behave honourably to those who will suffer because of your failure. Get a contracting job for 6 months – you (and your wife) will find you actually love getting paid on time and how relatively stress-free the lifestyle is, and it’ll give you time to recover. Ideally get the revenue paid into your old company, so you can use the funds to pay off debts to your ‘deserving’ creditors (those poorer creditors who will suffer because of your failure – ie lower paid staff, not your office block or your equity investors or anyone rich) without having to pay tax on the revenue. It will become known that you ‘did the right thing’ and didn’t leave anyone strung out, and your reputation will stay intact in the medium term. However, do not under any circumstances be an asshole and let other individuals suffer because of your failings. If you can avoid doing that, you’ll be absolutely fine. Seriously: you’ll be back to being happy again by March or April. (I went through all this, and am now hugely proud of the whole experience because I looked after other people as best I could).

  • If you learned anything developing your startup, your skills will be VERY valuable to other companies. You’ll have plenty of opportunities. Pick the best one out of the lot. You really don’t have a choice, if you want to keep your home and have food on the table.

    • Don’t be so sure. I founded a company that went on raise a significant amount of money. We went through a big name accelerator. I managed to get us huge customers before we even launched. All sorts of impressive shit right? I’ve been looking for a job for about 4 months now. I always make the final round of interviews but always get passed because I’m a “flight risk” since they figure I’m just cooling my heels in between startups. If you aren’t a dev it’s a hard world out there and in some ways doing a startup will make you a liability.

  • I was recently talking to one of the other partners at the VC firm that funded my recently failed startup. He told me that “it’s not that you failed that matters — we expect 90% of our investments to fail — it’s *how* you fail that matters”. Don’t forget that everyone you deal with now knows you, your character, and will choose whether to work with you in future in part based on your honesty and integrity as you shut things down. Do it right.

    Of course everyone’s disappointed, no-one more than you, your partners, your families — it’s a kick in the face as reward for killing yourself to get … nowhere. Sometimes you’ll get some blowback because of that. That’s business.

    Then, once it’s done, get a job. Doesn’t matter what — you need the simple 9-5 time to clear your head, pay your bills, and figure out what excites you next. Do a 3 month contract, help out at a friend’s startup. Your investors now know you and if you’ve done the right thing in this startup, you’re a lower risk next time around. So they’ll be interesting in keeping in touch, and in work, until you figure out what next time will be — ask them if they know of anyone who could use you.

    It’s hard. My company failed in October, and I don’t think I’m over it yet.

  • You’re not alone. I’m unwinding my startup now, too. I also took a job, working “for someone else”, and it’s actually quite nice in many ways. It’s much less lonely, and I’m learning a lot from other people having coworkers of my same job description, rather than be “the guy” for everything. I’m looking forward to doing my own thing again, but I’m just saying there’s a silver lining.

    Start talking with people about it. Sure, you were probably talking a big game when things were looking better, and it’s going to feel really weird shattering that illusion. But humble pie never killed anybody (that I know of). Trying to hold everything inside definitely has though.

    You’ve probably been living with self-enforced tunnel vision, trying to get your company off the ground, ignoring other concerns and opportunities. Now you have to do the opposite. But the good news is that you might be pleasantly surprised what opportunities pop up. You have to have your eyes open though.

    Unless there’s more going on in your life than you’re mentioning (and perhaps there is), you’re going to be OK. Just do what you know you have to.

  • Hang in there, that sounds brutal. All I can do is commiserate… I bought an engagement ring, lost my tech lead job at a startup after YoY revenue collapsed, got rear ended i a car wreck, and had to commit my dad to a mental hospital all last month. Hang in there, it can get better after you go through the shit necessary to shutdown!

  • hahaha what a whiney bitch of a post. you don’t belong in the world of capitalism, man. toughen up and do your family a favor – get a job, stop risking it.

    • I like these type of replies. They drive me.

      My last startup has been placed in a crockpot because it’s not making enough money to support us, but in terms of users and traffic it’s has been most successful one.

      Time for one more.

    • what a fucking asshole reply, in-compassionate people do like you do not deserve to live on this planet, go live with isis

        • Best thing to do is not reply. You fuel their obnoxiousness every time you do. Really, they are too ignorant to be worth your time or emotion.

          Just IGNORE the assholes, okay?

  • You’re a badass dude, for trying, for getting as far as you did, and for being honest now. You will continue to be a badass in your next endeavor. If you get a “real job”, get yourself situated well enough and then jump back into startup world if that’s your passion.

    Your investors are expecting a 90% failure rate, especially at the angel level. Their willingness to back you again will depend on your character (signal looks positive), and how well you understand why you failed.

    If you are a C-Corp, which I’m guessing you are if you got major accelerator backing, then you are not personally responsible for the debt. Companies that deal with startups understand the risk and the failure rate.

    Your wife married you in part, I would imagine, because you’re the type of guy that dreams big. Think of the next “job” as an investment in your next startup and an offering of compromise in your relationship. Maybe try consulting, which might feel less permanent and more independent.

    Mourn for a short period of time, then bask in (and reflect on) how much you’ve learned, pick your head up, on to the next.

    Keep it real.

    – Fellow Entrepreneur

  • It’s not as bad as it seems, things will work out.

    First I would talk to someone you trust at the accelerator so they can talk you through this . . . how to wind down the company . . . should you do it now . . . etc.

    Ask all the questions you can . . . they should talk you through what will/can happen so you know what to expect and aren’t scared about the future.

    And ask for connections to mentors that have been through this so you can get advice from them as well to get support/ask questions.

    Remember your family and friends are more important than money or business.

    You have skills I’m sure your connections can find you a consulting job or maybe a position as another startup to heal your wounds for a period of time without feeling like you’re stuck working for someone else forever.

    Be proud that you took things this far . . . lots of us dream of getting funded . . . and taking things as far as you have.

    Most businesses fail. Your investors know this.

    Take what you’ve learned and be ready to give it another go.

    Keep in contact with the accelerator and your investors they might be interested in investing in a future startup of yours.

    Don’t give up the dream.

    Look at bootstrapping next time . . . or give getting funded another go when you’re ready.

  • Look people in the eye and tell them the truth. Start with your wife. Don’t feel ashamed. (I presume that you didn’t try to BS them with “This is certain to succeed!” at the start of this adventure.)

    Startups fail 90% of the time (at least). If you didn’t lie to investors, employees, or your wife, then don’t hang your head. There’s nothing whatsoever to be ashamed about.

  • As one of the other posters stated, maybe his wife is attracted to risk taking and adventure. Don’t kill that spirit with guilt.

