It may be the most gut-wrenching decision of your life.
Most of reach a point where we know – deep in that dark place where we hide those kind of thoughts – that we are done. Customer growth has stalled for the last 3 months. My cofounder is starting to email me instead of talking to me directly. And I stopped coming to the office every day opting to “be more focused at home”.
Things started with so much energy. My college friend and I found the idea one night and immediately started riffing on the idea the next day. We then started talking to some potential customers and their feedback was off-the-charts positive.
Our company created a light-weight product just like everyone advised. We rolled the prototype then the v1 about 9 months ago. A handful of customers signed up and some monthly revenue starting flowing. With that success we were able to secure angel funding which enabled us to hire a small team and grab a cheap office. It all felt so . . . good.
But it’s now over a year later and I know that I am done.
Deciding to leave your startup is not too dissimilar to a breakup or divorce. You know it’s the right thing to do but all you can think about is the time and emotional energy you invested. How the heck can I actually pull this off you ask yourself.
First thought process, decide why you are making this decision. I see two basic decision paths; the first is for forward-looking reasons, and the second is a look-back rational. I believe that when the next thing in front of you is calling that you will make a good decision to depart your current gig.
However, if you are focused on what went wrong, why things did not pan out, or why the people were the wrong people; these all feel like blame, fear and generally negative inspired decision-making. This path will not end well of all parties.
Ultimately the decision to leave your startup is a selfish one and that is a good place to generate a good outcome.
What rarely works is when you spend more time focused on everyone else’s needs and not yours. I don’t know a great founder who’s default muscle is to push their needs to the backburner and puts the needs of their team front and center. This is great when you are in a good place – it is devastating when you are in the dark place.