Knowing when to quit flogging a dead Startup

It may seem a little strange that I’m talking about quitting when our startup is on the verge of releasing a new product. Don’t get me wrong,  Simon, my co-founder and I are full of  confidence, excitement and anticipation. However, just as there is a thin line between insanity and entrepreneurship, there is a fine balance between failure and success. It is important that the entrepreneur  knows when enough is enough and its time to restart. This is normally when customers and investors don’t believe in the idea any more.

Entrepreneurs are well known for their determination and tenacity. They have to be thick skinned to survive the startup emotional roller coaster. However there is no point in flogging a dead horse (startup). Once a new venture is started it can be difficult to see the difference between a set back or an idea that will never fly. Seth Godin believes that successful entrepreneurs know the difference between a dead-end and  natural dips.


A dead entrepreneurial cowboy on a dead mount

The blog post, ‘It’s Time to Shooting your blog (horse)’ also applies to startups.  “In the case of blogs, their purpose is to transport your ideas across the world.” I almost quit with this blog in October 2008 but continued. Since then I’ve enjoyed some success. Success is about fulfilling a purpose:

” It is purpose that created us,”
” Purpose that connects us,”
” Purpose that pulls us,”
” That guides us,”
” That drives us,”
” It is purpose that defines,”
” Purpose that binds us.”*

The purpose of a business is to make healthy profits. Sounds obvious I know. However many become deluded with other ideas. Notions of  business is for fun, friendship or getting rich quick. Of course there are many ingredients that go into making healthy profits. These include pleasure, trust and vision. But the overriding goal of a business must be healthy profits. Everything else comes secondary.

We all know that customers and a good business model are the route to healthy profits. Jonathan Morrow from Copyblogger and author of ‘Its Time to Shoot your blog’,  believes the key measures for blogs are  communication from readers, links and the writers intrinsic motivation to write. The key measure for any new business is  the number of quality customers. This is measured throughout the sales funnel: Leads-> Conversions-> Customers-> Transactions-> Actual Sales-> Revenues-> Margins-> Profits.

It is the startups founders vision and persuasiveness that convinces could-be customers and investors to join the venture. So if a startup is unable to attract customers and investors in sufficient numbers its back to the drawing board to change the idea or message. However don’t give up too early either. Its a fine balance between success and failure.

Many believe that a big lucky break is just around the corner with their startup idea. However it may never come if the money and customer/investor interest runs out. In the same way as we have to shoot the blog we need to  shoot the startup before its too late. As painful as that may be. Its better to learn from failure  and use that knowledge than keep flogging that dead startup idea.

* Matrix reloaded 2003

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7 Responses to “Knowing when to quit flogging a dead Startup”

  1. Learning to fail: Startups aren’t really trying unless their failing « Nickpoint Says:

    […] Knowing when to quit flogging a dead Startup […]

  2. The source of entrepreneurial determination « Nickpoint Says:

    […] Elnaugh calls it the “pit” which you have climb out and Seth Godin named it the “dip” that you must see beyond. Paul Graham says its “The most important quality in a startup […]

  3. Startup Opportunity Identification 2.0 « Nickpoint Says:

    […] have to know when to quit an idea, re-form it or find a new idea as assumptions are tested.  Flickr (started as on-line games), […]

  4. The big dipper « Nickpoint Says:

    […] startup. This is a very good question. One which I have tried to answer in previous posts – Knowing when to quit flogging a dead Startup. This is probably the most difficult question of all for a founder. And That’s probably why […]

  5. Sharel Says:

    Thanks for this great post,

    i guess you can never know, you go to trust your intuition…i also wrote a blgo post about quitting in startups which was also inspired by Seth Godin, and others, i will love to hear what you think about it…


  6. Nick Barker Says:

    Hi Sharel,

    Thank you for the comment and link your post. I think intuition can come from experience. Really liked your post and the video’s 🙂 Branson rocks!!



  7. “Startups are damn hard”, but rewarding.. « Nickpoint Says:

    […] me knowing when to quit is the hardest question for any startup founder! Unfortunately startup founders often become […]

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