Startups Anonymous: What startup fear and failure really look like

By Startups Anonymous , written on January 14, 2015

From The News Desk

Every Wednesday, for the past ten months or so, I’ve been sharing anonymous stories here on Pando from founders in the trenches. This week I’m going to share one of my own.

This month marks the one year anniversary of It’s also nearly a year ago that I wrote an anonymous post titled, We're Shutting Down and I'm Scared. It was a raw and unedited glimpse into my fear and failure at the exact moment I was feeling it.

As a matter of fact, the only reason exists, was so I could write the post you’re about to see without revealing myself.

Until recently, nobody knew it was written by me. Until recently, I didn't want anyone to know it was written by me.

This is only one of a few times that I've attached my name to the post I'm sharing with you below:


After over two years, backing from a well-known accelerator, nearly one million in funding, and a decent amount of traction, we're shutting down.

I'm scared. I'm also sad, disappointed, ashamed, embarrassed, and deflated. But mostly just scared.

Nobody but my cofounder and I are aware we're shutting down yet. It's been a few days since we made the decision, and I haven't even gotten up the courage to tell my family.

We haven't paid ourselves a salary for some time with the hopes that we would raise more money, but also because we couldn't afford to. My wife was counting on me to raise more money, now I have to tell her the news.

We didn't leave enough money in the bank to pay off our debt, so now we need to tell people we can't pay. Are they going to come after me, or my house and my car? I'm broke and I'm scared.

Our investors believed in us. They believed in what we were building and our abilities to execute on the vision and future we painted for them. Now we need to tell them that we lost their money. Will they forgive us? Will any investor ever trust us again?

What are we going to do now? I can't afford to start from scratch again. I'm broke and it's not fair to my wife to go any longer without pay. Even if I could, what would I even do? Will I be able to get a job? I can't go much longer without a paycheck. But, I can't imagine working for somebody else. I wish my wife understood that.

Are we going to get ridiculed for failing? What's more scary, is anyone even going to care? After all, maybe that's why we didn't make it.

I'm not looking for a pity party, I just needed to get out my thoughts and feelings (and maybe search for answers and advice). Maybe I'll follow up with a post-mortem after I've had time to grieve.

Thanks for hearing me cry.


I've shared this with you today, not for sympathy or advice, but to give founders in a similar place something they can relate to and possibly a sense of hope. I'm here to tell you that it gets better.

As for the company, things turned out ok.

- Dana Severson (@danerobert)

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]