What I Learnt From My Failed Startup

Published: Friday December 14, 2018

You may have a wonderful idea at the back of your mind that you want to commercialize. Go ahead I say! But you need to do your homework. Serious homework. Lastly, be prepared to fail.

A couple of years ago, after I dropped out of university, I tried to create a startup that sells stock charts.

Without much knowledge, I bought a domain name and started my adventure. Boy was it hard! The business did not take off. I have open sourced my work since. You can visit here to get open source JavaScript stock charts for your website.

These, however, are my lessons learnt; it is an experience I do not regret and will not forget.

1) Choose a co-founder

I started the business solo. It can get lonely. Having someone there during hard times can really be motivating. Below are some possible traits he should poses.

He should be fierce.

Being fierce is a combination of grit, resilience, resourcefulness, and constant hunger.

This is the ability to never give up.

Failures should not discourage him, they should charge him with anger.

When you feel down he should be supportive and inspiring, not going down with you in a crisis but uplifting.

Your co-founder has to be at least as smart as you.

Especially in areas where you know you lack skills and expertise. Your skills should be complementary. An example is: A non-technical co-founder would find someone technical.

2) Cash is king

Not born wealthy, I had only S$200 a month to invest in my startup for a year. I was strapped for cash most of the time. Yes, you may consider the quantum small – but how much does it cost to buy a domain name? Start something small and manageable, I do not believe people should build castles in the air. There is a saying that if you can’t manage the small things, you can’t manage the big things either.

The other perspective is that I did not have enough capital. Yes, you do need to have enough capital. If you have a wonderful idea that is feasible, find sources of cash; grants, crowdfunding sites, incubators and accelerators and etc.

3) Sell all the time

You should never stop selling. It doesn’t matter if you are at a prototype stage, you have a production-ready product, or even only an idea. Selling is also a prime opportunity to get feedback on your new offering. If you have innovation (or development) covered — it’s time to shift your focus to sales. I spent a lot of my time in development, instead of in selling.

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