Looking back on the months that I spent working on AdvertiSin, I am struck by how inaccurate my estimates of what my problems would be were. Before I started working on AdvertiSin at all, I spent a long time looking at the feasibility of the business. The classic MBA outlook: identify the market, identify the competition, identify the differentiating factor, the value proposition, and so on and so on. I looked at timelines, at financial forecasts, and examined whether I really thought the idea was workable. I did - and still do. When it came time to work on AdvertiSin full time, I leapt into the brink gladly, confident that I had a good grip on what the risks were - at least as much as such a thing is possible, where startups are concerned.

I was wrong. In the end, the thing that was by far the most difficult for me to struggle with was a risk I hadn't even considered the broad category of when I set off on this project back in January of 2014: me. When I was weighing things, I was focused on the idea of the business itself, and the implementation of it. I, personally, didn't come into it, except with how I thought my skills could manage to do this or that.

In retrospect, I did get some very good advice that I didn't pay enough attention to. Both of the founders of my then-employer, Alden and Venkat, warned me about the effects of solitude on startup founders. They warned me about the sense of isolation, about the feeling in the pit of your stomach that can happen a couple of weeks in of "oh, fuck, what have I done?"

I watched for that feeling in the back of my mind, but it didn't manifest anything like I thought it would. It wasn't a hollow feeling, or a panic that struck late at night. I was so focused on what I was doing, I forgot the things I learned as a manager; the symptoms of burn-out sneaking up on me. I didn't even realize what was happening when I first started seeing my useful working hours cut back, and then back further. When ten hours of useful thought became eight, became six, became four.

When I finally figured out what was happening, I was already crispy around the edges. I took steps to mitigate it - joined a co-working space, made an effort to talk more to people who were advising me - but I wasn't able to recover enough of my personal momentum to justify continuing full time. Putting AdvertiSin back on the shelf, if only just for now, wasn't an easy decision to make, but I think it was the right one.

I hope that other founders learn from my lesson. When you are looking at your startup, don't just look at the business, but look at yourself. Startups are a wild ride, and going it alone makes the peaks and falls that much harder on you. Take breaks, and keep up your social life. The business can't survive without you, but it will consume you if it can.

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Harlan Lieberman-Berg


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