Ryan Rutan: Welcome back to another episode of startup Therapy. I'm Wil schroder founder and Ceo of startups dot com and with me today is my other partner, Elliot Schneier, whose the esteemed Ceo of startups dot com welcome Elliot thank you with a little question mark. Let me be clear. You've got a podcast with millions of downloads and the one time I get to come on is to talk about one of the most painful and spectacular failures of my life. It's the only thing we talk about. Thanks for the gift. I feel like you brought me on to talk about me giving a commencement speech to my entire college and then getting pantsed in the middle and then it goes viral. Yeah, it's it's horrible, but it's an important subject. So I'm happy to chip in. We'll get into it, we'll get into it, you know? So on that note today, we're going to talk about something that actually Elliot and I lived through so painfully for a very long time, which is why no one tells founders that it's over, that it's time to move on, kind of time to do your next thing. So even with that being said, when you think about our last startup that we did together afford it before we did startups dot com, you know, we raised money like failed very spectacularly, very publicly. What's the first thing that comes to mind, I'd say honestly, a certain level of ignorance, which is appropriate because it was our first run at this and then ultimately how people outside of you and I as the founder and co founder reacted and guided us through this journey on folding the tents. One thing I remember specifically early on, we raised some money. We didn't raise hundreds of millions of dollars, but you and I were so meticulous and how much money we had left in the bank money was dwindling down. We're facing some regulatory issues, which is a whole another topic. And we had, I want to say like 6400 bucks in the bank, small staff and in my, you know, appropriate naivete, I said to you and you basically ran all of our investor relations. Right? So you, you're the, you're the point person and talking to all our various investors. And by the way, we had legit investors, I mean top tier VCS, top tier angels, so no lack of experience on their side. So we're running out of dough and I was like, okay, well, we're running out of money. But run rates pretty good. Future looks relatively bright. It's time for the investors to help. And uh, you gave me a grim answer if you can remember it. Well, I remember at that point, I was expecting help again, remember this was kind of our first rodeo on really trying to understand the capital raise, but more specifically what happens when you run out of money in a capital race. And you know, to your point, I thought that someone was going to come in and say, you know, either we're gonna help you or hey, it's not gonna work. So it's time to shut it off and we didn't get any of that. And I think that's kind of what kills me in all of this is that we sort of expect to see certain market signals if you will about where to go next with our business. One of those markets signals is things are growing, we need more cash, lets you know, to raise more money. Another one is things are growing. We need to hire more people. Like all of those moments and transitions are obvious. But the one that's not obvious is when it's time to like shut it down. There are no indicators other than the fact there's gonna be no more money in the bank. Do you remember anybody ever telling us to stop? It was very strange because I agree that the investors didn't give us a decisive. Okay guys, it was a great run. It's over. They gave us almost like we called and they were like, who is this? It was a very bizarre part of the process. But look, I get it too. I mean, these guys, you know, it's, it's their job to go out and find dynamic founders invest in founders and they've got to make a lot of bets and they've got to double down on the winners and you know, change their focus on the losers. Unfortunately in this case we were the losers, but I agree with you in that I thought we'd built, it's like a relationship where one side loves the other side more. I thought, you know, I thought we'd built this bond with our investors because, you know, they were, we raised a seed round, We'd raised a small a I mean it was, we're in it together. So we thought I was equally surprised that they not only gave us the cold shoulder, but they gave us the cold shoulder without any additional guidance. Right. And so we assumed a couple of things would be true. We assumed that once our capital raised kind of ran out of steam and just so folks understand who may have not raised capital before. When you go to raise capital, it kind of has a bit of a cadence to it. If things are going well, people jump on board relatively quickly and sign up just like in our first capital raised, you know, we raised our money probably within a week at a very difficult time. This is circa 2007 to raise money, but when they're not going well as you and I learned, they take forever do you remember? We were raising for a year and a half, trying to get essentially what would be our series a at the time and just getting our teeth kicked in by everybody. I mean, how many VCS would you say? We finished? We went and again, we've come out of it. So it was an incredible lesson. But we went from hero to zero and I'll keep this story very tight. But afford it allowed people to buy products online using weekly payments. It was kind of a firm 12 years ago, folks are, are familiar with the affirmed product. There was some regulation that didn't exactly say we couldn't continue to run afford it, but indicated that that