It has been just a couple days since our last board meeting and we were settling back into business as usual. And that’s when it hit me.
I would have never imagined that one of the most compelling, motivating and reassuring days of my life would have been when we were pushed into a corner, almost powerless, close to defeat and left only with a choice between overcoming insurmountable odds or packing up.
If you’re expecting this blog post about some company that came back from dead and turned it around into a billion dollar business, sorry to disappoint you. I am too impatient to wait and see what happens to LeadSift and then write about it when and if we’re successful, also frankly, I don’t care. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Although most smarter folks would wait to write this post until they make it through, I want to share a profound experience – at least to me, a first time founder.
The Startup Menace
In late 2012, we raised a sizable seed funding from some of the hottest names in Canada, been tech-crunched, signed a partnership with SalesForce, launched a premium app with HooteSuite, inked a few other partnerships with large agencies, had media flogging us and raving about us, people wanting to work with us and we were pounding out code like nobody’s business.
Attack of the Business Model
The problem was… it was indeed no body’s business. Soon we realized our product would never scale, the press died down and we were left scurrying towards a… you guessed it… pivot. (Except that we didn’t call it that). We survived that storm, the board supported us through figuring out our shit and build, rinse, repeat.
After much effort and grind, we are currently at the best place we’ve ever been at. Customers want us, large enterprises return our calls and set up 2nd and 3rd and 4th meetings. They take our ideas and pass them on to their creative departments. They line up as pilots.
Revenge of the Bank Balance
Except…. we’re out of money. And, after a couple failed tries and overall rookieness, we’re not winning any awards with our boards’ confidence. I think I experienced what it feels like, getting kicked in the nuts, at our last board meeting!
Return of a Game Plan
Within the last week, we’ve had to lay off some very talented and some of our favourite folks, and, in spite of making quite meager salaries, take paycuts ourselves. We talked to the rest of the team to describe what we were up against and what our game plan was. We need to be super focused and our future depends on the timelines of some of the customers’ in our pipelines and other external things that we can’t always control. We’ve also realized that we should have done this a couple months ago. Sounds grim, right?
LeadSift Team Strikes Back
But I feel compelled at this point, to quote some of our teammates and employees reactions when we broke this news to them. Ranging from the one person wanting to keep helping us with LeadSift for free to another person insisting that he wants a paycut with the founders! Another founding member who had kids, family, house, the whole 9 yards of responsibility, after a few beers that night, came in next morning and kept reassuring us that he’s here till the end and he’ll do anything for LeadSift, anything. Among other things that day, he gave away his personal cell phone number to a client who runs a 24/7 call center, for customer support requests, to ensure no matter what, we do our best! We support our university by hiring students for research and our post doc student took some of the pressure off our shoulders and talked to the professors and the research assistants giving them the disappointing news. A co-founder, who just had a kid, offered to go off payroll and on parental leave to save money.
You might know, that as egoistic over achieving startup people, we go through a lot of clashes.
But, we all came in the next day, stronger, more determined, more unified than I’ve ever seen the team. Everyone had their war paint on. Everyone was aligned on one goal, and one goal alone. Each and every move, strategy, discussion, no matter how doomed it should have been, seemed more pumped, hopeful, exciting, confident. A chance to prove ourselves, a chance for victory, a chance to not die a zombie but a plan to go out with a bang if needed.
There is absolutely no way, that with this team, this passion, this hard work and this loyalty and authenticity, we won’t see a win. And… come to think of it, this IS our win! Anything else, is just gravy.