Do not go gentle into that good night

The humble startup. Like a star, it is born with an explosion of ideas. Its founders driven, enthusiastic and committed to conquering the world. The startup that held the aspirations of its founders, investors, and the community from which it emerged. The startup, that so consumed us it acquired a life of its own and became almost human. And then like all things human, death came.

Founding and running a start-up is one of the most personally and professionally fulfilling things I have ever done. Watching that same startup bleed to death as our cash reserves diminished is less fulfilling but no less a part of truly understanding the startup cycle of life.

Startups burst violently onto the scene, their activities typically focussed on disrupting the status quo. The limited resources available to most startups means that they live or die very quickly. They have only a limited time-frame within which to prove their value and acquire customers, who can fund the next stage of their growth, and survival.

There are many reasons that companies fail, even when the idea seems sounds. For some the product or service does not address a sufficiently significant problem, for others they address the wrong market and on occasion the market is simply not ready. Sometimes, however, it is just an idea in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong context. In the same way that luck plays it role in the success of a startup so too does luck, of the less favourable kind, play its role in a startup dying.

There is no shame in failing. Indeed the death of a business is not, as many would suggest, a failure. Recognising and understanding the lessons that come from watching a business fail give real insights into what a business must do to succeed.

At the demise of a startup we should remember with fondness the time spent in the company of those who journeyed beside us. We should reflect on things done well, and done poorly, and we should prepare ourselves for the next stage of our life, whatever that may be. We should celebrate what was and aspire for what will be.

When startups die the sky does not fall, the earth does not shake, it is just an absence. An absence of a story that once enveloped us. This is the story of such a start-up, It is as faithful a re-telling of its story as my memory allows. I hope in the telling of its story we can all find lessons and aspirations for the future.

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