  • It’s a disappointing thing, but you gave it a shot. A few thoughts that got me through rough times were “never regret the past, because you did exactly what you wanted to do at the time,” and “the future will be better than before.” I guess they’re overly simple, but just imagine that you did something many people were too afraid to do. In the back of your mind you knew this was a possibility, and you did it anyway. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    As far as the sleepless nights worrying about things, just remember that you have people that care about you. No matter what, the future will be better than the past because you’ve gone through one of the hardest parts. Worrying about things that haven’t happened, or the possibility of things happening is pointless and isn’t constructive. Talk to a financial adviser who specializes in this kind of thing, tell your family and wife immediately, and have faith in yourself for the future.

    No matter what, you created something. There will be plenty of opportunities to analyze what happened, and your insight will be valuable. There are a lot of entrepreneurs in this town that have failed spectacularly and used that failure to propel themselves into the next venture.

    Good luck!

  • This was entirely your choice and your mistakes you made because you got greedy. You took on more debt and investments than you could handle and now you are paying the price. You were lazy and thought you could build a startup without a real product that makes money and then get bought out and become a millionaire. Sorry, but you are lazy, greedy and delusional. Money is made by offering real value and working hard from the ground up.

    You now should be a man and take responsibility for your actions. Stop expecting others to bail you out for your own mistakes. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Own up to your mistakes and don’t make them again. Pay off your debt and learn to work hard for money.

    • You’re an asshole, so many startups die with tons of hardwork, money, sweat and tears put into it. I bet you never tried yourself to see what’s really like. Now go annoy some other site and try to give real feedback from your own experience.

  • Sorry it didn’t work out.

    “I can’t go much longer without a paycheck. But, I can’t imagine working for somebody else. I wish my wife understood that.”

    Change your perspective on this.

    I’m a co-founder of a successful and growing business. I’ve got around $2M liquid and who knows what on paper. I’m decently rich headed for pretty damn rich. In the last week, I’ve changed light bulbs, picked up bugs with my hands (no tissue close, wanted to get it and call the bug guy before people saw it), swept the floors, took box trash out to the dumpster, cleaned some toilet stuff (will leave it there) and just generally served people on my team in any way I could. I find ways to do it because they are talented, could work anywhere and choose to work here. So I serve them. Also, I have deep relationships with them and I love them. I want to win with them.

    From your words, I worry that you don’t understand the point of the game you are playing. If you want to run any successful team be it a business, a non-profit, a 5th grade little league ball club – you are servant in chief. Others exist in the world. You aren’t really ever by yourself or for yourself. Work on being and building a team. Make meaning and tie it to production. Start by being the best teammate you can be. Being an employee in an intense and well managed company is a good place to learn this skill.

    When all the wreckage from this thing has passed, and it will pass, you’ll still have all the precious things. Your wife, your health and your abilities. I’d suggest taking care of them in that order. I urge you to stop thinking about your wife seeing it wrong and get food on her table. You got to control the variables and see the field while attempting this thing. She had to sit at home and worry about all of that blind. That’s hard. Respect it. Deepen that relationship at all costs.

    In doing these things, be plotting your return to the ring. How can I get my team tighter, how can I keep costs lower, how can I test the idea faster and cheaper. Be playful with ideas while you are employed. If fate tosses you a line, see where it leads you. If you get a chance and you’ve saved to take it on bootstrap style, and if you’ve regained that trust with your wife, run at it hard.

    • This is some honest to goodness great advice. Bite the bullet, go back to work, and put food on the table. Then figure out why you failed so you don’t repeat the mistake the second time around.

      My startup recently failed. I disappointed investors, I disappointed employees, I disappointed people around but most importantly, I disappointed myself. I expected better of myself but I made mistakes. I’m back to a full-time job now, working with and learning from some very smart people who haven’t failed yet (and probably won’t). I’m still analyzing what exactly went wrong, where, how and how I can avoid them in the future.

      I was knocked down, but I’m not out. I’m on the sidelines catching my breath. But I’m coming back into the ring, and when I do I will be smarter, stronger and faster than the last time around.

  • no time for misery. you must have learned quite a bit and likely can really help others in your industry. shoot for a job immediately at a competitor or collaborator you met along the way. It didn’t work, your investors will understand. Get back up now and go make your wife proud. As for debt, that’s going to suck telling them. They won’t like it and that’s life. You don’t make many friends trying to eat the world…

    “I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”
    George S. Patton

  • I understand all of your post besides “not sure I can work for someone else, wish my wife understood”. That’s where I draw the line. You ARE going to get a job buddy and you ARE going to support your family with it. Not float around like a bitch who doesn’t want to admit he’s a bitch like the rest of us. REALITY. Get a fucking 9-8 job like the rest of us and learn how hard it is to earn a million bucks. You had your shot, most don’t even get that. Take care of your family and stop sounding like a lazy ass who just wants to be in charge.

    I hope things turn out well for you, but you need a good smack in the face from your wife, pal.

  • Really sorry to hear this. But, you should change your thoughts on getting a job. At least if its just long enough to get back on your feet. We can’t have ideal lives 100% of the time without having went through some stuff we really didn’t *want* to do.

    • Working for someone else is not the worst thing in the world for a while. You should be able to get a job, no problem. Just get yourself right and when the time is right, you can start again. The first big financial trauma is the worst. After that, you get a little wiser about how to handle situations.

      One word of advice: Don’t keep your wife in the dark about finances next time. More than anyone else, you need her on your side to see you through the dark hours. Honesty. Live by it.

      You’ll be fine. Learn from the experience.

  • My start up died a long time ago (2003) and I had a lot of these questions too. The reality was that we negotiated with the people/companies to whom we owed money and it all worked out in the end. It was a lot harder to tell our employees that we were shutting down than talking to the creditors. Investors (should) have money to burn – they should have come into your company knowing there’s a real risk of losing the entire investment so don’t worry about them. Will people care that you failed? Maybe, but probably not. Failure is part of start-ups and life goes on afterward. So you take a job somewhere for a while – that’s fine. Make some steady money, put the failure behind you and then get the old back back together when you have a cushion saved up.

  • Startups are hard.. some times thing just don’t go the way you want with circumstances beyond your control. Learn from how bad it can be and don’t be afraid to try it again in the future.. It takes a steep learning curve and a failure to help you realize that.

    You will much further ahead next time. and there always is a next time.

  • You have a lot of know-how now that can help you in the next venture, as an entrepreneur myself I rather recruit people with battle scars than those with just a degree or PWC/McKinsey/HBS, even if I know at some point (1-2yrs) you’ll move on to something else. I now invest in startups and constantly look for people to either join these startups or join my investment team to provide services to our portfolio companies. You have experience and knowledge that is very valuable.

    It’s normal to feel scared, but know that this will pass and you will find our next adventure rather quickly. that’s what you do, you are an entrepreneur, your backup plan is you.

  • Pick your head up. Just about everything has been said in these other comments, but realize that you gave it your all. Sometimes that simply isn’t enough. Market fit, timing, all these variables can kill a start-up – it just happens. Having the spirit to try and try again is a superhero power (Draper U reference), go try again.

