It's Time to Pull the Plug on Your Startup

March 10, 2021

The post was written by Atlanta Tech Village President, David Lightburn.

At Atlanta Ventures, we meet many great entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, too many are working on the wrong idea. They’re talented, smart, and resourceful, but they’re not achieving true traction – seemingly locked into a Sisyphean cycle of pushing the boulder up the hill. Through sheer will they’ve brute forced some sales or some users, but there’s no Product-Market Fit to be seen – even if you squint.

Shutting down a startup that you’ve spent months or years grinding on is really tough. ALL that time and money just wasted? ALL the blood, sweat, and tears spilled for nothing? 

Plus, you don’t want to let down all those who believed in you when no one else would – your spouse/significant other, your family, your investors, and your customers. 

Many times our identity as entrepreneurs mistakenly gets wrapped up in our work (I know mine does) and it makes admitting failure even more difficult (as an Enneagram 3 I can attest). Instead of your startup/idea failing, you begin to believe that you’re a failure (important note: You’re not.)

Chances are it won’t be an extinction level event that sends your startup to the grave. In some ways, that would make it easier to move on. More likely, you’ll continue making slow incremental progress…forever. It’ll be just enough progress to keep you telling yourself that things are getting better and that a breakthrough is juuuuust around the corner. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not. There’s nothing around that corner except heartache. 

But, but, but David…Let me tell you the story of a famous startup that toiled away for 6 years with minimum success and then one day…Poof. It took off and the rest is history. 

It’s true. Those stories do happen, but unfortunately they’re outliers that seem more common that they actually are due to survivorship bias. Odds are that if you’ve been working on something for years and still have no clear sight line to success, there’s no breakthrough coming.

It’s hard to be intellectually honest with ourselves, but if you were able to step out of your body and view your circumstances as a mentor or friend, what would you tell yourself?

It’s ok to admit defeat. It doesn’t make you a failure nor does your startup define you. All that work you did wasn’t in vain. It’s just time to take all those lessons you’ve learned along the way and start anew. You’re going to do great things!

March 10, 2021
Hilton Thompson