7 Lessons I’ve Learned from a Failed Startup

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This week I had the VERY fortunate opportunity to take part in Propel ICT’s Launch36 startup bootcamp. The speaker of the event was Ash Maurya (@ashmaurya), founder of Spark59 and author of the lean startup book called Running Lean. He discussed how to apply lean methodology in startups using his Lean Canvas.

I attended this bootcamp as a startup applicant for the launch36 Accelerator program with Propel ICT (@propelict). And I’ll be pitching my new startup called Recommendur (click here to signup for exclusive beta access) to a group of angel investors on February 4th.

If you didn’t know, I’ve already been the co-founder of one FAILED startup. And yes, I am extremely proud of it.

It pushed me so much further than I could have ever imagined. The lessons that I learned were invaluable and priceless. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share my startup experience with you.

My Startup Experience

First off, I had THREE jobs.

Yes, three.

Why?

Well at that time, I had only begun to consult in a professional capacity. And as many of you know, it takes time to get your name out, so I needed to supplement my income with a secondary job. A job as night auditor at a local hotel to be exact. Quite a switch from working for a Fortune 500 company.

Here’s what an average day looked like:

7am: Arrive home and go to sleep.
12pm: Wake up and lunch
1pm to 9pm: Startup work/ Consulting
9pm to 10pm: Power nap
10pm to 11pm: Get ready and drive to work
11pm to 7am: Night Audit

Then it started all over again. I did this for 7 months straight. And it nearly killed me.  BUT….I don’t regret a minute of it. See, a failure is worth SO much more than a success. When you fail, it forces you to ask the hard questions. Why did it fail? Did I not try hard enough? Did I not do my homework? Wrong timing? You have to re-evaluate yourself, your priorities, your reasons, and your motivations. And the best of all, it teaches you what NOT to do in your next one! ;)

7 Lessons Learned From a Failed Startup

Here are 7 out of many lessons that I’ve learned though my past startup experience:

1. Never Assume, Always Validate

This is so important. You need to validate that your product or service solves a real problem, and whether your target market is willing to pay for your solution. In other words, test your idea before dumping a huge amount of cash on it.

When we launched our startup, we did neither. Because of the market we were targeting, it was difficult to validate (at least we thought so). So we launched with the hopes of validating as we went along. Bad idea.

2. A Good Co-founder is Worth Their Weight in GOLD:

Having the right co-founder is extremely important. My co-founder was an excellent complement and the voice of reason. There were days where I wanted to throw in the towel, and he helped me stick with it. As well, there is a bond that happens. You can be brutally honest with each other and they won’t judge you. At least that was my experience.

3. Always Have a Technical Co-Founder/Equity Partner:

Trust me, it is SO much harder to get things done when you don’t have someone in your team capable of doing the technical work (software development). Fortunately we managed to secure one great developer for awhile, but not having a developer as part of the team really held us back.

4. You Are MUCH More Resilient Than You Think

Had someone told me I was going to work a night audit job, get 4 hours sleep a day, consult, and be part of a startup, I would have told them that they’re crazy. I knew I was resilient, but this really pushed me to the next level. NEVER underestimate your capabilities.

5. Never Be Afraid To Call Yourself a Startup

For some reason when we launched, we didn’t want to be labeled as a startup. Initially our reasoning was if we called ourselves a startup, we’d be perceived as less stable or reputable. What we failed to see was the enormous amount of support that was available for startups.

6. Never Be Afraid To Ask For Help

When you’re in a situation or scenario, don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Just make sure that those you turn to have “earned” experience and have lived through a similar scenario.  In other words, don’t simply turn to your family and friends for advice. Most often you get the watered down version, simply because they love and support you, and most likely don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Oh, and often times when it feels like everything is falling apart, it’s not. :)

7.”Brick and Mortar” Products Can Sink Your Startup

When we launched, we bought products that we “thought” our target market would purchase. And it was quite expensive. NEVER buy physical products to resell unless you’ve validated that your market will pay for it, and it is profitable.

Have you ever failed in business? What lessons did you learn from it?