    We’ve raised 1.1 M ourselves, and are facing a crucial make our break raise or die in the coming year as well. Every start-up faces this, it’s part of the life we embrace while embarking on a crazy journey that is a start-up. We are optimistic yet realism plays a part at the end of the day.

    If you can honestly say you gave it your all, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.

    – Fellow entrepreneur who has an angel backed start-up

  • fail fast. learn. write about it. get a job. you will get a job. people will want you, even though you can’t imagine it now. don’t hide, as hard as it might seem. don’t fear, as hard as it might seem. own up to your mistakes. don’t point fingers. i went through this. after 6 years of minor growth. i had to sell in an asset deal to a competitor. i reached out to several competitors when it was clear we were on the brink of bankruptcy. a couple large clients lost their budgets and had to cancel their contracts with us. shit happens when you are dependent on a few big clients. we lost about 500k of investors money. about 50k of personal funds. i got very little out of it. saved the team, the customers, but liquidated the company. it was an ordeal with lawyers and the whole package. get a good lawyer involved as fast as possible….but being open and upfront about it really enabled the whole thing to be over efficiently. still friends with the team, and have since worked in larger 100+ person tech start-ups for 4 years. and now back in the ring since 2 years with more smarts, better teams, more success….wife did not leave me! family is stronger than ever. but I know how you feel… i could not see the other side during those dark days, but don’t give up…be creative.

  • If this result occurs in most “Startup” situations (80-90%) then not having a back up plan going in seems to be unwise just on a probability level.

  • Whatever happens, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a job. Now whether your new attitude will fit in nicely is another matter.

  • sorry to hear it. for what it’s worth, i’m struggling with many of the same fears myself. we haven’t raised money, so all the cash on the line is ours. you should be proud that you got investors to believe in you and your idea enough to part with their hard earned money. that should tell you that you have some marketable skills and should find a way to keep moving forward.

  • Boohoo i got millions and squandered it and am i going to have to pay back the money i used?? What about all my nice things??? I didn’t even pay myself with the free money i got!!! Waaaa

  • Next time bootstrap it. Building a real business is harder than getting other people to give you money for a startup nowadays. Now stop being a pansy and get your interview on.

  • You would have been naive to didnt see it coming 2-3 months before and apprised your team and family. If you painted a rosy picture the whole time to the team and are now scared of telling them the truth and then you should be scared.

  • Jesus you’re pathetic.

    How many people in this world get the opportunity to start a start-up? You did. Congratulations. And you failed, which means you learned a lot. Again, congratulations. I don’t feel bad for you at all. I’ve been through a failing startup as a CTO after slaving away for an entire with no rest. Was I depressed, scared, etc.. when it was announced we’re initially failing? No. I was hopeful for the future. Everything is an opportunity.

    No one is going to ridicule you. I’m ridiculing you for literally throwing a pity-me post up when, in reality, you’re a lucky man. But your proud ego cries, doesn’t it? “Poor me! I wanted to be a huge success and I’m not!” Stop this bullshit. Even if somebody did ridicule you, are you really intent on letting that get to you? So intent, in fact, that you fear it right now?

    My goodness. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes, partner. Not because of the failing startup, but because of your weak frame of mind. Working for somebody else? Wahh!!! But I want it MY way!

    I hope you eventually recognize in all your “grieving” that you had a great run, tried your best, learned a lot, and always have a future to look forward to. Stop acting like a bitch, chin up, and smile. You’ll get em next time.

    • Exactly this ^. The OP sounds like he was born into money. Seems to have the concept he’s bound to not work for someone else and be the boss.
      Sometimes I’m glad I was born a midwestern guy with no money to speak of and held a job since I was 12 till now (my 30’s). Otherwise I might end up like this shmuck, crying over my life, which is nothing like his apparently well-connected, privileged ass.

      I feel sorry for the wife, the guy does not want to go to work for someone else. What a shame, he’s going to have to or his wife will divorce him.
      OP, toughen up, be a man. Work construction for a while and grow a pair.

      • You know guys, it’s tough to open up to someone at your most vulnerable.

        Tough guys you are, kicking someone when they’re down. Good for you, you guys REALLY know how to be men. This guys is a HUGE pussy, right? Man, what a weak weak guy that starts his own company, gives it his all and fails, then has the nerve to tell you he’s scared about his future, man, what a loser!

        Let me tell you something, to be vulnerable, to open up when you’re scared and say, this is what the f I’m going through? … that’s some manly shit. To hand wave over someone else’s struggle, call somebody names when they’re telling you about what keeps them up at night? Phew, you guys are kids, man, seriously. Being vulnerable is fucking hard.

        Best of luck to you OP, you got this far in life, once you’re out of this tough time, you’ll see that things aren’t as bad with the right kind of people around to support you. This too shall pass.

      • I worked construction two summers in high school as a welder (I went to a high school where everyone had to also learn a “trade”). Oh my god. I have never seen men treat each other like that. Yelling, swearing, threatening, bullying…and none of it in jest. It really does toughen you up to what it is like to work in a absolute-zero-bullshit environment.

        • I’m a combat veteran. I have had about the same or more sleepless nights as a founder than on deployment. Because a start-up is a different kind of stress. It’s complex cognitive stress that can APPEAR like a survival stressor.

          It’s not weak that you disclose your sadness and worry. It’s necessary to become strong again.

          And so far it sounds like the others who have shut down are not describing post-traumatic stress like symptoms, so it seems like a very recoverable life event. It’s important to remind yourself you are in a dark time, but it is not the end.

  • I’m going through a similar-ish situation right now. Here are some of the answers I’ve come up with after hours/days spent with close mentors and advisors.

    1.Your investors (at least any professional VC type investors) have losses built into their models. When I first was sweating this, my investors told me that we represented (.03% of the fund they used to invest in us… they have 5 funds). They win in the end, because they know you won’t make any of the same mistakes next time you take their money. It is a much less risky investment for them next time because they know and hopefully respect you. FWIW we also raised just over $1M.

    2. You have a lot of questions that make me feel like you’re not being open with any of your advisors / mentors about this. Commit to the decision and seek guidance from those that you already trust. They’re there to help with this sort of stuff, and they will respect you for your candor in a tough time.

    3. When I knew we were about to face a shut down or sell decision point, I took a path of radical transparency with our employees, customers, and investors. I was very afraid of this at first but the results surprised me in two ways. A) You’re about to learn how much your team likely respects you for having to deal with this, and will rally around to support you, in the same way you’ve supported them for the past two years. B) Within days of being honest about our situation, I had several VERY good job offers come my way (one from a customer of ours!) In fact, the offer from the customer was even extended to parts of my team.

