Here’s the exact point where a startup hurts most (and many give up): [graph]

I came across some blog posts by Jason Cohen, the founder of WP Engine and Smart Bear Software, who talks about startup pains. He included a great photo of the emotional stages you will go through with your startup – reminiscent of Gartner’s Hype Cycle. Here’s the picture (he got it from Jason L. Baptiste of Onswipe).

Note the low point somewhere in the middle called the “crash of ineptitude” :)  

And here’s what Cohen writes about it:

“You know most startups fail “only” because the founders stop working on them, and often, it’s because it’s emotionally draining. I don’t care who you are or how strong your ego is, you will have these moments — perhaps a continuous stream of moments — when you can’t take it anymore.”

“I literally cannot remember the number of times I was so overwhelmed at Smart Bear that I almost threw in the towel. Close the bank accounts, close the doors, turn off the website, bounce the email, and just stopIt’s so easy to stop. There’s so many reasons to stop.”

And that — stopping — is how most little startups actually fail.”

Paul Graham of Y Combinator wrote about the subject too (in a blog post aptly named “Die”). When startups die, he says, it’s usually because they get demoralized. Which, incidentally, is why he’s never done another startup, he admits:

“The underlying cause (of startup death) is usually that they’ve become demoralized. You rarely hear of a startup that’s working around the clock doing deals and pumping out new features, and dies because they can’t pay their bills and their ISP unplugs their server.”

“Startups rarely die in mid keystroke. So keep typing!”

“If so many startups get demoralized and fail when merely by hanging on they could get rich, you have to assume that running a startup can be demoralizing. That is certainly true. I’ve been there, and that’s why I’ve never done another startup. The low points in a startup are just unbelievably low. I bet even Google had moments where things seemed hopeless.”

“Knowing that should help. If you know it’s going to feel terrible sometimes, then when it feels terrible you won’t think “ouch, this feels terrible, I give up.” It feels that way for everyone. And if you just hang on, things will probably get better.”

Tell us in the comments: have you had these moments where you just wanted to stop everything? What did you do? What helped you get over it?

[A Smart Bear][photo: kristyhall, Flickr]

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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