It wasn’t a failed pivot. It wasn’t a fight. It wasn’t a sudden change in life situation. It wasn’t bad advice that was blindly followed. In fact, it’s really hard to pin down what it was that made me recognize the prognosis and end the self-delusion.
I knew the moment that I was out of moves
I realized that even if I had a longer runway, and some awesome bridge-loan was on the table, I could not accept it with a clear conscience. I had burnt so much of it already, searching for that repeatable, scalable business model that made so much sense on a lean canvas and in customer interviews but that failed to materialize in any significant way. How could I shuffle around sticky-notes on a whiteboard and unlock the secret to runaway growth?
When you’re burning cash, your moves narrow every day you’re not actively opening up the playing field
I like to console myself by thinking that if I had just plotted the metrics that really mattered I would have seen this coming. That I focussed on vanity metrics because it brought accolades and funding and didn’t see the canary struggling to breathe.
The truth is, I did see the metrics. I reported my concerns to the “board” (whatever this looks like in a seed-stage startup) and to our investors. However, when I look back on these reports, I see that I was so used to crafting a positive, hopeful story that i continued to do so when I really should have been honest with myself. I was always one deal away from hitting the targets I missed last month. Trying so desperately to stay on track that I forgot that the rails were leading me to a cliff.
The 20 minutes I’ve spent doing this each day have been the most calming moments I’ve had in some time, moments where I can detach and write something that isn’t tied to a business or content-marketing ploy. This is clarity, or as close to clarity as I’ve been in recent memory.
We’ve made some personal sacrifices to get our startup off the ground. Yesterday, we made some even bigger ones to postpone the layoffs for a little longer. Our prognosis doesn’t change, but the team stays together just a little longer, hopefully long enough for us to make things right.