    4. Take care of your team, its your responsibility to worry about them as well.

    5. I have no idea how close you actually are to shutting down, but if you have anything close to 1 month to live, you have time to find a buyer. This will A) take care of parts of your team, B) give you some form of closure that is better than shutting down (possibly), C) give you personally a soft landing. Especially if you’re already at a point where you don’t care about making any money. Remember how hard it was to recruit all of that talent you have on your team (I’m assuming you have hired a talented group of individuals). Well other companies are struggling with that too. Reach out to your competitors, advisors, mentors etc and see if anyone wants to be a soft landing for your team. It can be a win-win.

    6. Write. Write for yourself. You can choose to or not to publish, but it really really helps to log your thoughts and feelings. These will all be part of your learning experience and also help process the pain of losing something you’ve poured yourself into for the last two years.

    7. Assuming you’re a proper corporate entity, you should personally be protected from any outstanding liabilities. Again, assuming you have decent corporate counsel, they have advised you as such.

    8. Recover. Dude – think about how relaxing it will be both for you and your wife to chill out for a few months and have a steady salary. No, you’re not going to be as in love with it as your own baby, but re-booting your mind and body will be good for you. That way you’ll be full of steam and ready to deal with another round of tough times when you start your next venture.

    9. Good luck. And props for putting your hardships out there.

  • That’s a tough spot to be in. Exiting in this way is hard and it’s not pretty now. I hope that it is of some consolation to hear this: I prefer to work in startups with people who have seen what running out of money looks like. Those who do not can lose a lot more than 1 million in a a very short time I assure you. Best of luck in what’s next.

  • You never learn faster than when you make mistakes.
    Make lots of mistakes. LEARN.
    Go make more mistakes, eventually you’ll succeed… Never, EVER give up.

  • I hope you read this. And if you do, read it thoroughly (TL;DR at the bottom):

    Most startups fail. That’s a normal thing in the startup world. Just get up on your feet and try again.

    You aren’t going to be ridiculed or pitied, neither should you be ashamed. You should be PROUD of yourself for trying.

    It’s hard for you if your wife needs your financial support. But there’s a way to support her AND follow your dream – you can start looking for a paying job in a startup, that way you’ll get some money to get back on your feet AND you’ll still be involved in a startup, gathering more entrepreneurial experience for your next startup, for which you’ll be better prepared.

    Don’t fear – fear impairs your judgement and gets in your way to get better results. Calm down and take the situation as is. Do it for your wife who needs your judgement and best solutions.

    The investors don’t avoid entrepreneurs that have failed – in contrast, you are a better candidate now than you were before your startup, because of your experience. AND you stand a better chance next time, because you’ll be better prepared.

    TL;DR: you’re awesome for having done it; look for a paying job in a startup (=money+still following your dreams) and prepare for your next one; we all can’t wait (honestly) to hear about your success and how you overcame this situation; the investors will LOVE your experience; you should be PROUD of yourself, not ashamed.

    – Luka, Fellow entrepreneur

  • Investors know the rules; not all investments work. Some fail, some return even money. Some hit it out of the park. As long as this is not a complete surprise to them, they know how to take their lumps.

    I presume, since you took money from VCs, you were legally organized as a corporation. Generally speaking, corporations exist to separate your personal liability from your business liability. Unless there is fraud involved, you should be sheltered.

    Your employees may know more than you think, if they were engaged in the business and its results.

    If your spouse was in the loop throughout, they ought to stand behind you as you rebuild – but that is your personal relationship.

    If your code is worth anything, open source it before you shut your doors. Some ideas are a matter of timing. Maybe someone with more staying power can pick it up later.

    Finally, next time fail better. Because as long as you try something new, you will occasionally fail.

  • As the song goes – “welcome to the rap game; you’ll be confused and broke before you know what’s happening.”

    Don’t worry – this happens to almost ALL of us. VC’s / investors make make a noise, but they will get over it. Anybody investing in startups knows it’s a long shot.

    Harder will be your family and employees. And then swallowing your pride and taking a job. But don’t worry – you should be OK there.

    One thing to remember is your network will be crucial to your success. Be frank /w your employees. Make connections for them. Try to help them land on their feet. Do your best not to burn bridges, but don’t feel like you need to personally make whole any investors.

    Your behavior and treatment of your folks during this crucible will be remembered for a long time. Do right by your folks. They will forgive you.

    • Why should someone just start another business? Starting a business just to start one is NOT a reasonable thing to do. The world needs valuable things not just more attempts at whatever-the-hell.

  • Listen to me you little trolls. This man is opening up at his most vulnerable about his pains, his mistakes, and his fears, and you’re making fun of him? Let’s see how YOU feel when you’re kicked when you’re down, or are you so macho, so tough that nooo, I NEVER make mistakes and feel vulnerable in my life, EVER! What the hell do you know about doing something scary, to fail, and to live with those consequences? It sucks, and I hope someone kicks you when you’re down so it knows what it feels like to do that to others!

    OP, there is NO shame in opening up, being truthful about your fears. I totally understand what it’s like to be scared about the future and the aftermath of failing. Doing what you did was an exceptionally scary (and cool, might I add) thing to do and the next steps you will take will likely be painful. As opposed to what these brave from a distance a-holes have to say, allow yourself the time to feel the fear and any other negative beliefs you have. Keep rationality or machoness out of it, you’re allowed to feel how you’re feeling at this point, you’re going through a lot. Eventually when you’ve processed the last few years, you’ll pick yourself up and say all the difficult things that you have to to your wife, your employees and anyone else. Be gentle with yourself, many people fail. Failing is okay… but not trying, now THAT’S something to be ashamed of.

    Good luck. Remember, you’re in the tech industry. If you’re halfway good at what you do, finding something else to do will not be a problem.

  • The big mistake I made back in the 8 bit computer games day’s was a belief that it was my fault, I tried to analyse what i had done wrong, in the years that followed I eventually discovered that I was lacking in two area – self confidence and the willingness to take risks. As everyone else has said ad to quote mythbusters “failure is always an option”. Will the next year be tough – yes but you will make it through, I assume your company was limited liability thus your unlikely to lose your home. Will you have regrets and guilt – yes, we’ll people feel betrayed by you – probably.

    Don’ forget that a lot of business fail because they went to the tables, played a good game, yet luck wasn’t with them and they crashed. If Space X hadn’t worked at the last attempt, if Tesla hadn’t been able to get a loan from the government because the other car companies needed the cash too, then we would be talking about that guy Elon Musk who used to own paypal – how he bet big in aerospace and electric cars and blew it all away…. What a Loser!

    I know its a trite saying but feel the fear and do it anyway and learn to trust yourself more, as you do so people will forgive you and trust you again and self confidence is a wonderful thing it inspires others even if you haven’t a clue about where you are going: look at Steve Jobs!

    So well done on talking about this – when you have succeeded in something please don’t delete this post – own it, talk proudly about moving on from this lost and how it inspired you to the next big thing! And in the process it will inspire people that it can happen for them to

  • Hey man, at least you have your health. I have been fighting cancer, and trust me, I would easily swap places with you. I’ve seen both sides of the coin, and I can assuredly say that having one’s health is pretty much the most important thing in life. Love is secondary to even that.

