Starting-up - we've been there! Earlier this year we closed our seed round. However, having 21 different investors has resulted in a lot of delays with the paperwork.
As such, the roller coaster of emotions for 2016 has looked like this;
- January: optimism - funding talks go well
- February: joy - advanced talks, agreement in principle
- March: jubiliation but fear - investment agreed, paperwork actioned
- April: paperwork being drafted - minor agitation
- May: paperwork delayed due to slight error in initial 50-page draft investor agreements - bouts of depression
- June: momentary joy, then absolute depression - paperwork delayed
- July: ???? - but the outlook is RAGE [5th August, follow-up] The day we received the cash was the happiest day of my life. It made everything above totally worth it. 10/10 would ride emotional roller-coaster again.
Note: worth mentioning that during the above timeline, our competitors managed to merge and raise a further $100m USD while we were still haggling over £100k GBP...this didn't help.
Obviously it's great that we've closed our round, but until the funds actually arrive it still feels like the rug can be pulled from beneath us. Even though it's unlikely, it's still horrible.
Depression in startups is a real thing, and only recently starting to gain more attention as a serious issue - 30% of startup founders report feeling depression - and it's totally understandable; you've put yourself on the line, you've borrowed money from all of your friends and family, you've gone 'out there' with your idea and it feels like it's all on you to make it happen. Every day that you're delayed, your competitors gain ground on you.
So what can one do to keep sane during these dark times?
- Startup Housekeeping: during this downtime, budget has obviously been constrained. However, Alan and I took this time to both review our current v1.0 for 'quick fixes' and UX breaks - and also plan v2.0 with our legendary designer, Steve. We also updated the website a little bit to make us look less like the startup noobs that we then were (and still are in the grand scheme of things). All of this was completely free to do, and having spent so many months focusing on whether things actually worked it was nice to turn our attention to making things work well. It also got us all excited for our v2.0 release and the rest of our runway.
Scrappy User Acquisition and Marketing:
being without a budget doesn't mean we haven't been able to draw users to the app, in fact it has spurred on an entrepreneurial instinct that we haven't had since university. We took the time to build our social media identity, speaking directly with existing users, and focusing on retention campaigns - after all, it's cheaper to retain a user than acquire one. During this time we actually stumbled upon a user acquisition strategy that has yielded some amazing results and now become one of our primary user acquisition strategies - we'll share it in due course.
- Work on yourself: everyone has goals; learn to play the piano, finish off my online course in iOS development, get completely fluent in speaking French are just some of mine. Having some downtime is the perfect time to work on yourself and do all the things that you were putting off! Such endeavors have benefits in so many ways; distracting you from your own impatience, replacing all of those 'rewarding feelings' that you were feeding off in the early MVP days when progress was coming thick and fast (as an aside, I reckon the feeling of accomplishing so much in a short space of time actually becomes addictive, which further compounds the depression when a slowdown inevitably does arrive - but this could be absolute BS as I'm just speculating here. But you gotta speculate to accumulate right? Is that saying even relevant here? I digress). Re-kindling my love for the gym, and hitting up Tinder are things that have personally helped me through tough times; if everything goes to hell, at least I'll have become a hench womanizer in lieu of being a successful CEO. Plus, everyone loves exercise-induced endorphins... 😉
So there you go, 3 ways to keep sane during the dark times!