A reflection on Sircularity what went wrong, and what was learned. Also what to think about for the future.
I send this out to notify, and to grasp, what was learned from the failure of circularity. Reflecting on how a great concept with promise and validation. Ultimately in the end failed to reach its potential Of course, there's definitely things learn. That's why I'm writing this to grasp and grasp the lessons from out the failure.
I write this as a reflection on what I know now went wrong and what was learned. I wanted to grasp these thoughts and experiences before they are lost in our imaginations.
I think the most important thing to note is that sircularity was inspiring, got people excited about it. People were ready to use it. But ultimately, it just didn't work out there were a variety of factors that spurned its downfall. But their were things that I did not properly guide the team through.
Our failure seemed to be unlikely, we had it all. The trade secrets, a contrarian foundation, easy access to money. And all things one could hope for when building a startup.
Disclaimer This essay should not be shared. This is not meant to be gossipy but a way for me to show what was learned from the project. In order to properly explain the experiences that were gained from the project, the proper context must be illustrated.
All in or All out
I began to notice despite the enormous potential, there was still a wishy-washiness amongst some team members. I also remember not adhering and dismissing various warnings from people like Ryan Mason, Mitch Hamm, and even my father. Specifically with who is brought on as "Co-Founders. I can summarize two quotes that I look back now as warnings.
"The whole team doesn't seem to be truly excited. Sometimes you will have to just progress without some. Let who wants to continue and just let the otherS fall off."
"Be careful giving out the co-founder title so early."
Their are probably dozens of quotes like this that I don't remember but these stick out in my mind.
Now this is what seems to be the ultimate downfall of Sircularity. My inexperience with team formation and true startup collaboration. Is the root cause
The lesson learned is to avoid wishy-washily. All founders must be all in. Lack of commitment puts a strain on those putting in the work and can destroy one's whole project. Lack of commitment is a waste of time for those not all in. Not only do they not see the benefits of future monetary success, but they do not reap the benefits of failure. One who is halfway involved cannot gain the full classroom experience that is building a technology company.
Don't Take Advice
The next thing I learned was really don't take that much advice. I feel like I took too much advice, especially when building a startup. There's no real path for it. I took too much advice.
The world will teach us the right answers based on the decisions we make.
What's more important is for startup founders to ask questions that will reveal timeless and universal answers. This can be fixed just by asking the correct questions. For example:
"What's advice for Social Media Marketing?"
This will only show you the path of how to become an automaton. There will be nothing new or unique gained from this.
Instead, a better question to ask is:
“What is a fundamental truth that has been revealed to you through marketing?”
This question will provide more timeless, and interesting answers. Not specifically telling a person what to do. But the answer will provide a framework that can be integrated to create new things.
Money the root of all evil?
The biggest mistake I made personally on this project was with cash incentives. Bringing in cash incentives to early or not keeping them a secret from the team can destroy a startup. Cash incentives increase entitlement and decreases grit. To bring in cash incentives so early on was a huge mistake on my part. It made everyone on the team seem as if they were invaluable, before anything was built.
Cash incentives decrease ideas of long term thinking. Co-founders should be investing their all in the startup to gain wealth later down the line. But cash incentives make it so that one may feel as if they have begun to "make it"
Someone Get the Manager!
What I learned in this segment is to define roles early and often. Yes it is a startup and people will have to wear many hats. But others will need to have direct goals they can focus on to help the company progress.
To me roles seemed to limit expression. But in this case I was wrong. It caused fatigue amongst the strongest co-founder and lead to not much of anything being done by the others. The root cause of our failure.
A Co-Founder did warn me about this, but I did not heed it fully. I did the bare minimum to try to hold to the philosophy still of "artistic work."
Peter Thiel explains managing a startup the best in his book Zero to One
It’s not just founders who need to get along. Everyone in your company needs to work well together. A Silicon Valley libertarian might say you could solve this problem by restricting yourself to a sole proprietorship. Freud, Jung, and every other psychologist has a theory about how every individual mind is divided against itself, but in business at least, working for yourself guarantees alignment. Unfortunately, it also limits what kind of company you can build. It’s very hard to go from 0 to 1 without a team. A Silicon Valley anarchist might say you could achieve perfect alignment as long as you hire just the right people, who will flourish peacefully without any guiding structure. Serendipity and even free-form chaos at the workplace are supposed to help “disrupt” all the old rules made and obeyed by the rest of the world. And indeed, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But anarchic companies miss what James Madison saw: men aren’t angels. That’s why executives who manage companies and directors who govern them have separate roles to play; it’s also why founders’ and investors’ claims on a company are formally defined. You need good people who get along, but you also need a structure to help keep everyone aligned for the long term.
What was learned will not be forgotten. This experience was more informative than any business course. And has made a better person because of it. Those who put in fully received exponential returns in experiences, skills , and thought-processes. Those who did not are not able to fully reap the benefits of failure.
This is to future companies and innovation, despite failure I feel more able to generate wealth than ever before. I have more time to think about things, and more time plot and plan long term.
Will this project ever be revived? Possibly, maybe not. Due to coronavirus it isn’t the right time.
PS (Would love for Harrison to write an internal reflection as well)