might happen right. And I remember distinctly again, this was the hero side and there was a lot of arrogance on our part. We were about to go shop a term sheet from a very prominent VC. When I say shop it, I mean we're going to try to create a bidding war. Regulation comes down and all of a sudden we've got the scarlet letter and I think full partner pitches, it was above 50 and that's not like analysts pitches, that's like legit, full partner pitches, which was tremendously stressful and probably cost us years of our lives, which was unbelievable because the pitches went really well, which is why getting to the partner meetings, you know, was such an important marker. And then all of a sudden, like you said, things turned sideways and everyone's saying, no, we go from term sheet to everybody, you're looking like, like we're going to give them Covid into the room, right? And what we had expected. And I think this is part of the heart of what we're gonna talk about today. Well we had expected were to get external signals. External signals would have been from, let's say our investors, let's start there to say, hey guys. You know what, like when things are going good. Here's what they look like when things are going. The way they look with you right now, it ain't gonna end well. Right. But we didn't get that. Yeah man, it's interesting you say that because they'll give you appropriately, you know, everybody kind of sits down and agrees to the next big milestone. And in the capital intensive business, like afford it, we knew that we were going to have to raise big dollars, right. We're gonna eventually have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in At every stage of the fundraising process. We're looking for a milestone and I remember $10 million dollar run rate being a very specific milestone. Now, the other side to that coin is What if you don't hit $10 million? We never talked about that. Right. Right. Exactly. And like, so, so play that out. So we're out there again, killing ourselves trying to raise capital. All of our investors, We had nine different investors. As Elliott mentioned, well known investors. They all knew that this was not going to happen to this day. Actually. This is hilarious. I just got an email from one of the investors like three hours ago. This is what it's like 13 years later. I'm not even kidding. He's a great guy. So I'm not knocking him, but I just got an email 13 years later, one of our investors, I can't make this up asking us if a florida is done. I mean that's you said no, we just changed our name to affirm and things are going very, very well. I was, I mean, again, that's how far off we're talking. Oh yeah, we, we, you know, we were buried somewhere in a google doc of investments he's made. And for some odd reason, he scanned down and saw a ford and was like, oh, I'm gonna email. Well, I wonder how this is going. I mean, thanks obviously. Like he knew it was shut down, but he was just asking me like, hasn't officially been wound down. I need to clear out the books, things like that. But just to put this in perspective, that was 13 years ago, since it's absolutely insane, whole different world. So here's, here's why this is so important for us as founders and kind of Elliot, you know, journey you and I went through first things is as we're losing momentum in the race as we're running out of money, it wasn't clear to us what was going to happen next. I had never run out of money before. Right. You know, I was always building startups and they were growing, I was never the part where I was relying on venture to to sustain the business. And so I don't think you or I understood exactly what was going to happen when that money ran out and it wasn't total ignorance. We just had assumed because we had a board of advisors, those are all smart folks that understood capital raising well that they would sit down with us and say, look, you know, again, it's not going to happen. Here is kind of what a shutdown process looks like, et cetera. None of that. It was more like, Hey, where are you guys from? The capital race? Well, Ellie and I are half dead and we've pitched, you know, 50 people in a constant state of panic attack. Things are going well. Thanks guys. Yeah. Okay, cool. Well you know, let us know when you've, you've completed the capital raise. Like it was, it was bizarre. Let me say this though. And you know, I want, I want to make sure that there's some, some nuggets of hope and or education that that comes from this one is don't take it personally by the way, that's really, really freaking hard again because you build relationships with these people, you know, playing liars dice with them in a bar in Palo alto. Right? So you think, I mean, so you think you build relationships. So one is, don't take it personally in two ask the reverse milestone questions very, very, very specifically and stay on them. I mean you don't want to be, look an investor doesn't want to invest in somebody that doesn't have confidence. So you don't want to say, oh, well, you know what if we don't make this amount of money, You don't want to make that a constant topic of discussion. But as your, your savings, so to speak, your, your runway is dwindling. Hey guys with $50,000 left, here's where we stand right now. I need to know specifically how you want to be involved in this or how you don't want to be involved in this. So there's no guessing game at that point, correct. I agree. And and let me ask you this then, do you feel then and, and now that it was the investor's job to raise their hand and say, hey man, you know, time to fold the tense man. It's such a good question. And