Commit 5dd25ef0 authored by Jaisen Mathai's avatar Jaisen Mathai
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Finishing the struggle

parent 008921e0
......@@ -27,7 +27,7 @@ Despite the consuming nature of doing a startup my first commitment was always t
Speaking of family; my parents think I'm crazy. That gets reinforced each time I chase a startup idea. This is the second time I left a job to start something. They want nothing more than for me to get a job at a big stable company and be a loyal employee until I retire. Nonetheless they supported me as they have in the past despite thinking I was being foolish.
Then there's the [Shuttleworth Foundation](https://shuttleworthfoundation.org/). I wrote in more detail about [my experience as a Shuttleworth fellow](../shuttleworth/) if you wanted to read it. But to make a long post short they've been the best partner I could ask for. Not only did they provide nearly $1M in funding but they provided a network of the brightest and most ambitious people I've met. All working on something that makes the world a better place. There's nothing else quite like it.
Then there's the [Shuttleworth Foundation](https://shuttleworthfoundation.org/). I wrote in more detail about [my experience as a Shuttleworth fellow](../../articles/shuttleworth/) if you wanted to read it. But to make a long post short they've been the best partner I could ask for. Not only did they provide nearly $1M in funding but they provided a network of the brightest and most ambitious people I've met. All working on something that makes the world a better place. There's nothing else quite like it.
There were countless friends who believed in me as well. They helped me keep my sanity when I questioned if I had made a terrible mistake.
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......@@ -22,57 +22,114 @@ Us humans are neither binary or entirely logical; thank goodness.
We're complex creatures and what constitutes happiness, contentment, joy or any of the opposite emotions depend on a large number of factors.
This makes *The Struggle* even more acute.
## No funding in sight
The struggle started near the end of 2011 when we were failing to raise funding.
I knew we absolutely needed to secure funding to succeed.
I won't go into the details of our fundraising journey in this article but you can [read about it here](../fundraising/).
I wrote about [my worst day](../worst-day/) but there were countless days similar in nature.
## Being a team
The pros of having a co-founder outweigh the cons.
But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that having a co-founder increased the pressure I put on myself.
If we couldn't figure out how to make Trovebox successful then I'd feel some guilt along with it.
<figure class="half">
<img src="/images/photos/2012-05-06-patrick-santa-cruz.jpg" alt="Patrick at Santa Cruz">
<img src="/images/photos/2012-05-06-jaisen-santa-cruz.jpg" alt="Me at Santa Cruz with Rachel in the background">
<figcaption>Santa Cruz with Patrick during his first visit. Credit: <a href="/">Jaisen Mathai</a> CC BY.</figcaption>
</figure>
## Understanding my motivations
There was a clear consequence of not getting investment; we'd have to abandon and shut down OpenPhoto.
Founders start companies for various reasons but there's always a common thread of believing strongly in something.
It might be a belief that building something will improve people's lives, make you a lot of money or change something that's in need of change.
It's often a combination of these that drive founders.
Most often it's a combination of these that drive founders.
I believed OpenPhoto needed to exist.
I'm a bit of a nostalgic.
I love to relive past moments.
Furthermore it became really important to me to preserve the memories of our family's everyday life.
Furthermore it became really important to me that we preserve the memories of our family's everyday life.
One day I hope to sit with my kids and show them photos of their childhood; much like my own parents did with me.
I believed something needed to be changed. Looking around at how everyone dealt with, or didn't deal with, archiving photos I knew something had to change.
I believed we could build a successful busines. Despite having to open source our work to accomplish what I mentioned about existance and change.
I believed we could build a successful busines. I've always been driven to create businesses. In middle school I would buy [Zotz](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZotZ_%28candy%29) candy for $.03 and sell it for $.05. A hefty 66% margin.
As with any strong belief it's difficult to come to terms with the idea that things won't pan out the way you believed.
But there's a tougher reality that had dawned on me.
*Does shutting down mean failure?
How would I explain this to friends and family who thought I was making a mistake 6 months ago?
How would I explain this to friends and family who thought I was making a mistake when I left Yahoo?
Do I just go back and get a normal job?*
Hello ego, pride and insecurity.
Not traits I'm particularly proud of but they helped motivate me to continue building OpenPhoto.
I imagine it drives more entrepreneurs than you'd imagine.
## The effect of having no money
Louis C.K., a comedian, has a great bit titled *[Being Broke](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0rSXjVuJVg)*.
Besides being hilarious I felt like I could relate.
