Rough Days

We Can’t Figure Out Who This Failing Startup Is Because There’s Just Too Many Candidates

"I’m overwhelmed, stretched so thin and unable to do a really good job at any of my duties."
(Photo: Andrew-Hyde, via Flickr)

Nothing sadder than a theater once the show’s over. (Photo: Andrew-Hyde, via Flickr)

One lonely, stressed-out startup dude has caused a stir on Hacker News today, with the introduction of a Tumblr called My Startup Has 30 Days to Live. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a cri de coeur from someone whose company is likely headed into its death spiral.

According to the anonymous entrepreneur, his company was “bootstrapped, lean and already providing (in a small way at least) for the needs of my family and that of my co-founder” when it entered an accelerator.

They were quickly talked out of their desire not to raise a seed round and became “thoroughly convinced that we had to continue on the VC rocket-ship in order to matter to anyone.” With the VC money came advisors who told them things like, “Cut out that pesky client that generates 80% of your revenue, they’re a distraction on the road to executing $OUR_BIG_VISION.”

“Product after product hit the market and found traction, but not the million-user strong kind of traction that would make us matter,” the frustrated poster writes. Now he’s lying awake at night, knowing he’s got to fire their first employee if he wants to make payroll next week. “I’m overwhelmed, stretched so thin and unable to do a really good job at any of my duties.”

Meanwhile, the startup world’s relentless positivism doesn’t exactly make it easy to talk about your troubles. Hacker News will upvote someone else’s admission to the top of the site, but the hardest thing in Startupland is to confess you’re not crushing it.

So who is this guy? The post is littered with clues: He’s a married man who spells checks as “cheques,” a runner and a jack-of-all-startup-trades. His company is roughly two years old, passed through a “very well known accelerator,” accumulated some press and raised money. Hacker News commenters speculate he’s likely at a B2B company.

But even if you sit down with a list of recent grads from Y Combinator, TechStars and their ilk, it would be tough to narrow down the candidates. There are just so damn many possibilities. Scads of companies pass through these accelerators every season, most of them raise some money, practically all of them get write ups at TechCrunch and other tech blogs. But the Dropboxes and the Airbnbs are relatively rare, and so many fall quietly by the wayside.

It’s probably cold comfort, anon, but you’ve got plenty of company.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com