the funny thing is like you and I are now at an age and an experienced level where you know, we're the same age as some of these VC partners were when they invested. So, you know, we're kind of on the other side of this table now a little bit. Um, I'm going to be very honest. I don't think, I think in our situation, yes, they should have given us more guidance and here's why I say that it's not their job, but they did know the score. Okay, now let me be specific with the score. They knew what are what we needed, where we needed to go. We were you especially were very, very deliberate in reporting our progress. So, so they knew what was happening with the business. Now, here's the third piece to this and this is the part I want to beat this up for a little bit. They also knew it was both of our first times raising venture capital and both of our first times going through this process. Okay, So let me stick with that for two seconds. If they would have they, they thought, look and here's what they should be thinking or maybe would have been thinking lots of entrepreneurs that have lots of success. Don't have it in their 1st, 2nd or third startup. Right. Right. These guys are talented. They got something out to market. It didn't work out. But I want to make sure that we maintain a killer relationship because they may come back to the well and I want first shot at their deal. That's a great point. Why weren't they thinking that? I'm thinking about, I don't know if I can name them, but I'm, I'm thinking about a good friend of yours and a former co founder of yours that grew on, you know, grew an astronomically large business. But he had such a good, you can, you can tell the story a little more if it's okay. He had such a good relationship from a failed startup that he was able to raise and partner with some of those same VCS. I agree with you. I think that from an investor standpoint, sometimes it's hard to look past the moment. You know, they're looking at, hey, all I know is I'm about to lose, you know, x amount of dollars in this deal. I'm not really thinking about, you know, I want to fund these guys again, but I would have liked to have have somebody sat, sat us down to at least say, hey guys, you know, as I told you when I invested, I'm going to advise you at different stages. This just happens to be one of those stages. You're at a point right now where if it was going to happen, it would have probably happened by now if you've done 50 partner pitches and every single person has said no, there's blood in the water with your name right now. Right. The likelihood that you're going to come out of this is low. I'm not going to tell you it's impossible. But let me just tell you, you know, statistically, the probability of you getting out of this one. Now, going back to what we said earlier, the investors don't have a real incentive to do that. You know, that there, I think I used the, the, the analogy of the investor is like a coach, you know, on the field and that coach is never going to pull you off the field, You're puking between your legs between periods. You're just never gonna get, yeah, they're just never going to throw to you again. Yeah, exactly. Right. And so, but I would argue, I think that's the right thing to do. I think as the investor, as the adviser, it's the right thing to do to coach the founder, even if sometimes those outcomes aren't exactly to your benefit. I think it's just as a person, that's the right thing to do. I think it's a low cost proposition on their side and I can appreciate. And this isn't the, we hate investors podcast by the way. We like investors, but it's both humane and I think appropriate on their side. I mean, you know, VC partners and our agent investors are busy, But they're not, you know, thoracic surgeons, right. They can take 15-20 minutes to jump on a call and tell you what's what In those 15-20 minutes could be really meaningful. I agree. And you know, what also happens is everyone assumes someone else is going to have that conversation with you. You know, I was gonna mention that now are dynamic was a little bit different because while we had some, some big name investors, our lead was a pretty new fund. Should you recall obviously you do recall and I still like that fund and I still like those guys. So I do want to say in this case there may have been some ignorance or lack lack of experience on their side too or am I giving them an out? Well, you know, the other thing that's a small part of this, but given kind of the title of this podcast, founder, mental health or overall health was just starting to become an actual data point that anybody cared about. You know, I would argue we still have a long way to go, but 2007, no one gave a ship about. Yeah, I was gonna say it was still burn out as a badge of honor. The more you're on a plane, the better raise as much as you can, you know, celebrate your anxiety, depression means progress. It was a weird, it was just a weird fucking time it was. And, and, and again, I don't think uh and I'm not trying to give the investors now, but I just, again, times do change. I think at that moment in time it was you invest in people, you write them into the, into the ground and when they can't go any further, you just kind of jump to the next one. And again, that was, that was how everybody kind of ran business back then. And it wasn't that long ago and I would argue that we're not light years ahead of that were marginally ahead of that. We're at a point where you can have a podcast like this where people can start to actually talk about the the toll it was taking on us physically and mentally and people