Besides being hilarious I felt like I could relate<sup>1</sup>.
> You ever have negative money? You look at your bank account and you have negative $10. [...] I wish I didn't have anything but I have less than that. If it's free I can't f*****g afford it.
Just a disclaimer that I'm not implying I was poor.
When I think of people being poor it's not just a lack of money but a lack of opportunity.
I empathize greatly with people who find themselves in that situation.
It turns out that the lack of money can act as a crucial forcing function.
When you're facing the reality of shutting down a startup because you can't pay your bill you'll quickly focus on what matters most.
Even in hindsight I know we didn't waste much time focusing on the wrong things.
I have our dwindling bank account to thank for this.
## Growth is everything
There was one thing that rang true on each day of Trovebox: *growth*.
Growth shares many characteristics with fundraising.
Namely growth is largely out of your control and all you can do is try and make the stars align.
My family has always frugal in some aspects.
We're not big spenders, have no debt and have always had financial headroom.
I mean, I still drive an old '98 Honda Accord.
The feeling of not acheiving growth was as stressful as when we couldn't finding funding.
It was a sign that the product was headed in the wrong direction and it felt like we were trying to turn the Titanic around.
Generosity is a big priority and something we want to model for our kids.
When friends, family or strangers need help we want to be in a position to help them.
I spent the beginning of January going through a spreadsheet of 600 potential customers we could sell to.
I called them up on the phone and in the unlikely event there was interest it started a series of calls to close a sale.
None of them panned out.
Perhaps our product wasn't solving a need as critical as our earlier conversations with customers implied.
Maybe it was that we grossly underestimated the length of the sales cycle.
I don't believe we'll ever know.
Despite not having money I had the privilege of knowing I could find a job.
It wasn't that I was afraid of not being able to pay rent or feed our kids.
## Dashed hopes
Then you have the golden opportunities.
Ones which have all the signs and promise of being a home run.
We had promising meetings with execs from Sony, Netgear, Roku and Western Digital.
We even met with Sony 4 times in San Diego.
Nothing.
<figure>
<img src="/images/photos/2013-10-04-cigars-with-brian.jpg" alt="image" /></a>
<figcaption>Smoking cigars with our sales lead to celebrate one of our meetings. Credit: <a href="/">Jaisen Mathai</a> CC BY.</figcaption>
</figure>
These were particularly difficult because when we crashed we crashed hard.
Forging partnerships with companies is difficult because you have little insight into their roadmap.
A company maybe highly interested but then go silent for 6 months and come back to restart the conversation.
You can only do your best stay on their radar.
## Everyday will bring a struggle
Those are some of the larger struggles I remember.
But every day brings struggles.
A lot of it is psychological and emotional.
Keeping on top of that without losing your sanity isn't easy.
That's why it's so critical to have a good [support system](../support/).
Else you'll got nuts and take your company down with you.
<hr>
<small><sup>1</sup> Just a disclaimer that I'm not implying I was poor.
When I think of people being poor it's not just a lack of money but a lack of opportunity.
I empathize greatly with people who find themselves in that situation.
I never considered myself poor despite not having money.</small>
......@@ -31,7 +31,7 @@ Bi-annually the Foundation gives up to 3 years of fellowship to individuals work
<figure class="half">
<img src="/images/photos/2014-04-17-wd-mycloud-bricked.jpg" alt="Restoring the image on a bricked Western Digital MyCloud device">
<img src="/images/photos/2014-04-17-wd-mycloud-internals.jpg" alt="The internals of a Western Digital MyCloud device">
<figcaption>We experimented with and prototyped having Trovebox installed on a NAS.</figcaption>
<figcaption>We experimented with and prototyped having Trovebox installed on a NAS. Credit: <a href="/">Jaisen Mathai</a> CC BY.</figcaption>
</figure>
## A mix of funding and community
......@@ -44,7 +44,7 @@ It's impossible to know how the community plays into a fellowship until you arri
<figure>
<img src="/images/photos/2013-11-12-gathering-edinburgh.jpg" alt="image" /></a>
<figcaption>At a Gathering in Edinburgh, Scotland. Credit <a href="https://shuttleworthfoundation.org">Jason Hudson</a>.</figcaption>
<figcaption>At a Gathering in Edinburgh, Scotland. Credit: <a href="https://shuttleworthfoundation.org">Jason Hudson</a> CC BY.</figcaption>
</figure>
I've been surrounded by brilliance at many points in my life but I've never been inspired like I am when I'm with this group of people. The support system between fellows was unparalleled.
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