My first startup attempt

May 01, 2019

I was about to start an internship in Geneva when a friend of mine contacted me to join his team on a new exciting startup project: Justinien, a conversational bot aiming at easing the access to justice.

It was not my first entrepreneurial project, but this time it was the real deal: we wanted to reach and raise millions, our idea was too good to fail.

We made all the classic mistakes.

We were four co-founders, which was too many.

We didn’t distribute the shares equally between each co-founder, which resulted in one co-founder feeling left out, not putting in the work, and ending up forced to leave the legal structure.

We did not communicate enough, all the work was done remotely but all of our organizational tools were under-used.

We weren’t iterating fast enough. It took us six months to launch our first minimum-viable product, nine months to operate our first pivot, and another three months to make our first revenues.

Our marketing efforts were too sporadic: we would try out a channel for one or two weeks before giving up and jumping on the next one.

We weren’t clear about our vision and our aspirations. My cofounders wanted to build a traditional startup based in Paris, with a building, VCs, and many employees. I was hungry for an international experience based on remote work.

The last months were hard, I was tired of working on this project. It really felt like “chewing glass while staring at the abyss”. I tried doing new things to reignite the flame, so I opened a new indie business to try making my own things.

At some point we started generating revenues, about $1000 in two months of launch, customers were coming in, it was time to grow fast or die. I started writing 200 words every day in public on Twitter and Medium. We couldn’t come to an agreement on how we wanted to develop the startup so we decided to dissolve the business after working on it for more than a year.

I needed to cheer up, so I joined Product Hunt’s Makers Festival. 200 Words a Day was born. It took me eight failed products to launch one people were actually liking.