📻 — Building is Hard: Don’t Get Discouraged, Get Help, Stay In Community.

Reading Time: ~ 5 min.

Good morning yeniverse!

I hope you had a relatively-painless weekend! I mean, just speaking honestly about it all… running a startup is hard and if you’ve also got a family (with 3 kids111!!!111!!!) the weekends can go “south” really, really quickly if folks are having a bad time.

But hey; that’s life. Onward! Besides, this is a very big week for us as a small technology team as we’re doing a significant architectural migration on our backend which will help our small mvp get ready for the scale! I’m so grateful for the help and support of some of our early-testers!

Per usual, a few great links for creators, business / community builders:

  1. UIflow. Learning platform for teens. eCommerce with no backend.
  2. Webinar highlights. Free vector emojis. 3 ways to make money.
  3. Share demos. Drag/drop editor. NoCode to support community.
  4. Future is websockets. Stealth bomber. More productive. Podroom.
  5. Troll research. Decentralized communities. Typescript. Gmail. WTF.
  6. Ram’s palettes. Design systems at a startup. Golfballs @ 45k feet.
  7. Reversible computing. Bloody meetings. Brave + Tailcat. Spacs.
  8. How to destroy the earth. GoatOps. Pendulum death. Funded.
  9. $100k for high school basketball players. China. Skywalker.
  10. Speed is everything. How hard can it be? What doesn’t change.

Oh, and I’m looking to hire a product manager! Let me know if you know of anyone that might fit the bill!

To infinity & community,

— john

I shared a few personal notes on “startups in 13 sentences” last week and a handful of yenizens sent me personal notes because it resonated so deeply and so personally.

I do love these personal notes… feel free to hit me up anytime!

And to that end I wanted to share one of our community member’s thoughts as they build a venture-backed (and YC-backed — congrats!!) startup:

Here’s what Enoch Ko has to say — I hope this is encouraging for all of you as well! This stuff is hard! Don’t quit!

Thanks for sharing, John! I tried to sign in through YEN and send you through there but it was taking a bit long to do just that. But I’ve put together below as well for my small team too:

  1. Launching early — We launched early many times, that also means trying to sell something that’s not built yet. That let us understand whether customers would even want it. Turns out, file-organizer wasn’t really it.
  2. Let your idea evolve — I’m a big believer in this. This might not be so necessary if you don’t mind running a smaller business but that means you would need to choose a more niche market, and then commit yourself with that market no matter what since it doesn’t matter if you get really big or not. Many companies I know pivoted more than a few times: Changing the whole customer segment, or changing the whole team and almost all startups iterated. And iteration never stops, focusing on a specific few features.
  3. Understand your users — This is something I started realizing this year (after YC really) that “understanding” in this context is a lot deeper understanding than I thought. It’s understanding their incentives, understanding why behind almost all actions, understanding where they are going, where were they before. Where do they hang out? It’s much harder than you think!
  4. Offer surprisingly good customer service — This! As we focus more on a specific product direction, I think this will become easier since we’re being pulled in so many different ways at the moment.
  5. You make what you measure — This is exactly one of the reason why I like to go in details in accountability, or sometimes growth numbers. We’re not doing this with revenue yet, and we will soon. We will do this with what we got done, and what we couldn’t get done. You’d be surprised by the difference of doing this and not doing this.
  6. Spend little — This is becoming less true since most startups are well funded these days, but everyone seems to agree that it takes 2X, but most likely 3X longer to get to product market fit. You gotta understand that 70% of YC startup that raise seed round (1 million plus) fails because they couldn’t get to PMF with the money. That shows how hard it is. I’m glad that we’re not paying ourselves too much at this time and not spending on fancy offices. We do spend a bit on eating out at this time, but I’m doing that for a reason — we lose more time by eating unhealthy food, etc.
  7. Get ramen-profitable — I was talking to one of the YC partners about this last week. Less and less companies are doing this because people think of startup as an endeavor they can just give up after certain amount of time. I think this should still be done (hence why we were doing review engagements, etc) since it actually increases the morale by far more. You haven’t worked at a company that has less than 100k with 20 employees and with not much revenue and at the mercy of investors — it’s terribly demoralizing. This is why I’m going to be extremely careful with hiring or raising salary until we are actually making good revenue.
  8. Don’t get demoralized — It’s so easy to say this as an investor or outsider, and even by employees, but trust me, it’s so hard. Founders biggest enemy is getting demoralized; most founders get demoralized too early and many times, founders just return the funding back to investors. Why is it so hard to keep going when you are demoralized? Every day feels like a complete struggle, your personal bank account is dwindling, customers aren’t happy and prospects aren’t buying, investors ignore you and you feel smaller and smaller, your girlfriend is telling you that your life sucks, your parents think you aren’t calling often, your friends don’t invite you to hangout, you start to believe that you might be just stupid (no matter what your previous accomplishment tells you).
  9. Don’t give up — I disagree on this one with Paul Graham (founder of YC) since it’s easy to say it as an investor’s perspective. Even he said he wanted to give up and that’s why he was desperate to get acquired (his company got acquired by Yahoo when they were big) and he did, and he never wanted to start another company after that. I think it’s totally okay to give up but I think most people give up too early. I think it’s okay to give up to be a VC-backed company. If you’ve raised a lot of money, giving up might actually mean that you gotta shut down the business though. I think startup life is miserable for most founders, sadly but it doesn’t have to be.
  10. Deals fall through — People in startup are very optimistic by nature and they need to be, otherwise, they wouldn’t join the startup or believe that they can “change” the world or make an impact. This is same for getting customers, getting investors, getting acquisition deals, hiring talents, etc. Everyone gives you falls hope and when the “deal” falls through, it can get extremely demoralizing because you might’ve been relying on that to happen. So we need to stay skeptical until the money is in the bank, etc.


I love the transparency, honesty, and humility. It takes a lot of courage to do an early-stage startup, especially one in an accelerator or one that’s raised venture financing!

This is why I tell every creator, every startup founder, and every small business owner: You need a strong community to make your dreams come true; it’s the only way you’ll survive the hardship of a building the project, community, and business of your dreams!

Because it can get really lonely and we need friends for the journey:

Don’t get discouraged:

  1. Stay in community…
  2. Stay in community…
  3. Stay in community…

We are stronger, together.™️

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