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Our Startup Failed
And what I learned in the process ....
Our startup failed.
We had to get new jobs and we spent a lot of time helping the team find roles as well.
And despite the pain, it was one of the most important lessons of my career.
Rewarder was a marketplace that focused on helping people find answers to home, auto, travel and tech questions from a community that could help. If that sounds overly broad, it definitely was. We built a product that tried to do too many things for too many verticals. Looking back, we were doing a mediocre job solving lots of problems rather than getting really good at solving a specific problem.
I left before the end. I’m not sure if it’s because I had a feeling we weren’t going to make it or my time was just up. It definitely didn’t feel like a sustainable business and that played a large part in leading me to depart, despite the fact that I was part of the founding leadership team.
Looking back, it’s very clear. We didn’t have product-market fit. We hadn’t nailed a single vertical and instead were trying to be far too broad, meaning we couldn’t solve anything well. The team did a great pivot after I left and started to focus on tech help - connecting people who were not tech savvy with younger people who could help them out. It had real promise, but unfortunately it came when funds were running out and there wasn’t enough traction to raise more money.
Product market fit is the only path to a successful startup. Spray and pray, even with a good idea, is just too hard to execute with a small team
Sometimes it’s ok to leave before the end. In my case, because I had a new job, I was able to help out multiple members of the team and hire them into my new company, providing them with a path to earnings
Don’t grow too fast or put too much money into the marketing engine until you start to see profitable and/or retained interactions that give you a reason to believe
It’s incredibly important to stay focused as a leadership team. Pivoting is fine, but it should be a decision based on lack of product-market fit, not because there are endless opportunities. If you pursue every opportunity, you won’t nail anything well and you won’t have a viable business in the long run
Despite it all, I’m grateful I had the experience. We made a lot of mistakes, and they are mistakes I can see now often before they happen and that I can try to avoid in new companies and with new teams. We didn’t make it big, but the learnings were invaluable and the reality is that everyone went on to great careers.
Do you have similar experiences or learnings? I’d love to hear about them.
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