  • Glad I don’t work for you. You sound like a giant pussy. When on top I’m sure you’re a bullshitting king. When shit hits the fan you don’t even want to take a regular ass job. The jobs the rest of us do. Too much privilege, your wife should smack you in the fucking face.

  • Just because you can’t imagine working for someone else doesn’t make you exempt from it. The vast majority of us don’t get to work for ourselves, that’s not how this economy works. You will not convince your wife that your desire for independence outweighs your need for a paycheque. We all have to do things we don’t want to do, you can’t think that you’re special enough to avoid something just because you think it’s beneath you. Make a clear effort to find employment as soon as possible, not just for the obvious financial reasons, but because your family and friends will quickly run out of sympathy if you don’t at least try.

  • What role were you playing day-to-day? vf@google.com. Drop me your details/resume and I’ll refer you to Google.

    I know how you feel, have been in your position, and will do whatever I can to help you out.

  • You are not a giant pussy. You are not a whiner, a loser or a dingus. You have failed, but that doesn’t make you a failure.
    You are beating yourself up way more than you deserve. You tried to create something new, which is much more than 99.99% of humanity ever does. Most people just take a job instead of trying to create jobs.
    Celebrate your new-found freedom. You’re no longer responsible to your employees, investors, and customers for every decision you make. You get some time to simply be you and not the head of this larger thing. Enjoy it!
    When you get the itch again you can have another go at something new. And you’ll do it better because you learned from this one. Eventually you’ll get it right and buy the dream house, pay the wife back for all her patience, and be an inspiration to others.
    Keep going, you’re doing great 🙂

  • You were brave enough to imagine something new and also went quite far ! So you were also right at lot of things except few which is fine. Everyone involved knew the risk they were taking and hope they all enjoyed the ride as well.

    Of all the other things, Checkout http://referralhire.com where you can do 2 things:
    a) For all the people working for you who were good at what they were doing, provide references. You can submit and explain recommendations for job roles on Referralhire. Feel free to email referralhire@gmail.com for positions that you don’t find there and we will try to get them from different companies.
    b) If you are looking for a job, ask some trust worthy source to refer yourself. There are jobs ranging from programers to VPs.

    Don’t be hard on yourself . Best of Luck!

  • When I was a Math student, my prof offered good advice when I couldn’t prove a conjecture: Ask why the proofs are failing (maybe the conjecture is false).

    Same thing for start ups. When you begin again, you will know things that should be avoided.

  • the better you speak the truth to people the better. You probably should have told people earlier on about the state of things, so it will be hard to start, but it still goes: the sooner the better.. be open, be honest, it will be OK (in the end) you will see. The most important one is your wife imho, be totally open and honest to her, and if you love eachother, you will be able to look at the opportunities together. Yeah she may tell you you may need to get a job, but that’s probably also what you need. At first. Ofcourse you don’t want to work for someone else, but you may have to, for a BIT! .. at least to get back on track … or you may also be able to use whatever skills you have to start freelancing (same freedom, much less responsibility) instead,… it may not be what you would ultimatly want, but it is probably what’s needed to get you back on track, and to perhaps have another shot at running a business again some day.

  • Its really great to see people come out and offer help and suggestions. My faith in people has been greatly restored just by going through all the comments. I went through a similar position and my CEO told me about our state on the day of my marriage – I was unable to tell my wife on her wedding day that i was going to be without a job and we had a whole lot of stuff planned for the following months. I can assure you it gets better. You don’t have to work for some one forever – just till you find something to drive you.

  • You know, I think it might be time to take a well-deserved break from the startup life. Relax, spend some time with the family – all those things that got left behind these past few years, work through the emotion, get your head straight. Grief takes time, man. Give it time and be kind to yourself. Let it out as it comes out, better out than in.

    Get a job where it’s not your ass on the line – let someone else take the baton while you look after your family. Don’t work in a company with less than 30 people.

    Hit me up sometime, namank@gmail.com

  • Its alright dude. It really is. I was where you are 2 years back (without a wife though). I had lost my confidence but now , after 2 years when I look back , I realize that everything happens for a reason. It gave me a chance to relax, live life , got hammered down and felt more comfortable like leather, got a lot of things in perspective, became humble ( most important of all)…. Like all things this will in the end turn out to be ok. Best of luck.

  • Been where you are, more than once, got through it. So did my wife. She probably already perceives the circumstances – never underestimate her smarts, capability, or commitment.

    I completely understand not having the $ to continue, or to kiss this opportunity goodbye and try another one. But keep in mind a few things: opportunities and money are everywhere; most startups fail; *you* aren’t a startup or a failure; it’s ok to work for somebody else to recharge your financial batteries, it isn’t forever; your wife and your marriage are your very most important resources and responsibilities; you had a great deal of courage to try a startup, and you haven’t lost it; you will have more than this one chance; you will live a good life and it will matter.

    The very best of luck to you. Thanks for letting us all know what’s happening.

  • Its just a phase….and this too shall pass..
    These are the highlights of success…..you will overcome….
    I am telling you ,as I have seen worst than this but since I never lost faith I bounced back to success after 5 years..
    So Relax…you will overcome dear brother..

  • The universe will give you exactly the experiences you need. Don’t worry, it’s leading somewhere you need to go, in five years time you’ll look back and understand why this needed to happen right now.

  • most founders i know pay themselves very well. this is why others seem to take failure so well….all most of them lost was time. next time, pay yourself. make it clear to your funding partner that you have to eat.

  • Submit yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ and He will show you a way out. Read Matthew 6:33 and do what John 3.16 says. I can guarantee you, God can bring you out of this situation for there is nothing impossible with Him. God bless you!

    • Yo !! Don’t do what this guy says yeah !
      You (YOU) manned up and opened a company which is a big deal in itself.
      You failing but then you have learned as well. Take it as a lesson and move one. If you are not a mean, selfish and cruel bastard then you will be just fine. People are not coming after you, instead they will look out for you.
      Have faith brother.

    • Seriously? The man’s on hard times and you try to take advantage of the situation to propose some gospel that may or may not be offensive to him just to make yourself feel better for being an evangelist? Not cool. Keep it to yourself unless you’re asked for it.

      • He asked for advice and got it. I don’t believe in “the Gospel” any more than I believe in “the Batman” but my lack of belief in something doesn’t preclude it from being potentially helpful for someone else.

        So feel free to STFU and keep your biased behavior to yourself. Unless asked for it, of course.

  • I just failed after two years too.
    No one going to care, but you are going to make it.
    My bank account is now in the minus.
    Just start looking for a job.

  • Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

    Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

    Winston Churchill

  • We all are just people full of imperfection, because we live in illusions and attach a lot to everything. Just another illusion has passed in your life. Money is just a flow. Materialistic values, they come and go. Care about what person you are, what decisions you are following mind, heart or both. What really matters further in anybodys life is relationships with people. Be sure to establish good relationships. I am not talking 1000 friends in social networks. Establish true values with people. And let the past go. There are no wrong decisions just inappropriate time. We all learn. Stand straight and be proud of yourself. Get courage to do it different next time.
    Yes, investors will believe in you, yes you will be ok. Family is the biggest support now. Would be sad if your wife would not understand it. That is very crucial for man. Wife needs financial support and protection, but husband may need support in emotions. If otherwise that means wrong reasons to support each other in life in general. So wife cant deal with tough situations. Life is us, so we have to face it.

  • Been there myself and the pain can be unbearable. Do some work on yourself in the area of shame, because that’s at the root of it. People give up, sometimes even becoming suicidal out of intense shame (“I AM a failure”) — which is completely nuts when you could just as well reframe it as “I HAVE failed.” Well, so has everyone else at one time or another. You’ve probably seen this quote before, simple but powerful coming from one of the greatest athletes of all time:

    “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
    — Michael Jordan

  • your investors take known risks…just thank them for paying for your education, and move on. life is too short, but it’s also too long…seize the day but don’t despair because of failures. know there are many many more opportunities for you to succeed. this was a good thing…believe that! good job 🙂

  • Hi.
    I’ve never founded a Startup company, but I lost my job some years ago.
    I can only suggest you to not consider you as a failure, and absolutely talk about it with your wife and friends.
    Speak it out and continue to enjoy your life and the people close to you…
    When it happened to me I felt ashamed and I almost shut me in my house for a lot of time. I know what “scared” means.
    This is NOT the end. It’s only a moment in your life.
    Enjoy every second of your life. I wish you all the best.

  • Hey man! In Greece the word for business is “Επιχείρηση” which has real meaning of “attempting”. If you tried hard your way through this you have the right to fail that attempt even though you may not like it. That’s all (from my point of view). Don’t mind about what investors etc will think. Investing means also “attempting” with all the risk that comes with it. Good luck

  • This is what I did, I started to drink good wines, sit and relax then the world doesn’t come to an end anymore. I also prayed a lot for God’s grace. I think starting a business in like making an experiment. Don’t be ashamed to move head. Have faith and hope. If you could see the future, you would be very happy. Why not keep dreaming of a better day and gain some positive energy.


  • Start-ups tend to be risky. You gambled too much in a start-up instead of doing a “proper” job. Now you’ve lost.
    It was the part of the game you have been playing from the beginning.

    If I were you (well, if I were you really, I wouldn’t have done anything more than a casual start-up for at most $15 per month) I would take less risk next time. Don’t fall deeper and take more risks as gamblers do.

  • Found your post on Y’s Hacker News. I honestly never heard of your startup, or you. But I’m just typing this comment to Congratulate you.

    Nope, not lost in vocabulary. Congratulations, You’re one step ahead towards the next big thing, and failing is a part of the process. Just keep pushing the walls. And always keep in your head : Steve Jobs, Apple & NeXT. You’re not worse than him.

    Good luck.

  • It’s not the end of the world, you’ll look back and laugh at it in a few years.

    Your family and your friends will understand that you did your best and will support you.
    Not everything depended on you so stop feeling guilty.
    Your investors knew already that it was risky, these things happen all the time.

    The only thing that counts now is how quickly you will get back on your feet and start something new.
    You can always get a normal full-time job until your pay back your debts and you gain back your confidence.

    Take your time, and remember, it’s not the end of the world, these things happen all the time, nobody smart enough is gonna judge you.

  • I do not know whether you are telling the truth or not. May be you are doing some kind of research. Assuming you are telling the truth, my advice to you is that before you start your next project, do try to see what it may look like the road ahead and base you decision on that. You can absolutely do this because you are now more experienced from the first project. So never let fear or shame to defeat you.

  • I feel your pain. After several years with a business partner, I was also taking home no paycheck and my wife and I were living only on her pay. Worse, I lost my house and we ultimately didn’t do the right thing for our employees or clients. It’s tough to be in that position, but it can be tougher to make the decision to get out. It sounds like you made the right decision to fold now. Trying to stick it out with no money only digs a deeper hole which can be a nightmare. It’s a couple years later for me and my personal credit is good, I’m in a job that pays well, and I recently bought a house. Make a plan of action to get things back on track in small steps and go talk to your wife right now. She’ll probably be relieved that you’re shifting gears and have a plan to get back to normal.

  • I have been in your boat. Several times. First, don’t sweat it. There will be many more opportunities to do a startup. I started 18 companies, most of them failed, some spectacularly, most with a whimper. Perhaps the mistake I made was to jump back into the work force after each failure. I would spend a year earning a salary, get the bug to start something, quit, spend a year getting off the ground, run of of money, and go back into the work force. So, if you can swing it, jump to a new idea, or take the old idea and try version 2.0 of it with all the experience you have gained.

    My best piece of advise? Tell your wife immediately. If your spouse is in the dark she will feel powerless, like you are controlling your shared destiny. You must have buy in from your spouse no matter what you do. It is no fun fighting the daily battles of a startup and going home to fight the battles of a marriage. I lost both battles first time around.

  • I think missing payroll is bullshit for a real company, but hopefully you just had a bunch of 22 year old kids without their own kids that knew the risks and will be fine. Not paying yourself is honorable, but does not absolve you of sin. I have failed before, and I think you need to wake up and recognize your failure before you screw other people, otherwise you aren’t ready for the responsibility. You have failed. Either use it as a chip on your shoulder knowing you are a failure until you have a successful company, or just go work for someone else for the rest of your life. Don’t worry about the investors, they understand the risks. They have money to burn.

    On another note, if you had “traction” and weren’t able to stay afloat, then it probably wasn’t a well thought out business model. Or your definition of traction was incorrect.

  • You tried, it didn’t work out, now you fail. Go work for somebody else and be proud you tried it.

    But never forget you failed. Because you did, and wasted a lot of money and hopes of a lot of people.

    • wow… what a crap you are. You forgot (or may be your brain is not capable of understanding it) the very computer that you used to write that shitty comment is result of many many failures but somebody didn’t give up. The light bulb that you use right top of your head is a result of 1000s of failures but somebody didn’t give up. May be you don’t understand that, but as a human race, we are so lucky to have people like the author of this post who is brave enough to try new things, brave enough to live on the edge and try to push the human race forward. On the other hand, unfortunately we have people like you just a burden on others.


      • I believe that most people are not made for running a startup. One of these persons must be this failure. They should just work for somebody else instead of blowing money up because of their unachievable ‘dream’. A ‘dream’ that mostly ends in a ‘nightmare’ for others involved.

        I hope the OP learns a lesson and doesn’t try it again.

        • Do you understand that if Thomas Edison would have followed your steps, we wouldn’t have the light bulb. Dreams are achievable only when we give up, not when we fail.

