Archive for January, 2010

I come away from this experience with spirits high and a sense of enthusiasm for what the future will bring.

The title of this post encapsulates how I have felt at just about every transition point in my life.  Whether ending a positive or negative experience, the future has always seemed bright and full of hope.  When I think back to leaving highschool, leaving college, changing jobs, selling or closing down a company, leaving the single life, all of these moments set me up for an unknown future, but one that I embraced.  While this is how I have always felt (call it the optimist in me), it wasn’t until a week ago that I actually wrote this title sentence as part of letting my company’s (AdPassage) prospects and business partners know that we were winding down the company.  Since then, I have reused this line several times in various email interactions with friends and business associates who have been aware of the impending close of the company.

While I’m disappointed by this outcome, starting and running AdPassage brought with it numerous lessons and challenges that I will never forget. For one thing, everything (and I do mean everything) that Paul Graham summarizes in this blog post (http://www.paulgraham.com/really.html) from interviews with the founders of companies from his portfolio at Y Combinator, is true.  The most difficult part however, is getting the following right:

– the amount of persistence to see an idea through
– how much of a value proposition is enough to go to market
– when do you actually *have* to make personnel changes
– how much to deliver before users are happy to engage proactively
– how much can you afford to work with large company prospects
– where to draw the boundaries for socializing with your team in order gain and maintain their respect

Suffice it to say, there’s no magic formula for getting any of these right, but having experience helps, and making mistakes or outright failing is part of the path to gaining that experience.  Having been a business and corporate development professional for half of my career, my rapport with the CEOs of startups I was working for and those of companies I was doing business with, has always been strong.  But in taking the helm, I quickly learned that there’s a whole other set of considerations and people issues that fall uniquely in the CEO’s hands to deal with.  It took being put in that position to learn that.

Fortunately, AdPassage was nurtured by a very supportive group of experienced investors which really helped me navigate some challenging waters.  We were playing in a new market and knew we were early entrants.  We had limited funding and a short time horizon to see if we could make a go of it.  We spent a year and a half moving through various iterations only to begin to feel a hint of traction just as we began running out of dry powder ($).  Given that we had yet to attain the necessary milestones to deem the model validated, raising another round of financing in the current economic environment was out of the question.  And so, with a whimper rather than a bang, the team was laid off on December 15th.  While they were not let go empty handed, they also didn’t get to enjoy the rewards of having attained the goal we set out for ourselves, of validating our ideas, and for that I will always be disappointed.

As I finalize the wind down of the company this week, having sold our furniture and computers, closed down the various services we made use of, paid all outstanding bills, I find a certain peace in knowing that we went down swinging for the fences.  Sure, it was our intent to at least hit the ball a few times, but the lessons learned have been invaluable and will most certainly be applicable to our future endeavors.

I’m not sure what’s next for me, but I know that serendipity has not let me down in the past and will not let me down in the future.  It’s about making your luck happen…and so “I come away from this experience with spirits high and a sense of enthusiasm for what the future will bring”. 🙂