How I quit my job and failed to start a business

Ryan Wilson
10 replies
This story starts three years ago. I was lucky to get a job as a software engineer straight out of college. I was joining a brand new team on a brand new product within the company. The product wasn't in the company's wheelhouse. The people on the team hadn't worked together very long, creating poor social dynamics. It wasn't fulfilling. I had stumbled upon Indiehackers and related content. I became a firm believer in bootstrapping and knew that's what I wanted to do. I knew general lessons to follow, but I hadn't internalized anything. I kept thinking to myself: "If I could quit my job and focus full-time on this side project, I would be successful and never have to work for someone else again." On November 8, 2019, I left my job. I thought I was quitting to start a business. In reality, I had become unemployed. I had grand ideas for this side project I had been working on. I now had the time to pursue those ideas. I thought to myself, "I need to build a few more features, and it will be ready to show to people and validate my idea." I was able to generate a small amount of traffic to the website. The responses I was getting were indifferent. I kept believing that people didn't understand the vision. I needed to build more features, and they would understand it. It made so much sense in my head. This thinking trapped me. Every time I met indifference as feedback, I would lose confidence. I'd think up what features were missing that would excite people. Excited to work on new ideas, I would bunker down and churn out a bunch of code. I'd get burned out. After a few days of recharging, I would try to get feedback. That feedback was almost always indifference. It's been seven months. I have shipped Polished, but it's nothing great. I let my ego drive my decision making. I thought I could build amazing features without doing the work of solving any real problems. I started to realize what I was doing wasn't practical after a conversation about it with a friend this past weekend. I have gotten a bit of interest from people about the concept, but the execution isn't there. I'm taking a break from Polished. I still have a few months of runway left. I'm going to reread and do my best to follow the lessons shared by others who have been successful at this. I'm going to talk to as many people as I can before diving in on an idea. I'm going to work in public and write about everything I do along the way. If you're interested in this new journey, follow me here on ProductHunt or on Twitter(! Feel free to DM me about what you're working on, and I'll be sure to check it out and follow you back.


David Watts
Thanks for sharing your honest story. Best of luck with the next one. If nothing else I'm sure you learned a lot from your first product.
Dmitrii Pashutskii
@ryan_wilson6 Thank you for sharing! I'm curious about the lessons you think you've learned from it. When do you think you should have been move to the next project?
Ryan Wilson
@guar47 I just published a full write up with lessons learned on the blog I'm starting. You can read it here: To cut to the chase since that's just an adaptation of this post, here's what I learned: 1. Don't start building an idea until talking to a lot of people about it 2. Connect with at least a few people who are excited about your idea that they ask you when you're gonna build it (ideally get them to be customers! ) 3. Write and reflect on everything you do because it helps you identify when you're stuck in a loop. Share that writing with people I can't speculate on when I should have moved to the next project. Yeah, I spent a lot of time on this. But it's because of that that I learned this lesson. If I had kept jumping from product to product I probably wouldn't have learned as much yet. Everything happens for a reason and it's not always good. That's okay! Just have to learn from it and move forward.
Thank you for sharing! It must have been really though, trying to realise your dreams and vision, but not getting a positive response... It's always a risk when starting a business or launching a new product. I hope you learned a lot from this experience, good luck with your new adventure!
Rasmus Myhrberg
Saw your post on Indie Hackers too. Thanks for sharing!😃
Alexa Vovchenko
Well, it's not about how many times you fell, it's about how many times you stood up. I think if there's some idea that made you passionate, that was worth of your quitting and working every day for its realization, then you need to try more. Btw, how many people are in the team?
Ryan Wilson
@aleksandra_vovchenko Thanks for the encouragement! It is just me working on it. I'm going to come back to that project eventually. Just taking a break for now!