Perhaps the most difficult thing to do as an entrepreneur is to own up that your startup is going nowhere. It might be the bravest thing to do as well. Founders fall so deeply in love with their idea that they refuse to believe any outside perspective. Often this leads to many wasted hours, resources and eventually, founders suffer from bouts of depression. Hence, the mantra should be: ‘Fail fast’.
“Success may have the brains, but failure has the balls.”
In a country like India where we are taught at an early age that failure is not an option, the conversation around failure is quite few and far in between. But, the times are changing and founders are increasingly coming out in the open with their failures and the lessons that they learnt from them. This goes a long way in helping other entrepreneurs who might be in a similar situation to reconsider a few things.
#nwplying is a music sharing platform that leverages various social networks. It’s almost like an Instagram for music, which allows you to share music that you’re listening to and add context to it. But here’s the clincher. The founder of the app, Utsav Agarwal just announced that they are shutting shop. For those of you who use the app, it’ll be still available on the app stores, but there won’t be any further development.
What went wrong?
“We fell in love with the solution, and not the problem,” explains Utsav. “I had this idea for a Foursquare for Music app in October’11, and since then I’ve always been too attached to the idea; so much so that I convinced myself that sharing music is a product in itself & not just a feature. Classic rookie 1st startup blunder!”
The startup was never able to build a business model around the app. “I was too smitten & blinded by the success of a few social apps, and used that to convince myself against a sound business model,” he adds.
#Nwplyng has also gamified the experience on the basis of number of check-ins. Similar to FourSquare, based on the number of check-ins, there are ranks and digital memorabilia to be won. But just like FourSquare the idea has seen its pie of mindshare and just doesn’t excite the user anymore.
“Times changed, but we didn’t. I had the idea in late 2011, and when we released a full flushed out product on May 1, 2013, the idea hadn’t evolved one bit. I feel #nwplyng stood a slight chance in 2011, but by 2013 it had to be different & more with the times,” Utsav elaborates.
Indian startups are increasingly realizing the importance of design. In fact, in our previous article about #nwplyng we mentioned that #Nwplyng is a good looking app. It was built using the design principles and used very sensible colors to go with it. But Utsav has a word of caution.
“Don’t get me wrong, design is super important but we used that as an excuse to delay shipping. If you think your app won’t be successful unless the UX & UI is perfect, chances are it won’t fly anyways. Apps that stick have a genuine use case, and not because they are designed beautifully,” says Utsav. “The point is that your product needs to have an inherent need, otherwise it’s fluff and you’re hiding behind designs,” he adds.
Message to other startup founders
“It's never easy. We, as founders, get so caught up in the daily operations of the startup, that we forget to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. If we were to do this often, we’d realize & learn much earlier. But it is easier said than done.”
If you are unable to cure yourself of the infatuation with a dying product/startup there are tons of people out there who you can reach out to.
“Thankfully, I had the likes of MobME advising me at every step. Startup Village too is a great ecosystem of startups. The key is that you’ve got to keep your ego aside, and approach them. They aren't going to come hunting for you.”
The daily reality in the startup world is that there are more number of failures than successes (read funding, acquisition). But people are afraid to talk about it. The ecosystem owes Utsav and #nwplyng and other founders who take the initiative to talk. After all, building something can just be about the fun ride that it is.
“I’m extremely proud of what we were able to achieve with the product. I’ve always felt Indians lack the quality and attention to detail when it comes to building world class products, and we proved that wrong. This wouldn’t have been possible sans the team, so a big thumbs up to them,” Utsav signs off.