Suffering = Growth

Published on
July 8th, 2024
Category
Makers
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“Unfortunately, resilience matters in success. I don't know how to teach it to you except I hope suffering happens to you.” — Jensen Huang
When I left school in January of 2023 to build a startup, I didn’t know what to expect. I had previously built two startups — one was a success, and the other did okay. If you had shown me what the next year and a half would look like, I may not have done it.
I have failed repeatedly, generating new ideas, building new products, even making substantial revenue, and then pivoting away. Nothing seemed to click. On paper, things looked great, but on the inside, we were wondering around in the dark.
I wanted to write this to be transparent about my journey and what its has been like as a founder. We often hear of the success stories but rarely do we hear about how hard the beginning was. My hope is to be able to document my journey and jot down some lessons at this point in time so I can look back to see how far I’ve come in the future.
Learnings:
  • Enjoying Pain & Suffering
  • Investors do not equal success
  • Pivot hell
  • Co-founders & Team
  • Just don’t die / Determination
  • Enjoying Pain & Suffering
I went through many hard times. Co-founder breakups, pivot hell, solo non-technical founder, relationship issues, no time for friends. I learned to trick myself into thinking these were positives.
Co-founder left? Unfortunate but better now than later.
Non-technical? Learned to code.
Pivot hell? Actually a peaceful place to be, I can work on whatever I want.
Whatever happens, as long as you choose to continue, there’s a solution.
I internalized every bad thing that happened as a good thing. If nothing can emotionally kill you, you become an unstoppable force, and success is inevitable. I’ve made my willingness to enjoy how hard this is a competitive advantage, when something painful happens, I think to myself that this is where others would have quit, and all I have to do is keep going.
Another way of thinking about it is that you either quit or you keep going and figure it out, it’s a binary decision and when you put it like that, its quite a simple decision that I’m not one to quit.

Investors do not equal success

I thought that getting into YC meant that we were surely going to be successful — I mean the same people who had chosen to invest in some the most iconic companies also chose to invest in us.
Within the first week, we realized (with the help of our partners) that our idea was too small and would most likely not be ambitious enough. We spent all of YC trying to find an idea that we were interested in but ultimately failed to do so. I felt like a failure, I had let down my co-founder and my YC partners, who funded and believed in us. Shortly after the batch, my co-founder decided to go back to school, and I was left with the decision to continue to build or quit and either go back to school or find a job.
This was the hardest decision that I’ve made in my life so far. I learned to trust my gut. I thought to myself if I was 80 years old and on my deathbed, I would regret never taking the chance to build something meaningful into this world.
I chose to continue going. I want to express my gratitude to my YC partners who not only allowed me to keep going but supported me in this decision and believed in me to continue going, even with no co-founder and no idea.
Despite failing initially, this experience taught me that even with the best investors it is entirely up to you and your team to make something people love. The game of startups is pretty amazing in the fact that its incredibly meritocratic, anyone can build something valuable regardless of pedigree, funding or skillset.

Pivot hell

I want to write a whole piece on this alone. I’ll say that this was a time where I learned the most about myself and what I wanted out of life.
We built a ton of products, from B2B SaaS for financial management to a restaurant discovery app. Some did well, some did not.
We built products that we thought other people wanted, but never stopped to ask ourselves if we wanted it to exist in the world (or if we really wanted to use it). I just wanted to build something so badly and frankly at this time I didn’t care what it was.
What I advise friends who are going through pivot hell is just picking something we were interested in and building it out, even if it was a dumb idea.
That’s what I’m doing now, building something for myself and creating something that I’m proud of, even if no one else wants it.

Co-founders & Team

Picking the people that you work with is the most important decision you could make when choosing to start a company, more important than the actual idea. Ideas and products are malleable while teams are not.
When choosing to work with people, I look for these traits or qualities:
  • high agency
  • slope (rate of learning)
  • olympian work ethic
  • determination / self belief
  • a good human
If you fit these criteria, I want to work with you or be your friend.
Throughout my life of working with different people, these traits are those that I consistently find in people that I respect and admire. The combination of these traits make it such that these are the people that when life throws them any challenge (big or small), they go heads first and figure out a solution despite having no experience.

Just don’t die / Determination

I’ve come to believe that most of creating something of value is just staying in the game long enough to take advantage of the compounding effects of continuously taking action.
You might not create the next Facebook, but you will ultimately create something of value to somebody if you continue at it for long enough.
You see this with startups that have succeeded, sometimes it took years before anything worked, but the founders just kept at it and were determined. Despite my failures to date, I’ve learned immensely not only about the problem space/idea maze but also about hiring, how to operate, how to build product etc.
“Just don’t die” - Dalton Caldwell (probably paraphrased from something PG said)
Said another way, PG said that determination is the most important quality of a founder. His example was that you could have a 100/100 determined person and a 0/100 intelligent person, and the outcome would be that they own the most taxi medallions or a successful garbage disposal company. But the inverse is that the 100/100 intelligent and 0/100 determined person achieves nothing.
This always stuck with me because I may not be the smartest in the room but I can be the most determined to win.

What Am I Working on Now?

Whenever I’d talk to users, people would tell me what they really wanted was a way to pick out and buy clothes without investing much time or energy into shopping. People wanted to be told what to do because it’s so confusing and there are so many options.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been building Fetchr, an AI-powered personal shopper that learns about your style, budget, and size to deliver clothes right to your door. We save you time and effort by finding and sending the items you want, tailored just for you.
It feels completely different to have customers pulling me towards what to build and telling me what they want. We’re growing faster than I can keep up with and it’s definitely exciting. Don’t get me wrong this doesn’t mean we don't have more than our fair share of problems to solve.
We’ve launching our closed beta if you are interested in signing up. I personally onboard all of our users via a call, so I’m looking forward to speaking with you!
We are also building out the founding team and hiring a founding engineer, if you’re interested please reach out at calvin@fetchr.so!
Comments
Ivany Wardhana
can't be more agree with this. no pain no gain bro!