          • You know that other people were working on the bulb? don’t you?

            If Edison failed the only change would be in the size of GE. 🙂 You should remember that the world is bigger than your ego. Also you know somebody called Tesla…

            To the OP I don’t have too much too say, except:

            * If you can’t work to anybody else at least to make sure your wife won’t suffer more from your failure, then you will fail as husband too. You don’t need to never try again but at least don’t make things worse by being “picky” about your work.

            * Don’t give up, but remember that your company ends when you can’t pay the next month of expense. Postponing it to when the cash is 0 is stupid (you learned that now).

            * Don’t worry too much about the VC’s they are VC’s for a reason.

            * And most important, identify the cause of the falire.

            Other than that, stop complaing, go and tell the interested people that you screwed up and move on.

            • Yes there are many others tried to build the light bulb and everybody else gave up and stop everything when they do not have the money to pay the bill for the next month… but one guy didn’t, yes that is the reason why we have light bulb. I think you know which group you will end up in if you try to build something like light bulb.

    • He failed, but remember he forced nobody to follow him: they all failed, not just the OP. That’s life.
      VCs have a diverse portfolio to cope.
      Employees will search for another job to cope.
      OP will cope too I’m sure.

  • if you fall 8 times you only need to rise again the 9th. I’ve heard from others the rich-bankrupcy cycles in entrepreneurial minds, i have alsoi heard people that got their deserved triumph in their seventies or even eighties and more, the only thinkg you must care is to continue pursuing your dreams.

  • I am sorry that it turned out like this for you. I am not so experienced or wise to make any suggestion. But this is what I came across when I was at the bottom of life: “Is it worth it? … that’s something you will come to know as you keep pushing forward ..” (I modified it a bit, don’t want it to sound low). Also a quote from “Evan Almighty” movie – “You won’t become strong by lifting air. You should lift weights..!” (something like that!). I really wish you overcome all the hurdles and succeed, even help others who suffer from this situations. All the very best mate.

  • Don’t fret anonymous. In silicon valley failure is a badge of honor. Many startup failures go on to other things. We can all name a hundred failures. You would be surprised at how Many Facebook and Google staffers are from former startups. Its only a real failure if you don’t learn from the experience.

  • Even if you would want to refrain from starting another startup and get back to standard 9-5 work culture, I believe you should not have any problems getting hired, as by now you would have immense knowledge about heuristics involved in a startup.
    I would proudly mention out loud in the resume that you started a startup and had to shut it down
    because failing is equally important as being successful, as both give you insight of what works.

  • To the author,

    I’m like you. I have failed many times.

    I’m sorry that things turned out badly for you, your coworkers, and your family. It sucks. It’s painful.

    Stay in it. Feel your feelings. Glad you are not running from them and escaping to ___________.

    You will live. Pain is a teacher.

  • I just watched a TED talk – Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are
    it has a bunch of simple tools that will help drop your cortisol,
    it will help you become more effective in doing what your going to do
    TED is really inspiring/helpful
    best of luck

  • My advice to you….start drinking…heavily. Then when you shake the hangover, go protect your assets from creditors, if applicable. That will give you the go go juice to survive and live again

  • Swallow your pride, work for a company to support your family and get back on track. Then re-start working on your projects on weekends.

  • Was in a similar boat a year ago. Spent two years, without pay, working on a startup. It took 6 months to shut down because we were too attached.

    Things I’ve learned:
    1) The moment you think you should shut down the company, you probably should. Do it fast, like a band-aid. You don’t want to protract that crappy, depressed state
    2) You can work on something else with your co-founder later. Just leave on good terms, which pretty much means that neither of you blame each other for the company’s failure. Maybe the next time around, bring on another co-founder to balance out the team’s weakness? You can think about this later.
    3) A good investor would invest in you again because you’d be smarter the next time around. When I failed and I sent out an email to investors saying I’m shutting down, some of the good responses were “Bummer! Let me know when you start another company” They understand that startups is a repeat-game business founded on relationships, not one-off dice rolls
    4) A bad investor might get angry, but you wouldn’t want to raise from them again anyway–they tend to panic the moment something goes wrong. Just forget about them.
    5) Get a job. Get a job at a big company where the work will be so easy you’ll recover in 3-6 months. You’ll eventually get irritated with the lack of challenge and slow pace, which’ll recharge your desire to do another startup again. I am on the cusp of getting a job because I’m burned out right now, so I don’t know for sure if this is a great idea.

    Hope it helps. You aint alone.

  • I am sorry for your loss. I too have grieved over both a company and experienced the emotional consequences of closing it.

    In the end I made the personal decision and I took my time, and said to the people who I owed money to, that I would endeavor to pay what I could, and they were on the whole very positive about the whole thing. I was under no obligation to do so.

    Working for someone else is possible – I was surprised that it came so quickly, and it is such a relief – no pressure, expectation or burden to carry. You do the 9-5 and more if you enjoy it.

    Your friends, family and wife ultimately will support you – just be honest, and proud that you have done everything that you can. It is an was a life building experience that makes you a bigger and better person so that the next time the opportunity comes around, you can undertake the project more successfully.

  • Get debt free in your life and your company/job. Don’t buy a bigger house or a more expensive car until you have put away serious money and then buy whatever is next only when you can pay for it in full.

    • Don’t worry about this, failure is experience every successful person draws from – especially startup entrepreneurs. Pick yourself up, decide what I passions you next, and do it.
      Certainly don’t be embarrassed. Not a lot of people have the fortitude to do what you did – they should be more embarrassed by their lack of initiative.

      Small businesses are what fuel our entire economy – everyone benefits from your trying to create a company, sell goods and services, and create jobs – the other 99% are just showing up.

      • How insensitive! Perhaps you have not yet felt that level of bad experience. If you have not felt it, be more grateful. If you have, be more compassionate.

  • 1. it is a fake story, I can see it by some criteria. Interesting comments))
    2. The fact is every startup better to start with your own money, no matter what millions of bloggers say and advertise, and family and your wife shall be aware of this, or even help you doing business, at least not prevent you. It is great that I did not win any VC competition -at the beginning and didn’t spend time on this. But after over two years I feel now is just the right time. Anyway, you now is what HR market needs including your VC&investors, a person with failure experience who can work for them and they can get you cheap. Choose the other industry, try different industry first to get head clear, then look not like your investor make you look. Anyway,this was not a waste of your time, this is for one more important thing in life.

  • I have succeeded after failures and failed after failures, the reason for different outcomes? The failure that comes after a failure is either 1) not trying again or 2) making the same mistakes all over again.

