10 Things I Learned From My First Failed Startupimage
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10 Things I Learned From My First Failed Startup

Saying goodbye.

A few weeks ago, for the first time in 6 months, my team and I met on Monday night for what we call a BAM or Big Ass Meeting. BAMs were the only major meeting we had as a company. We’d sit, eat, and drink for about 4 hours while we reflected on our last week and set direction for the next. And at first glance, this week’s BAM seemed like any other. The familiarity and nostalgia felt so nice as we gathered around my co-founder’s dining room table once again, but it did nothing to ease my nerves.

Because although I was walking into this conversation with notes on how we move forward with Lumastic - a part of me knew that we’d be leaving this conversation without Lumastic.

And 10 minutes after dinner...we did.

It’s official. We’ve decided to shut down Lumastic - the project management platform for creators that I started nearly 4 years ago. Although this decision did not come lightly - it did come so much easier for me than I thought it would.

6 months ago, I was telling people I was, “Taking a break from Lumastic to settle into my new job”. But the truth is that I was experiencing severe burnout, depression, and a deep loss of identity. For months, I did not talk about Lumastic with really anyone apart from my girlfriend, Sarah. In fact, when someone said the word, “Lumastic” to me, I’d get a visceral pain in my stomach as an intense shame bubbled up into my throat.

But today, with the help of Sarah, a great therapist, and a journal - I feel strong, grounded, and confident enough to say goodbye to Lumastic in the most fitting way possible - by sharing the core lessons I learned along this journey of inspiring others to share progress and not perfection.

I hope that by sharing my mistakes and failures, I can spare someone else the pain I experienced learning these lessons the hard way.

Below you will find a quick TLDR; version of each main finding with links to posts that expand on the learnings as I write them. If you enjoy reading about any of these failures, please share them with people you think would also find them valuable.

1. Focus on what you do solve - not what you “could” solve.

Stay true to the problem you're solving and the customers you're solving the problem for. Don't get talked into trying to generalize your solution to appeal to a broader audience. Building something for everyone means you build something for no one.

2. Treat building product like client work.

Be in constant contact with your customers and build solutions to their problems - it's really that simple.

3. Don’t go full-time until you have to.

Be a part-time founder for as long as your business will allow it. Going full-time just because you can is probably not worth it.

4. Think about sustainability over speed.

Don't buy into prioritizing growth at all costs. Build something to last - not die fast.

5. Share the struggle.

Ask for help at every stage of the creative process - even if you think you don't need it. Get in the habit of sharing progress and not perfection.

6. Diversify your identity.

Always remember that you are more than one idea or one project. You are not your output.

7. Reflect early and celebrate often.

It’s important to reflect on where the business needs be go. But you and your team also need to take time to sit back and see how far you’ve come.

8. Stay centered around learning.

Starting a business is full of obstacles and variables that you can’t account for or control. What you can control is your approach.

9. Find the right people.

Success is the right people in the right seats working passionately on the right idea.

10. Document the process.

Building an audience by being transparent and synthesizing your learnings along the way forces you to admit your mistakes earlier and learn from them faster.

Drew Lyton
Drew Lyton
Friday, February 4, 2022

I'm a software engineer, ex-founder and writer who cares deeply about creating a better relationship between technology and society. I'm currently writing a book about early stage entrepreneurship.


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