Starting a company is hard….

I worked in overseas last couple of years. The experience was strange. I worked in my mother country, but it made it worse for me. If I have an advice for any Asian American thinking about going back to his/her mother country and working there, I would strongly discourage it…. Reason? That’s for another post.

While I was preparing to come back, I had an idea for a social networking company and decided to go for it. Social networking market has so many possibilities for niche markets, and combined with my recent experience, I would have a shot at it. With some but not a lot of money saved, I wanted to release a beta version if two months. That was about six months ago. Now, I have given up on the quest. Why? There are several reasons.

1. No co-founder

In the beginning, there was sort of a co-founder. I established good relationship with this guy who worked at the largest software company and had entrepreneurial mind. When I pitched my idea, he liked it and wanted to be in the game. Plan was that he would take care of all the technical stuff, while I do non-technical stuff. Working at a software company and being a software engineer before, I though he would be perfect for the job. Only problem was that he had his family and couldn’t leave his full-time job until something solid (early funding) happens. As time went on, it was obvious that he could not put as much as time he had hoped into the new venture. He had a full-time job and family. I had a family, too, but I was committed 100% to the venture. So, about a couple of months into it, he pulled out.

I don’t blame him, though. As a father and a husband, I know it’s tough thing not to be able to support the family. I could have stopped then, but I wanted to keep going. I didn’t want to give up too easily. So, I decided to use an offshore company and contract the website development out. I found a company, actually, through ex-co-founder. While I was discussing terms with them and looking for a lawyer, I also looked for another co-founder. But it proved to be much difficult.

Not only that I had to sell my idea (but I was pretty used to it by then), I had to make sure there was compatibility. When running a start-up, things would get tough at times, and I needed to make sure that things would work out. Also, I didn’t have any money to pay….except equity of the company. How do I determine what percentage is appropriate to a total stranger with no prior working relationship? Indeed, when I looked at many companies, they were all started by ex-colleagues or school friends. With no proven chemistry, it would have been tough to trust any stranger. Another thing I found out was that many entrepreneurs or to-be-entrepreneurs had their own ideas to pursue. Instead of pitching my idea, I found myself being pitched to several times.

2. No relevant experience/No track record/No stellar management team

This is pretty obvious, but when I approached investors with my idea, they all gave me the same answer. This also proves that they never say no! They told me that they liked the idea and target market, but with no relevant experience (my background is in data networking, not consumer website), track record nor A-team management team, they could invest in me and my idea. Since a good idea will fail in the market with poor execution, they were absolutely right. However, with all their contacts, if they really thought it was a good idea, they probably found a way to invest…. They also told me that if I could build the website and show early success, they could talk about funding seriously. It led me to use my funds to build a beta website.

3. Inadequate funding

Without cash, a startup will die. I had only small bit of savings, and I had to use it to run the company, pay for website development and support family at the same time. My financial resources were depleting fast. So, I picked pitching to investor route first. When it didn’t go anywhere and with no co-founder, I picked offshore development route. But, it was too late. I needed to bring in income soon. If I had won the lottery or had inherited large sum or had ultra rich and generous uncle, it would have been a different story.

4. Family

Family also put a lot of pressure on me. Kids are too young to understand and my wife supported me 100%, but it was always me. I felt like an inadequate father and husband. Things we had to cut back and things we had to forgo…. While I was pursuing my dream full-time, that constant stream of income called “paycheck” was really tempting at many occasions….

5. Keeping energy and optimistic level high

There are so many obstacles one faces when starting a company that I almost think it’s a race of who can last longest, and to last longest you have to keep energy and optimistic level high all the time. A little bit of doubt will slowly eat you away. I guess that’s why it’s important to have mentors and perhaps multiple co-founders, who can give you a pep-talk whenever you are down….

So, I’ve started looking for a full-time job this month and have had several phone interviews and a few on-site interviews. My next post would be about one of those on-site interviews.

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