Cash Only

[This is a weekly series that brings you raw, first-hand experiences from founders and investors in the trenches. Their story submissions are anonymous, allowing them to share openly without fear of retribution. Every Wednesday, we’ll run one new story chosen by Dana Severson, who operates StartupsAnonymous, a place for startups to share, ask questions, and  answer them in story-length posts, all anonymously. You can share your own story here.]

Just because I had a great idea that could change the world doesn’t mean people will pay for it.

This was the lesson I learned which I want to share.

Two years ago, I quit my well-paying stable government job to build my startup – an idea that I believed could end online piracy. I trudged on for months – got great exposure and affirmation that it was a brilliant idea that could save music, books, and film from piracy.

However, when push came to shove, no one was willing to back it up, nor was I gaining any new customers or sales. I eventually ran out of money and savings and had to get a salaried position to keep the family afloat. Unfortunately, my family has grown, and my meager salary was not enough to sustain my family, even though I sold my private apartment and downgraded to public housing. I was facing negative cash flow for months.

I borrowed on credit cards and from friends to buy time for me to pivot and get the idea right. I think I have the right formula now – a great business model, a good platform and a leading product to sell. I managed to partner with my developer for this new pivot, and I believe I now have the resources and experience to make it work.

What I want to encourage to other startup founders is to be strong and realistic. There are ups and downs. I went through a bout of depression which I believe is clinical, but I kept telling myself that I needed to focus my energy positively instead of moping and wallowing in self pity. Ask for help, ask for guidance, and take a breather. Step back down and get a job to consolidate. Sometimes when you have bread and butter issues, you cannot focus on your business properly.

A few soul-searching questions I asked myself were:

  • What pain point are you able to solve, for whom, and are they willing to to pay you for a solution?
  • How many people are there who have this pain point, and how do you reach out to them? How do you collect payment?
  • How long will it take to get done, and how much will it cost? Do you have the money, or do you have someone who can do it in return for a share of the business?

Don’t get excited by meaningless numbers like views and likes, or users, unless they are paying customers.

Get out of the advertising revenue model. There are just too many apps and sites fighting for eyeballs.

It is good to have a product that people will buy. It will be even better to have a product that people are willing to sell. Sales is the lifeline of all businesses.

[Image via tattoodesigns24]