An insatiable desire to solve a problem drives most founders.
No matter how great your solution, however, sometimes a missing piece thwarts your plans, and you must make the toughest choice.
"There is a very fine line between success and failure.
Just one ingredient can make the difference."
– Andrew Lloyd Webber
Perseverance pervades every success story, yet over 90% of startups fail. Sometimes, Webber’s "ingredient" can leave a founder stuck.
"Should I quit?" may be the hardest question you ever ask.
This post navigates stopping a business and proposes another path forward.
When it's time to stop
You may struggle to gain traction and fail for the following reasons:
Product-Market Fit. You cannot meet your audience's current needs (perhaps you are ahead of your time).
Financial. You run out of cash due to poor planning or no financing.
Conflicts. You face irreconcilable differences among founders in vision, strategy, or management.
Execution. You cannot build or scale operations effectively.
Marketing. You cannot reach or engage the target audience.
None of these reasons directly relate to your core solution but can impact your business.
How do you know if it's time to quit?
Facing any of the above reasons, you may think there’s a way through.
I’ve worked with many founders who thought that if they could cover the next payroll, they would fix their other problems.
Extending your runway does not equal solving your problems; it only means putting off the consequences.
If the metrics are off and you cannot adapt (e.g. a new feature, pricing, or financial model), you must face the reality.
Some founders rely on outside mentors, investors, or peers to candidly tell them what they need to hear, while others ignore such signals and advice.
As you struggle, it may help to recognize that this may not be the end.
Odeo was a podcasting service company and Jack Dorsey's first venture. There, he proposed a project focused on status-sharing and communication.
While Odeo was rendered irrelevant under pressure from iTunes, his idea eventually evolved into Twitter.
Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis co-founded Kazaa, a peer-to-peer file-sharing application and the world's most downloaded Internet software.
However, they faced significant legal challenges and shut down, but they went on to found Skype and connect millions globally.
These founders remain influential figures in the tech industry.
The lesson? If you can find a way to pay the bills while still working on your problem, you may have another opportunity.
Success relies on both persistence and awareness. A maze has many dead-ends before finding your way.
Special thanks to inspiration from Gary Stewart
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This post was informed by my hard-earned experience and written by me with AI editing. Photo is generated by AI.