Connect with us

Entrepreneurship

My Failed Startup Almost Destroyed Me

Published

on

If you know who Peter Thiel is, you probably also know what most people referred as Thiel’s law: “A startup messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed.”

That’s what happened to us. I wish I knew what I know now. Perhaps I should write another article about how we failed, if it’s useful for people.

I was under the impression I was supposed to sacrifice everything to make it work. I didn’t pay enough attention to my health and I let myself go. For me, the only important thing was my startup and nothing else.

The number of people I have encountered that think like I did is alarming. This is a warning for other entrepreneurs that might be going through the same, or if they think there would be time later to take care of themselves.

It Was Bad From Day 1

Since my co-founder and I decided to create Pathfinder, we were psyched and pumped by the infinite possibilities of what we could do and what we can achieve. We felt we had all the energy in the world, even if we didn’t have the experience or any idea or what the f**k we were doing.

That adrenaline you get when you’re building a startup made me push my limits. We knew it was a rough journey, and so I made it worse by forgetting to take care of my body, among other things you will read below.

You get caught up in that bootstrapping state of mind. You’re so pumped you don’t think or do anything else than your startup. You live, breathe and dream about it. No weekends, no time off, you just work 24/7.

Also when you’re bootstrapping, you cut your expenses as much as possible to save up money, dedicate every penny to your startup, or like in most cases, you’re giving up your regular sources of income.

You start going back to the cheap fast food diet you had during your first year of college. You think it’s okay, that your body can take it, and besides, it’s only for a few months.

I was eating a lot of crap for the sake of not spending time hopelessly trying to cook (I’m terrible at it). I found junk food convenient because it was an already-made hot meal I could get for cheap. My eating habits were and still are terrible.

It Got Worse With Time

It’s hard to break the cycle of eating poorly when you’re in a startup. I tried several times. The emotional roller coaster you go through as a founder could make you relapse in your down moments. When you’re in a startup, there are far more downs than ups.

I became abusive of bad food choices as if it was an addiction. In my many days of sorrow, I tried to make myself feel better with fast food. In my good days, I wanted to treat myself with something ‘delicious’. It ended up being a more expensive version of the same sh*t I was eating before.

I did nothing but work. My mantra was “eyes on the prize, eyes on the prize.” I was not exercising, not giving my mind some rest, not eating right, no sleep and never unplugging.

And I was always tired. Even when I took some time off I didn’t really rest. But I didn’t care. I just wanted my startup to take off, and then we can talk about everything else.

I had a few episodes of stomach pains so severely that there was a time I was hospitalized for a night. I was so stubborn and stupid, that wasn’t enough of a wake-up call to make changes.

Now I’m sure those habits made it harder to succeed. Not that my startup failed because of this, but I’m sure I could’ve been better at it if I was in a better shape.

Skipping Through Life

I let this toxic mind set control my life. It also deprived me of precious life moments and people I would never get back.

You tell yourself “don’t worry, keep going! Don’t lose focus on your dream! You’ll enjoy the rewards when you succeed.” You’re wrong. I learned this on the hardest way possible.

I am originally from a beautiful Caribbean island where the Dominican Republic is, but I live in Spain. Even though I love the old España, its people, and it’s the place I consider home since 2006, it really makes it complicated for immigrants to build companies here.

The struggle of being a startup founder is worse when you add the incredibly painful process of being an immigrant. But what it feels like to be a startup immigrant, the overcomplicated migration system here and the pain in Spain of being an entrepreneur are whole new subjects we can discuss in other articles.

Not only it’s been extremely hard for me to go through the Spanish migration process constantly, it seems like it never ends. In December 2012, I was not on top of it. I said to myself “It’s okay, I won’t be able to go home for Christmas, but I’ll fly there later, even for a more extensive period.”

Yes, I rationalized it in my head. Tickets were very expensive anyway, I could use that time to work on some things and I was permitted to renew my resident card later on anyway. I could do it later on and it’ll be fine. “Eyes on the prize, Rui, eyes on the prize.”

I WhatsApped my father telling him I was not going home, but not to worry, I’d be there in a few months to spend really quality time with the family. He then responded that he was very sad I wasn’t going to be there. By then, it had been more than a year since the last time we saw each other.

My father was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. In 2012 it seemed he finally won that long battle but then it came back a few months later. It never ocurred to me that it could’ve been fatal this time.

In January 2013, things got a turn for the worse. I tried to rush my papers to be able to fly home ASAP. Since it was during the holidays there was not much to be done to fix it.

And then it was too late. One evening my mom called me to tell me dad passed away. We thought he had a few months, I thought I had time.

I didn’t see him and I wasn’t there to say good-bye. I cheated myself out of more time with him thinking I could always do it later. Even if my startup would’ve succeeded, sacrificing that would’ve never been worth it.

Your Environment Affects You

After my father died and the excruciating guilt of not being there, I took my habit of abusing of fast food to a whole new level and gained even more weight.

I carried on with my startup and didn’t want to think about what was going on. And then, I got to spend some time in Silicon Valley and a few months in New York and that helped me get out of that mental funk.

It started when I flew to San Francisco for the Evernote Conference. It was a long journey and I arrived there pretty late at night. I took an Uber to the InterContinental Hotel, checked in and went directly to bed.

At 5AM, my eyes were already wide-open. In Spain the local time was 2PM so I couldn’t sleep any longer. I turned the TV on and wandered around my hotel room. I stood on a weight scale while I was checking my Instagram feed on my phone.

It was the first time in years I saw my weight in pounds instead of kilograms. It was 231 lbs. My first reaction was “this can’t be right.” I checked the scale, threw my phone to the bed, took out my pajamas and tried again: 230 lbs.

I googled how much it was in kilos and it was, in fact, the right number. I’ve been seeing it for months but never converted it to pounds because I preferred to stick with a measurement unit I didn’t quite understand.

I immediately put on my training clothes and went to the hotel’s gym to work out until the morning. I have finally received my wake up call.

After that, I spent a few months in New York, and over there it was easier to make smarter choices. There are better food options and when you’re tempted to eat junk, you see the calories right there on the menu. It forces you to think twice about it.

I was in a great environment. I fell in love with the startup NY community. I pushed General Assembly to let me use their coworking space. They did even though they were closing the service and were not accepting anybody new.

During that time I ended up losing 30 pounds. It was a combination of feeling good and productive, surrounding myself with great minds and being in a better headspace. I was happy.

written by Rui Delgado, Startup Entrepreneur and Startup Author at Medium. see more.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

Published

on

Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

Published

on

Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Trending