"Was she being supremely Machiavellian? Or had she simply lost her mind?"-- John Hielemann, on Hillary Clinton's final weeks campaigning
Today, I'm announcing my plans to close BricaBox, LLC.
This decision, which has taken place over the last few weeks, was as complicated as are my feelings about it. Nonetheless, I can tell you most of this decision revolved around issues of money, traction, team, and vision: the four essentials of a successful startup.
I think it's fair to say that a startup deserves to live if it has good quantities of at least three of those four things, and BricaBox is now out of all but one of them.
Perhaps, even, it was out of them sometime ago -- this is where that quote about Hillary Clinton comes in -- and we've just been in denial.
Whatever it is, I'm going to take a tremendous amount of experience, lessons, wisdom, etc with me. And, over the next few weeks, I intend on blogging diligently about every aspect of this failure. I've taken extensive mental notes on these lessons, and I look forward to sharing them with you. I think this process will help me institutionalize these lessons for myself, and of course I hope you can learn something from them as well.
For now, I'll give you a table of contents for what's to come. Subscribe to my RSS feed to be alerted to when I post and see below for some teasers.
As for what I intend on doing next, you can be sure that it will be something entrepreneurial. A few weeks ago, I spoke to a few of the companies I admire most in New York (about joining their ranks), but realized quickly that I was not ready to take my hand off the entrepreneur's tiller.
So, I plan on doing a mix of things: consulting for media and technology companies, launching some exciting small projects with my friends (soon to be announced), and exploring new startup opportunities.
Of course, with all these things, I now have the perspective of building and launching BricaBox -- and I'm excited to put those lessons to work. Also, I bring with me my entire life experience, dating back to my first company (Westheimer Family Plants and Produce), building and running Brandeis Television, directing new media operations at National Public Media, and working with political organizations like David Pepper's campaign for Mayor and now TruthThroughAction.org's project.
I've realized that I'm a "new media mechanic" -- one part technical, one part zen -- so, if I can help you tune-up your online media operations, please let me know.
As for what I intend on doing with BricaBox itself, time will also tell. We'll keep the site live for now. However, if there's a media company in need of a proprietary platform to scale thousands of user-generated content websites, I think BricaBox could be of great use for them. Of course Open Sourcing is another option, though that would also require a certain level of interest from the community.
Last of all, I want to thank several people who made the experience with BricaBox wonderful (though there were countless who had a great effect on the experience): Thanks to the nextNY community for free business school and for the friendships; thanks to Evan Bartlett, Michael Galpert, Charlie O'Donnell (my biggest -- always constructive -- critic), Alex Lines, and to David S. Rose, for his mentorship. A big thanks goes to my dad for his watchful eye. Many thanks go to Gary Vaynerchuk for his commitment to my success. To Allen Stern of CenterNetworks, the great guys at Silicon Alley Insider and Caroline McCarthy of CNET, thanks for promoting New York Tech companies!
Thanks to Mike Hostetler for stepping into the technical lead when we were most in need.
And lastly, thanks to everyone who loved BricaBox like I did. We had some awesome users and fans, like Nichelle Stephens, Andrew Watson, Ari Greenberg, and more. Asking them to say goodbye to BricaBox hurts the most!
As I write the final words of this post, my mind is still coming up with reasons and ways not to do this; alas, it must be done -- it is that time. Now, I get to look onwards and upwards. As I look at the table of contents (below) to my startup's postmortem, I get excited about working on what's next. The opportunities I have coming are incredibly exciting, and applying all that I've learned to the next Big Thing will make it all worth it. That's for sure.
Postmortem Table of Contents (complete posts to come)
Companies should tackle Market Problems, not Technical Problems. BricaBox was a solution to a technical problem I had. While it's good to scratch itches, it's best to scratch those you share with the greater market. If you want to solve a technical problem, get a group together and do it as open source.
Start with a real team. There are a million things a startup needs to do and a dozen skill sets. If you get more people involved from the get-go, you can better distribute responsibility, and grow on the cheap.
Lightweight or heavyweight? Choose one. It matters how you spend. Does your startup have a burn-rate? If it's above $0, think about concentrating it and speeding up development. BricaBox was fed-but-anemic and and slowly roasting its cash. Do it again and I'll concentrate those costs at the beginning. We would have had twice the product in 2/3 of the time.
When in doubt, build off Open Source. One of the first questions I had to deal with, while building BricaBox, was why we weren't modifying an existing Open Source solution, like Wordpress MU. We were a CMS at heart, after all. Next time, I'll give more consideration to building off and participating in existing Open Source project.
Go vest yourself. When a co-founder walks out of a company -- as was the case for me -- you've already been dealt a heavy blow. Don't exacerbate the issue by needing to figure out how to deal with a large equity deadweight on your hands (investors won't like that the #2 stakeholder is absent, even estranged, from your company). So, the best way of dealing with this issue is to take a long, long vesting period for all major sweat equity founders.
More to come...