The task at hand is finding the answer to what’s next? The irony is that the tag-line for my startup for the first 6 months was ‘What’s next?’! Did I ever imagine that I would be applying it to my own life in 6 months time? No. I believed the startup would work, gloriously. How could I not believe it was the next big thing. It’s a startup that’s how it functions. We take the risks and it pays off or it fails in a big way. But we didn’t fail magnificently. It petered out slowly epping away like a light fading into the distance.
One year of my life was dedicated to my recommendation system startup. I stepped into the Founder role being a visual designer with ideas I wanted to test out and theories I had on interaction and usability. Today it’s erased from history with the only evidence of it ever existed being screenshots in my portfolio which overwhelmingly understate the time, effort and intensity that was poured directly down the throat of it.
There is a phrase that you need to be able to ‘kill your babies’ but at least they get a tombstone. When a startup is killed you erase it from history with the zealot of a steely eyed terminator hunting down that future leader of the human resistance.
The empty office
I am the Founder / undertaker
After the ‘decisions’ been made the slow process of de-constructing what you have spent an entire year of your life building begins. In honestly when you start it you realise that you want this to take as little time as possible since there is no pay-off here. It’s a fruitless task being the gravedigger of your own startup. But it needs to be done. It’s a natural cycle so I’m told. It doesn’t feel that way. It feels cold and pointless and very demotivating at the time.
The weeks go by and the accounts are shut down one by one and you give back the office keys and get your deposit back. You don’t have a business twitter account to maintain in a professional non-tone oriented way. You don’t have to make sure the Facebook account is in sync with the stories coming out on the other channels and the product itself has been stripped bare and the domain is on the market for some gauged value.
Rediscovering my sanity
The grieving process and the question answering has pretty much finished. You make the realisations that you lack a personal life and start discovering the concept of ‘weekends’ a ball of free time that aren’t dedicated to answering emails and supporting customers questions. The events that you decided you were too busy to attend now become more attractive to go to and your email accounts seem lighter and more carefree. It proves a stubborn contrast to just a few weeks ago.
It has been a few months now since I let it all go and while I miss the live metrics feed that I used to faun over it has allowed me to do a little naval gazing and take stock. So I’m answering the questions what I want to do and what am I passionate about. I feel enriched by my experience and have learned so much it’s hard to contain it in words and metaphors. But it’s engrained me into the lifestyle and I can’t picture doing anything else. If I learned one thing it’s that I am a Founder and I do Design. When I started I was a Designer Founder. The difference is subtle but telling.