Hackernoon logoI'm Failing at Building a Startup and Here's Why - Part 1: The Problem by@alberta

I'm Failing at Building a Startup and Here's Why - Part 1: The Problem

Alberta Williams Hacker Noon profile picture

@albertaAlberta Williams

Software engineer and creator of Your Convo. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve made the decision to leave my job to start my own company. The objective--to take over Twitter and Facebook. The idea--a social network where you can create chat rooms to talk about any topic. I know. I know. Not another social network.

Not another chat app. But like any proud tech entrepreneur I believe my idea is special and unique. This may be my first point of failure. Working on an untested idea because I’m more interested in solving a technical problem.

My current goal is launching an MVP and getting beta testers.  I have about seven months of savings which is seven months to get it done. However I have already begun to run into problems.

The psychology of starting a startup

The process of quitting was difficult. Difficult because I had to lie about the reason. Even more difficult because I had to repeat the lie to several people. I would have loved to say how much I hated it there.

But I was advised not to burn any bridges so I bit my tongue. It was interesting how everyone assumed I would be going to another job. Technically, I am. It’s just my own. But I would never tell them that. My ego is too fragile to stand words of discouragement. 

I’ve always wanted to work for myself, but I was motivated to start now because of an email I received. It was an invitation to participate in Startup School’s build sprint contest.

Startup School is a program by Y Combinator that teaches you how to start a company. Y Combinator also runs an accelerator program where they will invest $125K into your startup. I had to fill out an application as part of the build sprint, which I was going to do anyway.

For me that is life changing money. It would buy me years. Seven months just isn’t enough time to see if I will be successful. Problem number two. If only I had saved in my younger years.

It’s been a week since I finished the program and my excitement has begun to wane. I’m trying to keep my morale up, but my job takes all of my mental, spiritual, and emotional energy.

At the end of each day I revel in fantasies of figuratively killing myself. My only respite is working on the app. How do I stay motivated? Problem number three. I am the sole human working on this venture. It gets very lonely to say the least.

But that was one of the catalysts for this idea. I have a very small social network. You can count the number of friends I have on one hand. I’m hoping this app can be a way for me to meet new people first and foremost. Which brings me to problem number four — distribution.

Preparing to launch the app

Before I launch in the app store I’d like to do a private launch. There are a few options I found that let you release an app privately to testers, Google Play being one of them. I decided to sign up for a Google Play developer account since I would need to release my finished product through the Play store anyway.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to use Google. A few days after signing up, I received an email saying that my account was terminated. They claimed I had an “associated Google Play developer account” that violated their terms and conditions.

I have never had a developer account with Google. This is my first time making an Android app let alone trying to get it published. I made an appeal but to no avail. I’m just getting started and I’m already out of the game.

Sure, there are alternative markets like the Amazon app store. But that won’t suffice. Being out with Google is like being out with Walmart. How can you tell me I can’t do business with Walmart? So my hand was forced and I began looking for other distributors.

My search came down to two options — DeployGate and Firebase. What I liked about each of them is that they are free. With DeployGate, you can give testers an invite link or send an email from your dashboard with a link to download the app.

Firebase also lets you send users an invite link or add the tester’s email in your dashboard to send the download link. I like that DeployGate gives you a landing page. But I don’t like that users have to download their software in order to install the app.

I don’t like that Firebase testers have to sign in with a gmail account in order to install the app. But I decided to go with Firebase because I like that I can manage all of my tester’s email addresses from a dashboard.

With the means to distribute my app all that’s left is to give it users. Except there are none. I would say this is by far is the most important problem for me to solve. If a tree falls and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If I build an app and no one sees it, does it exist?

Maybe I should have spent a little more time on the business aspects of starting a business. However, I will always consider myself a software engineer above all else. That may come to be my downfall. And I haven’t even begun to get into the technical problems I’ll have to solve.

Final thoughts

I sit here at my computer biding my time. I’ve started writing stories (tasks) for the work I will have to do. It’s about the only thing my mind can handle until I’m free.

Besides, it’s a Friday night and I have no place to go and nothing else to do. I’m going to be on my computer anyway so it’s either this or watch episodes of Dragon Ball Z online. I’ve already completed season 5 so now I’m trying to be productive.

But it takes great skill to sit at a computer for hours uninterrupted actually doing work. Luckily I have very few interests. 

As the evening draws to an end, I can’t help but feel tired. Not from the onset of sleep, but just thinking about the work that lies ahead. It’s so much easier to show up to a job and get direct deposits every two weeks.

As an entrepreneur, if I can’t get customers to give me money then it doesn’t matter how many hours I work. That’s a lot of pressure. At least the work is rewarding. I’m finally doing something that gets me excited, that gives me a reason to wake up in the morning.

The conditions may not be perfect. But I can’t wait till they are. They may never be. But I’m willing to bet on myself. As poker legend Doyle Brunson once said, “Sometimes you have to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”


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