actually care for the first time. So I'd like to believe That in 2020 when we're recording this podcast, that if we were in the same situation that the environment would be a touch better. I don't believe it would be a ton better. It's interesting. Well, so a unique compliment I will give. The millennial entrepreneur class is they won't tolerate it. They literally won't tolerate it. And you know, you've got some of the smartest young budding entrepreneurs. I'm thinking about the guys from like Brexit mean 23 24 year old people, they have a very different mindset. And if you don't treat them appropriately in their minds and if you don't give their emotions, they're do, they're not going to work with you. We just kind of, you know, we, you and I are, you know, gen x, you know, grin and barrett mentality. Right. Right. Which, which in this case was not helpful. No man. No. Yeah. I think there's, I think I truly think it's a good course correct in that way. Okay, so let's take the investors off the hook for a second. In other words, let's assume that there's a very good chance that as, as we're trying to build our company, that investors aren't necessarily going to be the way finder that we're looking for to tell us that, you know, maybe this isn't the right way to, we shouldn't continue going and by the way, and maybe you don't have any investors at all. So, you know, that isn't even an option. Who else would you look to to kind of to step back and say, hey Elliot, it's, it's probably not going to work. You know, we should probably shut this thing down there. Like whether they would or not isn't the point, but okay, so, okay, so this is an interesting, who else would I have imagined is really important because now going through the process, I fully appreciate and understand why not. This is gonna sound bizarre. I kind of expected the staff to raise their hand. Kind of how how could they not? Because you're all sinking in the submarine together, It's like they don't know what's going on exactly. And look, we were, we were a small and lean team, so you're exactly right. Everybody knew that, you know, our boat was about to sink, why they were young man, but why do you think nobody raised their hand and said, hey guys, um I'm out like, this isn't working well. Actually, it's a good, you know, I think the boat analogy of the submarine analogy might be apt in this case because there's that adage that, you know, the captain goes down with the ship and I think when you're an employee on payroll and maybe you have a little bit of stock in the company. I think you're optionality is just so dramatically different, right? And I don't want to discount the amount of belief people put into a company when they go to work there or how their lives are interrupted again, I totally respect all of that. However, it's not quite the same if the company is going sideways, Oh, great. Example, if we work goes sideways, the folks that work at, we work our piste, you know, their stock is not going to work out, you know, they might get fired etcetera or laid off and that's awful. I'm not knocking that. But Adam neumann in this case, he made a whole hundreds of millions of dollars. This is going to sound like a very good analogy, but but Adam neumann either way is tied to this thing. Like maybe he negotiated a great out for himself. But either way he's tethered to it in a different way. As the founders, we can't just quit. I mean technically we can and there's a whole episode we've done on that, but we're very tied to this thing. Yeah. And look, the investors, our dollars our time. Yeah, we are we are going to go down with the ship for a lot of reasons and I agree that while the staff has, you know, they are taking a leap because working at a startup, I mean even back then is still a nontraditional path. They're not going to ride this thing to the bottom of the ocean as well. They shouldn't. Right. I mean, the truth is the founders made commitments to a whole host of people. We have one to many relationships. The founders made commitments to a whole bunch of investors. They made commitments to a whole bunch of employees. They made commitments to a whole bunch of customers, to the media indirectly, et cetera. Not to mention friends and family. They put themselves on a pedestal at center stage for this whole thing. If the founder leaves tomorrow, everyone notices it. If the person who's like the, you know, 10th higher leaves, like the people internally will notice, but literally no one else will notice that the optionality is dramatically different. The other piece to this is the staff being, and I'm going to say this clearly appropriately selfish, right? They should have self interest. Yes. There's no doubt in my mind that specifically with afford it, the development team, the sales team, logistics team. Everybody knew she was going sideways. Okay. But they also knew they were still getting paid. And I'm saying, this is cool, this is, this is legit. So there was no version of folks saying, raising their hand and saying fold the tents and because fold the tents also means stop paying me. Oh, good point. You know what they are saying is okay? We know ships going sideways. There's no doubt in my mind they were looking for other gigs as they should, but they also don't want to disrupt their primary source of income before they have another, another source of income. You know, I hadn't thought about that. I don't know why I didn't think about that. It's so obvious when you say it. But yeah, there's no version at lunch where lead developer is gonna be like, you know what man, We should just fold the tents on this thing. Like whatever