Today is my last day as a full-timer at Famigo. It's been a great 2+ years, and I'm very grateful for all the things I've learned and all the friends I've made. However, it's time for my next adventure. Next week, we move to Seattle where new, big challenges await. (I'll go into more detail on my new job in a later post.)
Why are we leaving? We've built fabulous products at Famigo, raised VC money, had lots of cool stuff written about us, and the company continues to charge ahead. Not only that, we have great friends in this city and a wonderful house. Why go? Well, all of this startup stuff has been way more complicated than I expected. Allow me to explain.
You Can't Put Life On Hold
I joined Famigo at the ground-level as cofounder and CTO. My plan was to immerse myself in my work and make this company a great success. I knew that would probably take years, but I was ready to make the commitment. In true comedic fashion, we immediately found out that my wife was pregnant. All of a sudden, questions about user retention and referral mechanisms looked trivial compared to questions about diaper rash and tummy time.
My plan to put real life on hold and focus on the startup failed in a million different ways. We had health issues, car issues, house issues, and family issues. Not only was all of that stressful for our entire family on top of the startup rollercoaster, it was also expensive. And, unfortunately, I couldn't pay for any of these expenses with Famigo stock options, even if I offered them with no vesting and a ridiculously low strike price. (Note to American economy: come on, man!)
Even more than the issue of money, there's the issue of time. The idea of doing a startup is something that had appealed to me for a long time. It was my dream. After a couple of years, I began to realize that my dream was causing all other dreams to be deferred. We wanted more kids, my wife wanted to take some time to be a stay at home mom, we wanted to give my son a neat childhood with plenty of adventure. Slowly, I began to realize that pursuing this startup dream to the exclusion of everything else was a little bit selfish.
The lifecycle of a startup wasn't what I was expecting. There's a lot written about huge successes like Instagram, where lots of good things happened. There's also a decent amount written about startup failures, where lots of bad things happen. There's not much written about all the startups in the middle, where you experience some success but Facebook isn't exactly shaking in its boots.
Everything was a surprise; that goes for just about every good and bad thing that happened to us. You can read about startups all day long, but ultimately, that's no preparation for the experience itself. Deals take way longer or way shorter than expected, helpful people appear or disappear as if by magic, and the key human relationships beneath the business can spontaneously combust. Not all of these surprises are bad, but they are a constant.
The tough part about all of the surprises is that it makes it impossible to plan anything. That's tough, because things like families, investors, and employees like to know what might happen next. Do the inherent surprises behind a startup ever end? I'd venture a guess, but then life would find a way to surprise me.
Do It Anyway, But Do It Right
Given what I've written thus far, would I do this again? Would I recommend this experience to others? Absolutely. I have had a blast, I've learned so much, and I have met some of my best friends this way. I am incredibly proud of the entire experience. I also discovered an unexpected benefit: if you're a technical person and you do it right, people notice.
When I say 'do it right', I mean build something fabulous that people know about. Both parts of that are equally important. As an introspective person, I feel weird drawing attention to the work I do, either here on this blog or on Twitter. (You probably would not guess this from the giant ego fest that is my website!) It simply must be done, though. If you don't do it, no one will, and then you run the risk of all your hard work never getting the notice it deserves.
If you do manage to build something fabulous that people know about, you will be inundated with incredible opportunities. Then, when you decide you need to find your own next adventure, you will quickly find something great. That's what I did. Onwards!