Friday, May 30, 2014

Saying Goodbye In More Ways Than One

Well this it, 1ME’s last day in India. This amazing learning experience and chapter comes to a closing as I start on a new path and say goodbye to the team. I have re-written this post many times because I am not quite sure how to express my more personal thoughts. So here it goes.

Looking back at my first (First Day of a New Chapter) and recent posts (A Year Later and I Failed, The Top 5 Reasons Why), I am displaced by the emotions, questions, and confusion, both professionally and personally. I hit a rough patch for 1ME but made the needed decisions to remove the unnecessary stress points. On the personal side, I have experienced many life changes this past year, such as selling my condo, moving to a different country, quitting a paying job, watching my mom get re-married, giving a eulogy for my best friend, Jonathan, of 15+ years, and recently becoming an Uncle. My professional and personal life has merged into one as much as I have tried not to let each aspect affect the other. As a result, I have been in state of blah (to simply put it) dealing with a tremendous amount of stress and dark emotions which have been soften by happy moments. Every day has been a challenge and every night has been another sleepless encounter.

As I wrap up my time and close the office here in India, I have been trying to face the reality that this is the first time I will be home since I left for Penn State. I am not ready to come home because I am not ready to face this reality. I head out with Christian today, stopping in Delhi to check out the Taj Mahal and other sites for a couple days. From there, we part ways as he heads home and I buy a one way ticket to somewhere. After working literally every day for the company since I decided to do it full-time, I’m mentally exhausted. After leaving home 13 years ago and have no choice but to return, I’m at a lost.

Those that know me, know that I rather work than play, giving up hanging out with friends and attending events. Even at social events, I am always talking about the next opportunity and sharing new ideas. Rarely, I share my personal life because there was nothing to share. It was one in same, my work life. This has changed recently as the two life aspects take on a life of its own with its complications and then merging together and creating a chaotic mess in my head.

First, I need to find a better direction with my company. I need to stop the financial bleeding or go back to the corporate world, which means all the risks I have taken would be for nothing. I need to find that answer.

In parallel, I need to find peace with myself that Jonathan will not be there when I come home. We have spent almost every day together for 2 years leading to my departure to Penn State and almost every day together when I would come home to visit. He was the one person that I saw first when I got home. He was the one person that allowed me to forget about the stress that was life. He was the one person that made home a place for me to exist in. Now that is gone. His birthday is around the corner and it would be the first time in 13 years that I would be home for it. I honestly cannot remember the last time I even celebrated it, how is sad is that? So why start now? I have lost that chance forever.

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss and the goal is to reorganize one’s life, so the loss is an important part of life rather than its center. I need to take some time to grieve and find peace in my heart (personally) and in my mind (professionally). I can best describe it in words from one my favorite songs, "I wanna feel the car crash, 'Cause I'm dyin' on the inside, I wanna let go and know that I'll be alright." There is an answer out there, I just need to find it. I want to smile again, where a smile is not hiding grief, disappointment, and stress.

Thank you for your support this past year, I will never forget those that stood by me, supported me, and have turned their backs to me. We will talk soon when I start the next chapter of this startup venture, but for now, I'm saying goodbye.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Year Later and I Failed, The Top 5 Reasons Why

May, 2013: Quit my job.

June: Sold my place, moved from NYC to India, and opened our first office.

July: Hired several more developers.

August: Moved into a townhouse, converted the downstairs into an office for 10 people.

October: Launched MeTooStudios, a web design and service division.

November: Co-founded 1More, a non-profit corporation.

Skip forward to March: I’ve told my team here in India that I will not be renewing their contracts. I’ve reduced our U.S. team by half. I sold MeToo Studios, and stepped down from the board of 1More. I am closing the 1ME office in India and returning back home at the end of this month.

That was my first year, in a nutshell. I have taken my company in full circle, starting out with one core product, MeSocial, and ending the year with our focus back on it. Failure was always inevitable, but learning from my mistakes and adapting is the difference between quitting and succeeding. As the company founder, I am driven by the huge risk/reward factor of my business, and I expected that others, who had risked little or less, to hold the same mindset. That is the basis of my overall failure. As I look back on this past year, I failed to achieve what I envisioned, and here are the top 5 reasons why:

1. I believed in good intentions.
Good intentions are great, but when the thoughts do not align with actions and dedication, then those intentions become false hopes. I failed because I hid the fact that some team members lacked the level of experience needed, as well as the motivation to progress, learn and adapt in a startup environment. Yes, the expectation level was high, but the willingness to adapt (or not), makes or break the individual in a startup atmosphere. Individuals, by nature, do mean well, but that has little value in a startup if they lack the motivation (risk factor) to pursue changing circumstances and demands.

2. I was too nice. “Nice guys finish last” is a phrase that indicates that you cannot get what you want by being kind or considerate. Honestly, who wants to finish last anyway? There are many levels of nice, but being too nice can lead to being a push over. From my ignorance of India's culture, to avoiding confrontation, being too flexible caused me to lose respect and slowed down my overall progress. I failed to put the company first and I lost time and money because I did not make the needed changes sooner.

3. I fed on hype. A startup is a hot word and in today’s world, we see more of them and more people leaving their jobs to start one. This trend leads to hype for those individuals who are given an opportunity to be a part of one. From my perspective, the hype lasted only for a short period of time because the focus was building a future that I risked everything for. I brought on people who loved the idea, but who did not understand the risk and time that was necessary. I failed because I too got caught up in the hype, the new ideas I encountered, and new team members joining my effort. I lost sight of the future and our core mission, instead focusing on the day-to-day.

4. I was afraid to cut my losses. The first three reasons resulted in my getting to this point. Sometimes ideas and people do not just work out. My goal of wanting to teach and develop people, and to watch them become successful, hindered my resolve to take the necessary actions. I needed to let some people go and make changes on how the company operated. I failed because I was hesitant to confront those issues head-on and start over.

5. I didn’t look for a mentor.
With a “do it myself” attitude, I launched into this venture with no guidance. My knowledge of the startup world was largely limited to what I saw in the news or read online. Combining my research with my professional experience, I was confident I would be able to do this on my own, and refused to actively seek mentorship or more formal startup incubators or VCs. It took me longer to realize that I was stretching myself thin, holding onto dead weight, and not aligning with the company’s original focus. Even though I had a team, most of them were younger professionally, which made it hard to bounce strategic ideas off from. I became a mentor and spent more time training then moving forward. I failed to become a mentee, but fortunately that is no longer the case now.

This past year, I have learned a lot and pushed the boundaries that I thought was impossible, further and further. I have been very patient, I have wasted time and resources, and I have negotiated with my level of expectation. I have been in a cloudy dream of having a company which did not match the reality.

I often questioned why I am even doing this at all. How much more can I bleed financially before it becomes an impossible hole to climb out from? When does ambition become a burden? Do I go back to the corporate world when I gave up everything to get out of it? Truthfully, I do not know. This venture has been a struggling blessing for me.

So what now? The company is slimmer and the focus is honed, now is the time to charge forward. Honestly, I failed and I'm glad that I did. Let yesterday's limits become today's starting point, right?