- Justin Hunter
Long story short (or as the kids call it, tl;dr): I'm leaving the company I co-founded. Here's why.
When you run any company you have to be willing to make tough calls. You can't waver, can't hesitate. Quite often, the survival of the company hinges on your ability to make the right decision. In a startup, these decisions can range from something as simple as "what's the right color for this banner on the marketing site" to "should we sell the company". The success of a startup is often tied to how long the company can survive. Take this quote from a Forbes analysis on startups from last year:
Founders need 2 to 3x longer than they expect to validate a business model.
Startups need time to iterate, time to find product-problem fit, and eventually find product-market fit. That's why it should be no surprise that the early years of a startup are the most dangerous. Succeeding often means holding on for dear life and making it until you "make" it. According to data by Failory, the first five years for a startup are the danger years.
Failure is most common for startups during years two through five, with 70% falling into this category.
As some of you know, I have now founded or co-founded a few startups. Most recently, I co-founded SimpleID. SimpleID is a user retention and communications platform built for blockchain applications. Our company participated in the third cohort of Consensys's Tachyon accelerator, giving us invaluable knowledge and opportunity as well as a little bit of funding to bring a product to market. And bring a product to market we did.
We became the first communications platform in the blockchain space, a space notorious for not talking to their customers. We have begun working with some of the biggest names in blockchain. We have created technology that flat-out didn't exist before.
However, we also operate in a market that is nascent. A market that is on the brink of breaking out but hasn't gotten there yet. We operate in a market where the technology and the capabilities change almost daily. The opportunity is huge, but the timeframe in which a company must survive to reap the benefits of that opportunity is unclear. That presents a challenge when you are surviving on investor dollars. You have to prove traction and prove a future market while stretching every dollar as far as it can go.
The above is a difficult proposition under normal circumstances. When COVID-19 hit, the difficulty ratcheted up. Raising a seed round during a pandemic in a nascent field became a daunting task, and we decided to double-down on the long-term sustainability of the business. The market will catch up to the technology, and the pandemic will end. But how do we ensure the company survives that long?
For SimpleID, the answer became clear to me. Clear, but difficult. If I step away, it lengthens the runway for the company considerably. And at the end of the day, I don't care about whether my name is attached to the company as much as I care about the company carrying on, building great things, and serving that market which will soon be huge.
So, the difficult decision has been made. I will be leaving the company in the very capable hands of my co-founders Prabhaav Bhardwaj and Alex Carriera. Our time working together will forever be held in our memories, and the friendship we built will always remain. That is why I am confident in my decision, confident in SimpleID's future, and confident in what my co-founders—my friends—will be able to accomplish.
What's next for me? I will be taking some time to do contract work and maybe that contract work turns into something more permanent. Or maybe I decide to control my fate entirely and continue contracting indefinitely. Maybe entrepreneurship will come calling for me again, or maybe I will settle into work on existing products. All I know now is that I'm excited for what's next and I welcome the challenge.