Pulling The Plug Takes Courage

A common challenge many founders experience is when it’s time to pull the plug on their startup.  This issue has been brought up a number of times in recent conversations and given my experience in this area I thought I’d lend a little perspective on the subject.

First a little background.  About 4 years ago I cofounded a startup called Seconds with a handful of people.  We ran it for a while but really didn’t hit breakout velocity to raise venture capital and build out the business full scale.  So after 2+ years I decided to pull the plug and move on.

That is about the shortest and easiest way to describe what I went through at the time, which was much more excruciating and painful than those last few sentences describe.  I’ll save you the 10 page novel!

But it’s a horrible place to find yourself. If you are anything like me, you don’t quit. You uphold your promises. You are competitive and want to win.  You and your cofounders have stuck together through thick and thin and you feel if you bailed right now you would be quitting on them and going against your word.  So you just keep holding on, thinking it will get better.

Well, I quit and it’s great to finally be able to say things are much better now for me compared to 2 years ago. I finally realized I was really stuck and the best thing for me to do was to stop and look at all my other options.  Like an addict, I needed to step away from my daily habit of trying to make things work in my company and focus my energy elsewhere. I committed to improve in the areas in my life that were giving me the most stress – namely money (or lack there of) and that meant I needed to get a job. I realized I could move myself forward in our industry as an employee of a startup, not having to be the founder.  I decided I’d join another startup so I could continue to grow as an entrepreneur and startup executive, being able to learn all the things I wasn’t able to learn during the time with my company.

In the summer of 2014 I joined Knotis as Director of Business Development and was able to pick up right where I left off in my own startup. I am now heading up strategic partnerships and assisting with investor relations to help raise money for the company.  The last year has been chock full of investor meetings with people held in high regard in our industry, strategic partnership conversations with companies we read about in the news, and a continuation of my entrepreneurial path void of massive stresses like how will I afford to eat and drink each night.

Anyone looking in the mirror wondering if they should continue hammering away at their startup when it seems like it’s not moving forward should take note.  It does get better.  But you may have to quit your startup to get there.  You may have to stop dead in your tracks, notice the road you are on is not heading in the right direction – in fact it dead ends right up there around the bend – and turn around.  Find a new road.  There are more roads and options for which direction to take your self and your creative career than you actually realize.

All it takes is courage to own up to the fact you didn’t succeed THIS TIME and creativity to find a new opportunity so you can succeed NEXT TIME.

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