What it was like to say ‘we failed’ & shut down our startup

Starting my own company was much, much harder than I thought it would be—and I did think it would be the hardest thing I had ever done.

Making the decision to say ‘we failed’ and shut our company down was even harder.

One reason my husband and co-founder Nilesh and I gave up when we did (in December 2013) was because we saw we had a long way to go. Though I did think we could have created something worthwhile, we didn’t feel we had the stamina to continue doing this for years. We were terrified that we would fail after we spent all our money and invested years, and starting over afresh at that point wouldn’t be easy. But while it was probably a wise decision—to recognize that we didn’t have what it takes—it has made me feel more like a failure.

But well, we’re getting over it, and discovering other things we like doing. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to entrepreneurship. But if I do, I’ll plan it for it better and prepare to be in it for a longer haul.

Nilesh and I are lucky to have found good jobs quickly enough and landed on our feet, but we are both still sad that it didn’t work out and trying to figure out what it means for us. We moved to a bigger city – Mumbai – which was a personal goal I’m glad to have accomplished. The jump from very small startup to working for one of the biggest IT companies in the world was a bit disconcerting, but it’s been a new experience, and I’m all for new experiences. I get to edit content, which I love doing and think I’m fairly good at. Right now, having a steady paycheck, a nice boss, enjoyable work is all I could really ask for!

I’m also focusing on reading more, going to plays and events, and doing some creative writing. I’m also looking forward to my first real vacation in around four years (apart from a day or two off when I could manage it).

Here are some thoughts on being a woman entrepreneur in Indiaand on being an entrepreneur in general, based on my very limited experience.

It can be isolating, especially if you have a tech startup (which ours kind of was). There are very few women tech entrepreneurs, and you look around at a startup event and see only a few. I did meet a number of women entrepreneurs, which was great.

The flip side of that is you are noticed more, and people are sometimes kinder to you and more eager to help instead of if you were just another man. Then there are organizations like Women’s Web, who I conducted a couple of women’s only marketing workshops for—those were immense fun.

And then there’s the sexism and mansplaining, which of course exists everywhere, from what I read (and is probably no worse and even somewhat better in India than in most places). Some man explaining to me that we were building our product on the wrong technology. Some other man joking about who wears the pants in our house—a ‘joke’ that might have been more forgivable if it was less tired?

But to be clear, these were the exceptions. Most of the time, I met politeness and kindness and was made to feel welcome. Some seasoned entrepreneurs and mentors offered time and advice, for which I am grateful. Friends offered help, at which I was amazed, and also lots of encouragement.

When we announced that we were downing shutters (metaphorically—we’d always worked out of our home), so many people responded—with condolences or good wishes.

So even though we got so many things wrong, I am glad we tried. I am sad that we failed, but so proud that we survived the experience and landed on our feet. We made connections, even friends. We got involved in the community and met so many wonderful people—people who are passionate about their work, which I love to see.

I’m trying to focus on the here and now and not worry about what I’m going to do next. All of this helped me figure out so much about myself. In a job, you specialize at doing one thing, or at most, a few things, well. As an entrepreneur, you need to do so much more. This helped me figure out what I am good at and what I am not, and when I started looking for a job, I looked for something that fit not only with my skills but also with my personality. I figured out, for example, that I am a lazy writer but an efficient editor. That I am good with working if I have some structure (one of the reasons why I didn’t make a great entrepreneur!) That I like meetings but they drain me.

All of this helps me work better and be happier!

(And by the way, I still don’t have a TV—I read instead, and I write for myself more now that I don’t have to write blog posts for marketing purposes.)

UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies

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