money we have, let's just give that back to the investors, make sure they get out clean. You know, we want to make sure that that were investable for another one. I can't even imagine like why that kind of conversation. You know what's funny? I mean, look, you might get now we take it with a grain of salt. You might get contrary advice from certain people on your staff that are thinking to themselves, Okay. I can probably find a job in 90 days, given my credentials. I've got, I've got stuff out there. That's my timeline. I want to keep the founding team hyped up around this thing so they don't do something drastic. Oh, that's interesting. Yeah, I guess the moment folks know things are even going 10% wrong. They're updating their resume. You know, they're exactly as they should. Right? But to your point, none of that behavior translates into, here's a discernible reason to pull the founders aside and you know, tell them, please, man, just stop killing yourself. You know, let's, let's let this one go. I agree. 100% there. So, you know, you've got, you've got your staff, you've got the investors. But I want to talk for a second about the group and maybe it was my maturity level at the time that truly shattered my ego the most. And that was friends and family. Uh Yeah, of course, because that's that's exponential, right? You've got so many deep ties there. How did it feel to you? In other words, what did that look like to you? So, you know, whenever you're doing a startup, you know, you're you're taking a unique path, right? And you've got friends and family and if they're not from an entrepreneurial background and most aren't and that's cool, they're going to question that path all the way through and they're going to say, you know, I'll use my dad as an as an example. You know, why not stay in big Co and grow through that, right? There's there's less risk, there's probably more time. But there's tremendous upside, right? Okay. And you get so excited about this idea, so excited about this problem that you're willing to go directly against all those naysayers and say, you know what? You know, I feel like it's it's like almost like an actor moving to Hollywood, I'm gonna go chase this thing down to a degree. I'll show you, I'll show you exactly, you're all wrong, right? And then You have to come back, I mean, and then you literally have to, you know, you then you ride the proverbial train back from Hollywood back to your midwestern town, you're dressed in rags in my analogy, and you're getting off like a cargo train that never happens. It's somehow the 1930 and it's so awkward, right? It's so awkward. And because people know what happened, they know that they they in their mind told you so, for no other reason, in some cases, and they were trying to protect you and now you got to live with that. So, actually, let me ask you this, do you think that for for us, trying to use our friends and family as a signal to know when to shut this thing down. Do you think it's maybe our own ego that prevents us from wanting to listen to that signal? How painful is that? No doubt about it, and we can't control it. We are So, I mean, we're in so deep at this point with investors, we've moved we've used our money, we again, we've used investor money, we have a team of people. And to be fair, you gotta have some ego to start to build a startup, and I say ego, I want to make sure that I'm clear you have to have some confidence to build a startup, because you're saying I can solve this problem better than anybody else out there and people will pay for it, right? That's a bold fucking statement. Just by, you know, by nature. That's a bold statement. So, you've got ego coming into this thing and it's very, very, it's very, very hard when you have kind of built that confidence and built that veneer to at the end of the day say I couldn't do it, I failed. Okay, that's really interesting because we're saying the other two groups had no incentive to tell you to quit and in, in this group we have no incentive to agree with them. Isn't that funny? You know, my wife came to me around this time as you recall, I was in the worst shape of my life. In fact, you remember I showed you I think this last week or whatever, a picture of what I looked like at the end of this horrid affair, It was, it was a Benjamin button situation. It was so bad. I looked like an 80 year old man and I think I I was like 37 right? I look like a before and after, I'm almost 47 Now I look at it before and after of like me at this stage being 37 me like run hard at 47. It's unbelievable. Like the just the physical toll it took on me and my wife comes to me and she's like, you're in horrible shape right? In other words, she wasn't doing what I told you. So this was genuinely, hey man, you are not in a good place, like you were just like, you're one of the most happiest optimistic people. I know. And I've never seen someone run themselves so far into the ground and now when you look at the photographic evidence of like kind of the difference, it's hard to believe I even made it that far. But the bigger point is she kind of like rang the bell and I think this is so appropriate because she wasn't saying, hey, you failed. She was saying you're in a bad spot dude, we need to get you out of this now if you stick with that. Okay. Within friends and family and I like, I like my family, like my friends, there are still only 2 to 3 That 1000% have my best interest in mind. Okay. And I'll even include siblings, like some siblings and I have enough rivalry and we're competitive enough that I wouldn't listen to their advice because I'm thinking in my little immature, feeble