I am sitting inside my home by the corner of my living room writing this. I am still determining my future, but I want to tell you about a 24-year-old platform engineer who had the roughest year and shut down his startup.
Around June 2022, I earned $200K+ and had over $50K in the bank. I always wanted to build products that people would love, but because I had a 9-5, I just felt like it was hindering my dreams. So, like every super hyped person, I went ahead and quit all my jobs and hired terrific folks that would help build Clouddley—the next-generation cloud platform built by developers for developers, indie hackers, and startups.
Well, life never went as planned. I was happy writing code and assisting my co-founder, but it seemed like I wasn’t seeing the result of what we were building. We had bugs that stayed longer than two weeks, and yet I was merging PRs. “Why the hell have I been merging PR, yet bugs I have constantly complained about are still in the code base?” I asked myself. After thinking about it, I knew I had to change how we ship features. I read this book used at basecamp called Shapeup, and OMG! I got a better idea. I went back to the board and deleted backlogs and all distracting tasks. We started working on what we really needed at that moment in time.
This is what our project board looks like now. We ship what matters.
Gradually, my cash was burning, and what I had in the bank kept decreasing. Yet I had increasing personal and startup expenses to make—rent, hosting, salaries, feeding, etc. All these and I had no job.
As an immigrant living in Dubai, UAE, one of the critical issues I face is bank account creation and money transfer. Again, super hyped, I hired another set of folks to work on a product that solves that problem. Lmfao, I legit thought I was going to be alright. I assumed foolishly that once I released it, it was going to work. Investors will give us money, and we will start building the Venmo of the Middle East. Again, Lmfao. I tried so hard to raise money, but nothing worked. After a month, I shut it down and focused on Clouddley.
Fast-forward to November 2022, all I had left in the bank was $7K. Heavens! Seven freaking US Dollars. Now that’s from $50K+, as earlier mentioned. A drastic financial fall. A fall from Grace. Damn!
Well, I continued building. We did a pre-launch, and I was pleased; I will not lie. Solid engineering. I made sales, wrote docs, wrote code, oversaw the team, paid salaries, etc. No life. I did not step outside my apartment for about seven weeks. You heard me right; seven freaking weeks. Little did I know that hell was about to let loose.
I reached out to my heroes and got on a call with them. I was so happy because I wanted to raise a pre-seed from them. I sent my pitch deck and other things, but I am still waiting to hear from most of them. I am not a person that processes information emotionally. I like to think about things logically and based on facts, but this was different. I went to bed weeping at night. I had 4K USD left in the bank, and some folks even wanted 25% of the company. I have never been in a relationship that made me weep so hard. Startups messed with my emotions. Good Lord!
Also, don’t meet your heroes; they are humans just like you and might fail you or not live up to your expectation. And that includes me! Don’t hate the player; hate the game.
Then, the worst happened. I fell sick, and I underestimated it again. I got some medication and thought I’d be better; no, no, It was the beginning. I went from running a temperature on the first day to tongue sores and a throat infection the next day. My lower and upper and lower lips started bleeding. We have 24/7 medical support in Dubai, so I booked one, and they came and gave me an IV and stuff and told me I would be okay. At this point, I could not eat, drink or swallow anything. I shoved food directly into my throat because I could not let it touch my tongue. It hurt!
After the doctors left, I assumed I would be okay. I went to the toilet to spit early in the morning, and I spat out blood; where was this coming from? I don’t know, but I called the doctors again, and I was rushed to the hospital. I was in the hospital for days eating cereal-like food. I had no motivation. I felt like dying because everything I have worked for is down the drain. I sent a message to my CTO to shut down the Clouddley too.
For the first time, I felt like a complete failure. Looking at me fighting for my life, Maybe this was the end for me. I deactivated my Twitter and disconnected everything. I felt so useless, to be honest! I started looking at other things from tech. “Maybe I should join the military,” I said to myself. I downloaded the UAE Military form hoping to submit it. I was taught how to create TikTok Videos. Lmfao. It was fun!
I never told my parents what I was going through. But damn, my friends reached out to me, calling me, supporting me, and visiting me. Freaking rockstars!
“The real treasures are the friends we made along the way.”
I got better, watched some movies, dusted my resume, and started applying for Senior DevOps/SRE roles (I got offers but was not happy with the pay). In summary, I have learned a lot from all these experiences and will keep learning.
As for Clouddley, my co-founder and I will continue to work on it in our spare time. I have no talent, and the only thing that made me what I am today is Code, and I will keep writing it (I’m also building another product winks)
Congratulations, you have achieved failure. Failure has been achieved! Thank God. Now, the only place to go from failure is to win. You have to achieve failure. You have to take it that far. Nobody wants to go that far. It’s too scary but you know something? I got news for you. That’s where winning is… Nothing has changed since the 70’s - Tom Platz.
I am neither afraid of anything anymore nor to be alone. What could be more devastating than this? The only thing I feared more than dying was failing, and I failed.
Your dreams are valid! Go and build the future you want.
NB: You can check out the Spotify playlist I made in my dark moments. I really hope it helps you and/or motivates you!
— Jan 2, 2023
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