The last couple of months have been busy. Last November, I joined/co-founded HireVoice, a company that was setting out to do brand monitoring for employers. Helping companies improve to attract better talent seemed to be a good cause and early feedback seemed to be promising. As the technical co-founder, I started building the solution. Soon enough, we had a decent application in place, ready to be used. It was partial, it had gaps. but it was built to be production-ready. I don’t believe in prototypes and with the tools we have available freely, there is no reason to settle for anything else than high standards. This is when we figured out that getting from people from interested to actually writing checks was not going to be as easy as we had anticipated. Even though we had a good vision, and at the time our advisers we very encouraging, the reality of being a small supplier with no history makes selling hard. Our benefits were not tangible enough.
We moved on to different ideas, pitching all around, trying to find something that would cause more than interest and provide tangible results as soon as possible for the potential clients. To cut the story short, we essentially built 5 different products to various levels over the course of 8 months, only to be back at the starting point. The only difference is that we knew our market a whole lot better.
We came up with another plan. Instead of keeping the focus on perception as we previously did, we went towards recruiting. We followed the money. With some early validation, we figured we could start building a solution again. I took the week-end off. I intended to get started early on the Monday morning, fully refreshed and energized.
Monday morning arrived. I sat down at my computer with my double espresso ready to start. I had my plans, I knew exactly what I had to do. This is usually an ideal scenario. I do my best work in the morning and when I am fully aware of what needs to be done. I got to work and I realized the spark was gone. Even though we had a good plan, it wasn’t good for me. It did not serve a purpose meaningful enough to motivate me into making the sacrifices that come with starting a business. This was no longer about helping companies improve and make people happy at new jobs, it was just about recruiting and perpetuating the same old cycle.
My heart just wasn’t into it. With the motivation gone, I stated thinking about what I had left behind for the past few months. My personal relationships had been affected by it. I had been working a lot. Partially still consulting to pay the bills, mostly on the company, spending most of the time thinking about it. The idea of keeping up that rhythm longer and the consequences that it could bring were simply unacceptable.
I have read a lot of books. Recently, I had read more about business and start-ups. None of them had prepared me for this. How do you tell your business partner you are out? No chapter ever covers this. I had to do it the only way I could think of, say it frankly and openly, and order beers to end it cleanly. I did it the same day, then spent a few hours wondering if I had made the right decision. I did not get much work done in the two following weeks. There is no formula to tell when you should cut your losses. Even if it did not account to much as a company, there is still attachment to what we built and the time we spent.
This makes HireVoice part of the statistics, those 90% of start-ups that don’t make it. However, looking back, I don’t see it as a complete failure. I worked on fun challenges, met many interesting people, and got a better understanding of how businesses operate. Part of the code still lives through an open source project and is being used by a few people. I still maintain it for fun. Somehow, helping a handful of people I don’t know is more motivating to me.