brain, I'm thinking, well they're just trying to hold me back so I can't beat them. Right? That's old Elliot. Right? Okay. But to your point, like with your wife, there are some people that just genuinely I care about you and they'll give you the real talk. They'll give you the real advice just like I won't say her name, but just like your wife gave you. Yeah, exactly. But here's what broke it. This is the funniest thing, not like a week later and not connected to anything. I just happen to be having lunch with another founder and we're just catching up on just random stuff. You know, we're obviously kind of trading stories and how our businesses are going. He tells me his story, things are going well, they're raising some money, whatever, and then I tell my story and I call, yeah, you know, man, it's, we're really trying to make it work, but we've been out raising now for about a year and a half. We've done 50 meetings, somehow got nose across the board. Now this whole, the market's changed, you know, with the market crashing and everything else like that and I'll never forget this. He looks at me like, oh man, I'm sorry, you guys are done and you're like, you're like, huh? I'm done. I'll never know. I said we're raising money. I'll never forget it. Like he wasn't even, he wasn't trying to be a jerk. In fact, I don't even think he had any concept of the magnitude of the words that came out of his mouth, but he happened to be the first person that ever told me point blank that it was game over and at this point I haven't been paid in years. I mean we were you relieved. Um I was, I was shocked. Like how dare you, right? And yet, you know when somebody just makes a very honest assertion and no matter how piste off you are, you just, it pisces you off more because you know, it's true. Oh yeah, right. I was like, you know, you know, fuck you write it felt so offensive and yet number one, he was not only not trying to be offensive. He was just being a matter of fact because all of the facts were in front of me, right? I just chose to ignore them. The only difference is he just assumed that I had already um I had already come to the same conclusion because it was so logical. Oh yeah. And so I remember. Yeah. Yeah. I mean like like yeah, yeah. You have no employees. Your business doesn't run anymore. You have no no investors. Like, like why would you have any other conclusion? And I remember walking home in santa Monica from that meeting, being devastated and just being like I, I felt embarrassed. I felt defeated at the very least. And it was, it was the first real like hard loss that I had taken from a startup standpoint and it was at that very moment and the irony is totally unintentionally Right. The guy was going to that meeting and catch up on high five. Mm hmm. But so then I thought about it a lot afterwards and I thought about it as of all the data points you and I were expecting to get an answer from why was it that person that had like an unabashed no questions, you know, asked answer. And my thought is because the only person that had no skin in the game. Mhm. And they were a founder. There it is. Yeah, that's exactly it. I mean that's that's the perfect archetype to tell you, you're done not, not your staff, not your investors, certainly not your friends and family, but another founder that's been there and done that, right? And then all of a sudden it crystallizes and you're like, oh, oh shit. I think, I think they're right, it would be the equivalent of tom brady and Michael, Jordan's having lunch and tom was like, yeah, you know, I'm thinking I'm going to wrap with the patriots and I'm going to sign with the bucks and Jordan's like, are you out of your mind you're done, dude? He's like, do you can't shoot anymore. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I mean right, like you get to a point where I think there's only really, you know, definitively one type of person that can, can give you the answer you're looking for, which I think is an important place for us to kind of point this conversation, which is to say If you're even 50% sure that you're in this position right now, you know that the business is flagging for whatever reason. And to be fair, every startup is at some point, but just, you know, your mileage may vary and you're looking for the queues, You know, it's there, you know, something's wrong, but you can't figure out while no one's told you, ask a founder actually hell, ask us email us at therapy at startups dot com and we will, we're not going to tell you to shut your business, but unless it's appropriate. But we'll tell you because we don't have skin in the game in the right way. All we care about is you as a founder. Right? Well, just look at that and say, look, I get all the signals, but based on kind of how this whole thing moves. This is probably the time to pack it up. And actually let me say this, think of the cost of not packing it up. Think of, think of what you went through. Just person we both did. But like, you know, and from your standpoint, how painful was not packing it up for you. I mean emotionally, physically, financially it was probably one of the most painful experiences I've had to go through, which I know sounds trite because we're talking about folding up a silicon valley back startup. But it was um, again, it was like, hey, you, you always wanted to be a professional athlete and or actor and you got a chance to go play at that level and they cut you right. Or if you're an actor, you got a chance to get on a movie set and they said it ain't gonna work, right, right? So it was really sad. I want to address the talk to a founder