Surviving The STartup
An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Better Mental, Physical & Emotional Health
Sunday was a good day. You finally got some time to spend with your family. Went on a hike in the woods and stopped at Five Guys on the way home. You read your kids a story, tucked them into bed, then caught up on “Succession” with your wife (even though the season ended two months ago). It’s been a crazy couple of months at work. The round is finally coming together, though. You got the lead investor who agreed to set terms and now the various angels and smaller firms are finally committing.
A week ago, everything seemed to be going in the wrong direction. A prospect who seemed like a sure thing backed out at the last second. That deal would have really helped the round close.
The prospect showed all the right signs, you even flew to their HQ with your VP of Sales, and things were as close as they could get. Then your main contact there let you know that he had just been
laid off. You knew things weren’t going great, but you didn’t expect that. Just like that, the deal was gone.
Things were even worse the week before. A seemingly small change made by one of the engineers caused an issue that dropped customers’ data for over 12 hours. No way to backup or restore. The data was just gone. You credited customers 10% of their monthly bill (you wish you could do more, but you couldn’t afford to), but some customers lost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.
BUT NOW IT’S A NEW WEEK.
Monday’s here, and sitting in your inbox is another angel who says she’s in for $25,000. Another couple hundred thousand and this round will be in the bank. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Cash is running dangerously low and the senior engineer you’ve been courting for two months finally accepted the offer and starts in two weeks. Your VP of Sales stops by your desk to tell you about a big deal that’s really close. You would need to commit to adding a security feature for it to get past their security team, but with the new engineer, that shouldn’t be a problem. You tell him to go ahead and commit. You fist bump, and he walks back to his desk with a big smile.
You keep reading through your email, when one of them jumps out at you. The subject is just “Can we chat today?” It’s from the VP of Revenue at your largest customer. Your heart picks up a
beat. You quickly reply, “Sure – call me whenever you have time.” Two seconds after hitting send, your phone starts to ring.
You get up from your desk in the shared office, quickly shove your AirPods into your ears, and walk back to the small conference room in your office and swipe right on your phone to pick it up.
What You’ll Read
Starting and scaling a company is an intense experience. The highs are unlike any other. The lows can also seem likely lonely valleys. Along the way, however, you develop tips and tricks that will help you not only survive but thrive. In this eBook we share those tips!
“Hey Josh, what’s up?”
You have worked with Josh for a couple years. He brought you into the fast-growing startup that serves as your anchor customer. Not only do they give you great credibility (half the new investors’ questions were about the relationship with this company), but they represent about 25% of your revenue.
“Hey John, you got a couple minutes?”
“So, this really sucks, but we have decided we have to move off.”
Your stomach churns. Your heart kicks into overdrive. You don’t say anything.
“I’m really sorry man. After the outage, some of the team went to the CEO and he doesn’t feel like you are ready for our scale. He isn’t willing to take that risk. I tried to fight for you, I know you all can get there, but he is making us move.”
You quickly compose yourself.
“Hey, thanks for fighting for us. I really appreciate that. Could I talk with the CEO? Perhaps I can convince him that it won’t happen again and that we are ready to handle your scale.”
“Unfortunately, it’s too late, we already signed a deal with Axel Soft and will be off by the end of the month. We will, of course, still pay for this month and any outstanding invoices. We wouldn’t want to leave you high and dry.”
“Thanks Josh. So there isn’t anything I can do to keep you?”
“I’m sorry, but it’s out of my hands. I do really appreciate all the work you have done for us, it really means a lot, and I’m sure you will do well. Maybe one day we can come back to your platform.”
“I’M SORRY, BUT IT’S OUT OF MY HANDS. I DO REALLY APPRECIATE ALL THE WORK YOU HAVE DONE FOR US, IT REALLY MEANS A LOT, AND I’M SURE YOU WILL DO WELL. MAYBE ONE DAY WE CAN COME BACK TO YOUR PLATFORM.”
OK. Thanks for giving me a call and letting me know. I appreciate your help over the last couple of years.”
“No problem, you will get our official termination in email shortly. I’m sorry again and best of luck. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help out.”
You hang up the phone. Your Apple Watch beeps at you.
Your heart rate rose above 120 BPM while you seemed to be inactive for 10 minutes starting at 9:32 a.m.
Well, that’s it. 25% of your revenue is gone in seven days. The main investor in the round is definitely going to pull out, and when they do, all those angels are going to back out too, and it’s back to square one.
The engineer you just sent the offer to won’t be able to start. You’re going to have to call him and pull the offer. Maybe he hasn’t put in his notice at his current job yet.
You’re probably going to have to cut at least two other people. The team is so small and tight, that’s going to really suck.
Then you remember the deal you just agreed to with your VP of Sales. How are you going to get that work done without the new engineer, and with two less people overall?
You sit down in the conference room, lean back in the cheap IKEA office chair, and close your eyes. Maybe this is it. Maybe this company just wasn’t meant to be.
This is the moment. It won’t be the last and probably isn’t the first. This is the moment that will decide whether you will succeed. Everything is against you. Everything has gone wrong. The companies and founders who make it will get up from that table, go back to their desk, and do the things that need to be done to keep the company going. You will fight through the adversity, fight through the worst possible scenarios, and make it work. More than anything, the perseverance to make it through these times will determine your success.
James Avery, CEO, Adzerk