Waving the white flag after spending years trying to get a business of the ground is never pleasant.
But failures can often contribute more to the education of an entrepreneur than successes. And some entrepreneurs are willing to share those learnings with others via their blogs.
Here are four postmortem posts from Boston-area entrepreneurs, or companies with Boston connections:
1. Arlington entrepreneurs Abby and Ivan Kirigin (they're married) announced on their blog last week that they were shutting down their start-up, TipJoy. TipJoy had aimed to make it easy for you to leave a small tip -- say, 50 cents -- for a blogger whose site you read daily or as a thank-you for downloading some free music from a musician. But they said that a social network needs to integrate that kind of payment system and promote it to its members in order for it to take off:
We have decided against continuing to pursue additional funding. After a long and hard look at the market and the situation, we didn't feel it made sense.
...We believe that a payments system directly and officially integrated into social networks such as Twitter and Facebook will be a huge success.
(Interestingly, Ivan promptly went off to work for Facebook.)
2. Also last week, Scott Rafer blogged that he was "commencing an 'orderly shutdown'" of Lookery, a start-up that built an online advertising network and also developed services intended to make online ads more effective. Rafer is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who started the company with David Cancel, the company's Boston-based chief technology officer. Rafer wrote:
The sins Lookery committed under my leadership were continuing our dependency on a large partner (March 2008), not knowing when to cut bait on a failing asset (September 2008), and building ahead of the market (December 2008). I and we made any number of other mistakes, but all the rest were correctable. Avoiding even one of the three big errors might have been enough to get us over the hump.
3. Chris Herot, co-founder and chief technology officer of Convoq, analyzed why the Lexington-based company's efforts to develop new software for online meetings didn't take off, in a December 2007 post:
While the company was an innovator in on-line meetings, and had a core group of enthusiastic customers, it never achieved the traction that would have provided the necessary return on capital, and the investors, patient as they were, eventually called it quits.
...In hindsight, we spent far too much time iterating the [product's] features in the conference room before we tested them in the marketplace.
4. Gregg Favalora was the wunderkind founder of Actuality Systems, a Bedford company that first developed a really amazing 3-D display, and then decided to devote its resources to a specific medical application related to visualizing information: writing software to help doctors interpret ultrasound images they use in the treatment of prostate cancer. He wrote about the process of winding down the company earlier this year:
...I did the math, and absent any major commercial deals, our last paid day would be April 24 . That left us with savings to be a mensch about paying our vendors and maintaining our patent fortress.
I'd been talking with Gregg around the time of that post, and later included Actuality's story in this column about shut-downs.
Have you seen other blog posts that try to tease out some of the lessons of a failure -- whether one based in Boston or elsewhere? Do add 'em below...
about the blogger
About Scott Kirsner Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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December 9: Web Innovators Group
Demos of new mobile apps and web ventures at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge. Free admission; cash bar.
December 10: Fintech Demo Day
Short demos from startups in the financial technology realm.
December 11: Unpitch
Entrepreneurs and investors sit down for lunch, advice, and feedback. Entrepreneurs must apply to participate.