and I think it's incredibly important. And here, here's a specific piece of advice. Talk to a founder that has both won and lost total, okay. And here's why. And I know, you know, this will, if it's a founder that's only lost, they're going to project their own experience on you and say fold the tent, never raise money again, Go get a corporate job. This is fucking bullshit. Right? Okay. If you talk to a founder, that's only one. They're gonna say, stick with it, Stick with that startup. You know, here at zoom. We had bumps too. But we made it work, right, right. They're gonna give you the the the the other side of the coin. But if somebody is won and lost, they're gonna give you that's us, man. I mean, they're going to give you a really objective view to say, okay, you know, this is what it is in this, this should be your next move. And it's okay. They will also tell you ideally, if you're talking to the right person that what this is costing you isn't just financial. This isn't just about how much money is in your corporate bank account anymore or even to some degree, your own bank account, it's someone that can kind of take stock of where you're at mentally and just say enough, man, get off this train because it's leading nowhere. In fact, there is a point in the startup. And again, you and I went through this where you're no longer building anything. You're only destroying yourself. You're destroying yourself absolutely in you and I are total video game nerds. And we talk hit points all the time. And the other side to this is, look, you can start, I get it, you can start a business when you're 58, you can start a business when you're when you're 70. But the reality is you only have so much pissed vinegar gumption, hit points to do this to line up and do it again. Only a few different times, right? So if we would have played our game for seven years, I don't think we would have had the energy and or desire and or optimistic outlook to launch startups dot com. 100%. 100%. Yeah, that's a great point because the truth is, you know, we we do have a fairly narrow window to do great things, but almost an infinite window to destroy ourselves. And so if we think we're at a point now where the walls are closing in both financially, physically, you know, as far as our physical health, our mental health, etcetera, we really owe it to ourselves to go start seeking honest non biased feedback from people who not only care about us, but can also step back from the startup itself and say whether it's this startup, another, I don't care, I care about you and your outcome. And in my experience, and I love what you said about having won and lost, this is why it's time to fold the tents and move on and this is how to do it Well, oh, absolutely. One other point and it's probably, you know, could be an entire additional podcast, but you don't always have to be Down to your last $7,000 to say it's time to fold the tent. And I'm thinking about some of your close friends that had a startup that had raised $20 million and we're doing $2 million in revenue and they were never going to raise another round and they working to grow from there. So they were just absolutely stuck. Yes. Zombie situation. Yeah, man, Yeah, they're venture handcuffs and then they, they do that for the next seven years and all of a sudden they're like, okay, I have no liquidity, I was getting paid lower than my actual wage and those seven years are gone. But again, that's, that's a whole nother, that's a whole nother conversation. It is. And you know, I had that call from another founder last week and it's the same thing, we were on the phone for nearly two hours and you know what he said to me, he said at the end of the call, he said, I have consulted everybody about where I stand, not a single person has told me what you just told me and he's and he said, and it pissed me off. You know, that basically once, once you laid out what the situation really was no different than my friend inadvertently kind of laid out for me by just saying, hey, I guess it's over. He's like everything became totally clear that bad feedback, feedback or that that lack of, of pointing feedback also probably cost him another eight months of his life as he was trying to figure out what to do. If it kills me, it kills me to think. And I think for, for more and more founders, we should be able to, to reach out and get an objective state of the union and we may choose not to use that advice, but not having it, having to stick with with broken signals from folks that are, you know, completely leveraged on where they are in the deal, whether their employers, investors, etcetera, is going to time and time again lead us to a horrible place. I think we need to seek out that, that that objective advice 100% and look for you and I were, our mission is literally just to help create more founders or launch more founders. It's so salient because we're saying you have these wildly talented people that get trapped and they're losing their years, they're losing their optimism there. They're kind of losing their zest to be an entrepreneur, hence why I 100% agree that if people want to literally right into us and say, what should I do next? Not if we can't answer that question, we've been doing this long enough that we probably have somebody that's been in your exact spot as a winner and loser and could give you the right advice there. The point is I want to get people out of paralysis so they can go get on with their lives, be happy and do something else.
Wil Schroter: That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on
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