Roadblocks: ROSL88

ROSL88 — Reflections on startup life, week 88

Last weeks post got a huge reaction and a much broader readership than typical. Thanks everyone for your comments and support.

Although actually less than I expected, it’s still interesting how the reaction of some people is “you should have done this, you should have done that”. Generally speaking stories in retrospect tend to make things much clearer than they otherwise are at the time. There are certainly lessons learnt; but I’m not unsure how radically differently we’d do things if we went back and did it again with the same types of constraints. I certainly hope we’d approach it differently, but I’m not smart enough to say for sure it would play out differently.

Another observation is the question of “Smart Money, Vs. Dumb Money”; I’d postulate that there is another alternative which is some money Vs. no money. We went in with eyes wide open that these guys were not the smartest money we could find, but they were the money that was on the table (something also not explained in my “story” is that our YC application was actually part of our calculation in attempting to balance that issue).

We always seek to find reason. Did they “lowball” us? I’m not sure — I don’t believe it was that calculating. I’m currently reading “Fooled by Randomness, The hidden role of chance in life and markets” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s primary conjecture is that human beings are psychologically prone to misinterpret random events. We need to explain things, so we find ways to explain them. It feels relevant in looking back — was it preordained, or in fact were there a series of “random” events that lead to the outcome? I think we’ll never really know.

There were also some comments on how positive our outlook seemed to be. I guess this is twofold — we’d had more time to assimilate and process it than people just reading the post, but also it’s a lot to do with the impact of roadblocks on your thinking. The investment was really a roadblock in two different ways:

  1. It was a funnel — the investment was funneling our thinking into one direction “how to spend the money”. Because we felt there was a predestined outcome, we weren’t considering other scenarios properly.
  2. It was a straight blockage — the process is so all consuming that you just don’t feel you can see around it.

While in some respects it was obviously fairly depressing to take the hit of the money falling through, it was also a massive release in some other respects. Last week was one of the most productive we’ve had in a while in terms of having cleared the roadblock, being able to get to some real clarity of thinking about our direction again.

Without the blockage of the investment, we were able to consider a range of alternatives and look at what we needed to do to move forward. There’s lots of great things to achieve and new things to be done. Now we’re into some open air again, I feel even more confident about the future. We didn’t scale that particular mountain, but we survived. We’re even better prepared to go again and there are many more interesting opportunities on the horizon.

When you hit a roadblock, sometimes the best option is simply to stumble over it or walk around it, pick yourself up and take in the view on the other side. It’s not all bad, in fact we do feel positive about the future (although we have some short-term cash issues, so if anyone has some contract work, feel free to reach out to me!).

Startups rarely die, they just commit suicide — we’ve realised that we are a very long way from suicidal (in the killing off our startup form) at this point and that’s a good thing.