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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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SayAhh Has Shut Down

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Our friends Dick and Jane have decided to disband their company. The last two months had been tough for Dick and Jane – each of them felt the other wasn’t living up to their commitments. Praveena was working hard on the product, but as she observed the tension mounting between Dick and Jane, she started answering calls and emails from the recruiters who had been hounding her since she left her previous job.

One night, a few weeks ago, Dick finally acknowledged to Jane that he was feeling incredible financial pressure. Dick and his wife Mary never really had agreed that Dick should take the plunge and start SayAhh. Dick was struggling to admit that he wasn’t fully committed to this path, even though he had been really excited about starting the company. While he was taking a salary, it was modest, didn’t cover his monthly expenses, and the combination of financial and daily work pressure were causing a lot of friction at home. Dick told Jane that Mary was being awesome and that she’d keep being supportive, but it wasn’t working for them as a couple.

Jane was surprised but calm. She felt it was important to bring Praveena into the loop since since they were all partners now. Over dinner, Dick, Jane, and Praveena discussed where they were at and how Dick was feeling. Praveena acknowledged that, while her relationship wasn’t causing any stress (she was involved with the founder of another company) she was having a lot of trouble working in the unstructured environment of a startup. She admitted that she was having serious conversations with a very large technology company in town about joining them as a PM for a product she was really excited about. Dinner went on a long time, had a lot of emotion in it, but ended without any specific resolution.

Jane didn’t sleep at all that night. She couldn’t believe that she’d missed these signals with each of her partners. She thought they were each as committed to SayAhh as she was. She went through a huge range of emotions dominated by anger, frustration, sadness, and depression before getting a clear grip on what she wanted to do just as the sun started coming up. A mentor of her’s once said “don’t ever make a final decision when you are tired” and she wanted to heed that, so she decided to tell Dick and Praveena what she was thinking when they got to the office, but leave it open for a final decision through the end of the weekend.

The conversation in the office was anti-climactic. Each of the partners had the same sleeplessness night and they all shared that as hard as it was to admit, they didn’t feel like they could go forward as a team for various reasons. It was not an angry conversation, but it was a sad one. But honest. They agreed to disband for the weekend (it was Thursday), have a long, quiet time thinking over what they wanted to do, and get back together first thing Monday morning.

On Monday, at 9am, Dick, Jane, and Praveena decided to shut SayAhh down. Dick had already talked to his previous boss who welcomed him back if he wanted to come back. Praveena had gotten a final offer from BigTechCo which she had a week to accept. And Jane had decided that she wanted to keep working on a startup, but wanted to hit reset, find different co-founders, and take more time making sure the idea was sound before they started spending any money.

They had $32,000 left of the original $70,000 in the bank after paying off all of their bills. The founders decided to split the remaining $32,000 between Jane and Praveena based on their capital investment, so Jane got 5/7ths and Praveena got 2/7ths. Jane took on the task of winding everything down, sending out notes to all of the people who had helped them, and Dick, Jane, and Praveena agreed to collectively hold their heads high, stay friends, and be glad that they called it quits before things spun out of control.

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