  • First of all, breathe. Relax. Although it might feel like the end of the world has arrived … it hasn’t. The sky will not fall b/c you failed. Not to discount your feelings, but EVERYONE knows the statistics: 9 out of 10 startups fail. Heck, my current startup is about to fail … literally in the next week or two we’ll be shutting down something we started over 3 years ago. Do I feel some of the same feelings you’re dealing with now? Sure. BUT, I also know the odds were stacked against us from day 1. The dream, vision, hustle, tenacity, team … they gave us hope we could beat the odds. Alas, it still wasn’t enough.

    Your investors, your wife, your team … they won’t hold your failure against you. They all knew what they were getting into. And hopefully your wife believes in and loves you for more than you’re attempt at being a successful entrepreneur.

    What’s next? It really comes down to how you handle the grande finale. End it with poise, honor and grace. And be sure to take charge each step of the way. Shutting down a startup can take a lot of work. Don’t just lock the doors and go silent.

    After it has been done and you grieve, you should write a post-mortem. Not just for other entrepreneurs to read and learn from, but also for you to learn from your mistakes. What went right? What went wrong? What can you be sure to take into account during your next startup venture?

    Best of luck, amigo. In the end, you’ll come out shining. Onward and upward…

  • I “failed” 5 times before has some success. But “failed” it’s not the right word. if you decide to become an entrepreneur you must know that the possibility to have success is 1 on 100, maybe 1 on 10 if you are an expert entrepreneur.
    yes there are some exception… but this is not important.

    I would like to work with a person like you.

    PS let’s try with a new challenge: make money in 1 week! Yes it’s possible. let’s try seriously and you can do.

  • We live in a world where everybody thinks he of she is entitled for success. Tumblr image quotes full of pipe dreams, “Follow your dreams”, “You fail before you succeed” etc. The reality is that more people fail than succeed. Now-a-days people take crazy risks because they see those few but famous success stories. It’s on yourself. You’ve tried, that’s amazing. You took the risk but failed. Get a job and stop feeling to good for a normal job, get back on your feet.. Welcome back in reality. Don’t worry about the investors. They have money to spare, it’s the risk of their game and they know it. In the end they don’t care about you, they just want to make their invested dollar worth times 100. Good luck, with your lost, job hunting and telling everybody the truth. Next time built a better security saving so you don’t fall that deep.

  • From an entrepreneur to another, i know it sucks now. But life is not limited to this moment. You were brave and took the plunge.
    Dont give a damn to the cold timid souls who never ventured and only know how to stone. they dont matter. Below is a good quote I always look at whenever things are uncertain in business.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (1858-1919)

    *BIG HUG*

    Esther Wang, Singapore.

  • Money lost can be earned back. Get a job to settle bread and butter issues. Go back to the drawing board, relook, pivot, and push on. Ask yourself what pain points can your startup solve that people are willing to pay for? Revenue and sales is key, not likes and non-paying users. Selling something must be the main focus of your startup, and know who you want to sell to.

  • I think it was Uncle Jed who said to Jethro, boy you don’t sit around playing pocket pool. Get your self in gear and get it going again. If I had a nickel for every failure I have created, I would need a large piggy bank. This is where the real shit kickers are separated from the wannabes. Harsh? No.

    Also, it was the great Alanis Morissette who said:

    You grieve you learn
    You choke you learn
    You laugh you learn
    You choose you learn
    You pray you learn
    You ask you learn
    You live you learn

  • When I saw your story while I was ‘surfing in the numb’ I felt something, I know you’ve heard all the ‘you need to do this’ quotes from other people and it chips away somehow. Sometimes it makes it worse because it’s not like you haven’t thought of all of this. Acceptance is the hardest part because as you pointed out it’s almost like watching someone you love pass away. It doesn’t mean you’re materialistic as it’s more about the time that you can never get back/or do things different? that is worth more than money. Grieving is one of the hardest things to do so don’t beat yourself up about what is happening in your life right now. The most prolific illusion we have is that we have complete control over our lives which couldn’t be further from the truth. I lost my job in early december last year and then my baby boy in january when I went into labour early. We may now lose everything if I can’t find another job soon. I can’t realistically take time to grieve as my grief won’t pay bills. My only source of comfort is my husband and when I come home at night and he holds me I know I can do this. I can go on.

  • my dad built up a fortune 500 company (old school—pre tech era) out of the proverbial garage scenario. he was constitutionally entrepreneurial and “failed” multiple times with various risks in his business. my dad’s favorite stock phrase was, “success = getting up only one more time than you will fall down.”

    he achieved that many times over, and from the comments and support here, i bet you will too!

    recently, much needed online discourse have evolved from a couple of high-profile founder failures who suicided.. i’m glad you chose to engage in this option!


    thank you for sharing.. you are not alone!!

  • I want to know what you spent the million on in 2 years? If your saleries were not even in the picture? (How did you pay your monthly personal bills)?

  • Thanks for sharing this with your startup fans today on email 🙂 We all need to hear about the failures — they happen 90% of the time — learning from them makes ALL the difference. And learning from a peer going through a failure is humbling and valuable.

    It’s not about the failure — it’s about what you do with the experience going forward.

  • I’ve been there. Failed. Paid mortgage on credit cards. Closed up shop, got a job, righted the ship and started again earlier this year.

    Don’t panic and don’t give up on your dream. Just put things back together. And give it another go.

  • Dana, I saw your post on Linked In. It is really courageous to sign this story one year later. I’m not strong enough to comment it on linked in. My startup is too young, my network too fragile to admit I read such difficult subjects with great attention. Life is hard sometimes, and life is great other times. Today I’m fine, but coming months will undoubtedly be the toughest in my life. I know I will survive it and see the end of the tunnel. Your story will be a strong reminder of a better future if my will weakens from time to time.

    All the best to you.

  • I am in a similar situation. Really thought I could push this through and just kept reinvesting my salary in the business. I have a parent which is final stages of life and am travelling every week to spend time with my parent – don’t want to regret this afterwards. This is having a huge impact and I find staff aren’t fully committed if you are away too much. So the thought of shutting down is upon me.

    I was struggling with this bit but then I thought perhaps I can join another startup? perhaps even apply for a position at an exciting start-up? Now it doesn’t seem so gloomy. We have experience – lets put it into good practice by joining other start-ups.

  • The company that i work now had the same problem and de CEO did the same shit. He did not share this problems to employes and now we are all fucked, without money… And yes, our CEO are crying, thinking his problem is bigger then ours and, you know, fuck the employes that followed him thru this shit-storm.. I know that you have your concerns but you need to think about your guys… They have the right to know about that to get ready and get a job or something.. Cya.

  • Hello!

    Please don’t feel like your career and success as a startup founder defines your self worth as a person!! Remember that there are so many other things in life that make life work living- family, friends, contributing to community, any hobbies you might have.

    But out of all of them family is the most important. I think it is really awesome that you are taking in consideration your wife’s needs.

    I hope you take care of yourself and get some mental health support (which by the way there is absolutely no shame in getting!).

    Get well soon!

    The experience you’ve had will only make you wiser to not make the same mistakes again, and as the saying goes ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.


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