A mysterious Tumblr began circulating through the tech press on Tuesday as an anonymous startup founder started to blog about his company's collapse — and the result is a pretty scathing critique of the bubble culture that's come to define the modern startup life cycle. "My Startup Has 30 Days to Live" popped up early Tuesday morning. It's a no-holds-barred look at what it's like to quit your job, start a company, and buy into startup culture, only to see it come crashing down around you. Now it's getting passed around on social media and reporters and tech employees alike are wondering who, exactly, the author could be.
The as-yet-unknown startup co-founder doesn't disclose his name, company, or any discernable information about his company. We know his shop has been going for about two years. We know it got accepted into one of the many accelerators that "speed up success and failure," pushing stats that don't matter instead of revenue and profit so they can have eye-pleasing graphs when they pitch venture capitalists. We know it got top-level coverage on TechCrunch. So things were going great, except the mystery entrepreneurs didn't like everything their advisers said:
They were proven entrepreneurs that had made millions (sometimes nefariously…) and they believed in us. If only we would:
- “Make feature X free”
- “Stop focussing on revenue, someone else will pay the bills”
- “Grow $VANITY_METRIC so you can show a hockey stick at demo day and look good”
- “Cut out that pesky client that generates 80% of your revenue, they’re a distraction on the road to executing $OUR_BIG_VISION”
We drank the Kool-Aid and went all-in. By the time demo day came around, we had cheques being written and were all over the press. Still, I had this nagging feeling eating away at me. That nagging feeling was disbelief.
Behind the scenes, it wasn't all roses and office perks: "Product after product hit the market and found traction, but not the million-user strong kind of traction that would make us matter," the mystery founder writes. But he was forced to take on too many responsibilities, and the revenue never came. His startup is running out of money, fast:
I made the decision to start this blog in the middle of the night last night while lying in bed next to my sleeping wife. Just one of the many people I will have disappointed due to this failure. (However, undoubtedly one of the few that will still love and support me afterward). This week, I need to speak to the other founder and fire our first employee before he leaves on a planned vacation. He’s a good developer, but I won’t fucking make payroll next week if I don’t clear him and his severance out of the company.
So now the tech press will put on their Sherlock Holmes caps (except for TechCrunch, probably) and try and uncover the latest downtrodden victim of a bursting tech bubble. We already know that too many companies go through this process. Three out of every four Silicon Valley companies fail, although they probably do it in a much more private manner. No we get to watch everything pop in real time.