But, on this blog, TONS of dynamic code running and not a peep.
Found a ton more interesting examples here: http://bl.ocks.org/mbostock
Especially maze turning into spanning tree. That one was truly mind blowing.
I've seen in the piece of code corresponding to the Fisher-Yates algorithm this snippet: "n-- | 0". Has the "| 0" any importance?
Design and implementation of the UW Illustrated compilerby Andrews, Henry, and YamamotoPLDI '88
The University of Washington illustrating compilerby Henry, Whaley, and ForstallPLDI '90
I know it's more times but I haven't found those threads..
An audible "oh no" came out of my lips when I clicked this link and realized I was reading about someone I had shared a few dinners with.
It's important for little pieces of history such as this one to be recorded. For the founders, to whom it gives a sense of closure, and for the community. So that we don't forget our comrades who didn't make it to the other side, but still have insightful lessons to share.
The press likes to glorify the AirBnBs, the Googles, the Facebooks - but as founders, I think it's important for us to be realize that this is only a tiny visible part of the iceberg, and that at the end of the day, there are so many factors at play that it would be foolish for us to focus solely on the "how many millions did they make". Human stories are never boring, and experience is one of the most precious thing others can share.
Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this, Nikki. We're with you.
"Investing money, creating new products, and all the other things we do are wonderful games and can be a lot of fun, but it's important to remember that it's all just a game. What's most important is that we are good too each other, and ourselves."(http://paulbuchheit.blogspot.com/2012/03/eight-years-today.h...)
Also a pretty good lesson that having a good job and comfortable life maybe isn't so bad after all (a very un-silicon valley lesson).
She said they decided to tell me they were leaving the company without even a hint of warning - my guess is there was no agreement in the first place or a lot of unnoticed warnings. To conclude she's just too trustful is almost certainly a flawed conclusion.
I'm sure she learned a lot from this experience, but she seems to write off the deserters as flaky. I'd be asking myself what I did or what lies I was telling myself that made me think I had co-founders when I really did not. That sort of character judgment is as important as product judgment.
Seeing through "developer bullshitting" is a dark art that is hard to master without spending a bit of time as a developer.
I love the aggressiveness and the spunk she clearly has. Looking back on my own life (I'm one of the "older crowd" in HN terms), I wish I'd been that ambitious at that age. Or, maybe ambitious isn't the word, maybe "focused" would be better. In either case, I wound up waiting until my late 30's to found a startup and now I'll be 41 in about a month, and we're still looking for the mystical, mythical "traction". :-)
The downside is, being this old, I feel a certain sense of "this is my last shot". If I fail with Fogbeam Labs, I doubt I'll have the energy, passion, drive, and mojo to try again. So if there's a lesson in my experience, that I'd try to share with the younger crowd, it would be "Be more like Nikki, and less like Phil". :-)
Right in the first sentence I see "99dresses". I have to admit, it took me a minute to process what's going on. She has been receiving significant coverage in mainstream Australian media. As someone, who is running startup from Sydney (there aren't so many of us), this felt like someone in your family has passed away even though I've never even met Nikki.
I'm not even sure what I'm writing here... I just feel sad.
I understand what you're going for here (and it's nice), but it's fair to let your team share responsibility for the defeat. Otherwise it never really feels like they were part of the successes.
Also here are some Mixergy.com interviews that I've enjoyed from failed entrepreneurs:
This is with Chad who's posted I started with:
And, finally, if I were leaving New York, I'd listen to this:
Hope you're feeling better and looking forward to seeing you sometime 'round Fishburners :)
Although the business didn't work out, to have gained so much life experience at such a young age is incredible.
I will admit to being slightly jealous because she did get a lot of attention due to what I thought was solely being a tall attractive female that dresses well. However having read this seeing and seeing how this played into her impostor syndrome has made me re-evaluate my thinking. The attention might be useful, but I can totally understand questioning if its because its who you are or what you are doing. Since everything in the start up world is about what you are doing I can see this attention leaving you with self doubt.
She certainly has done more then I have, and at a far younger age.
Sorry for the bad thoughts Nikki. I had been following 99dresses loosely over the years and I had hoped you would succeed as there are so few start-up stories that come out of Sydney. Wishing you the best of luck with whatever you chose to do in the future.
Even after all this time and things beginning to look positive, I still worry constantly that we will backslide or somebody will come along and take our marketshare or any number of other things. I wish that 99dresses had a different outcome, but still it is an encouraging story. No doubt with this kind of attitude and experience Miss Durkin is going to find success. I think it is extremely important to know that not every venture has to take off within six months to be successful. It's a long haul for most of us.
And yeah, not having money is really really awful, especially when it goes on for years with no certainty that it will ever change. But as entrepreneurs, that's how we do.
At 21 I was on a plane headed home from another country. I cried in the office. I cried on the plane home. We'd Burned almost half a million dollars, a couple of years of work, let go a team - and had nothing to show for it. With no degree, no more money and no job I moved back in with parents.
So I suppose this article resonates, and in the most literal sense - I've been there.
I think the hardest thing for me at that moment in time was I didn't really have a handle on just how young I was and how much more I had coming. It was all I'd really done with my life up to that point.
It's taken me quite a few years to gain that perspective, and it's a difficult thing to communicate. The world is inconceivably vast and expansive and you have the next half century to build within it. Yourself, your ideas, your creations.
At that age and on that scale it's only a failure in the moment. Then, as time passes it becomes just another step along the way. It imparted knowledge upon you, and opened doors you don't even know about yet. All of the parts that hurt fade away and you're just left with the experience gained.
The fast-paced echo-chamber of the technology startup world is a particularly hard environment to step back and get a real sense of perspective in, which makes it a particularly hard environment to fail in, especially as you'll always be reading about someone else magically killing it.
I've failed since then, and I've succeeded since then. But as the years roll by, I've come to realise that the winning and losing don't even matter, because the journey just keeps on going regardless. If I saw myself now, when I was on that plane at 21, I'd have thought I was looking at someone who had mythically 'made it'. But you know what? I haven't. It's exactly the same: I've got another 40-odd-years of succeeding and failing ahead of me, in both my personal life and my professional life.
Personally I find that quite cathartic.
But maybe the article isn't about the startup - it's about the emotional ride. Maybe that's why a lot of startups fail - they get so involved with other things, it's not about the startup anymore.
Reading this, it confirmed an important lesson that I learned in a completely different setting (grad school). It's much, much better to do an impossible project with an excellent mentor and fantastic coworkers, than an easy project full of low hanging fruits with colleagues you can't stand.
People who were in the former condition all flourished, even if it meant pivoting to a completely different project after having invested 2 years in a dead end idea. People in the latter camp burnt out completely and almost uniformly dropped out of grad school. The few that stayed were basically running on spite the entire time.
"It ain't about hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now if you know what you're worth, now go out and get what you're worth".
I would love to hear more about the following (not holding my breath):
"After hiring a few people and finding an office in NYC we were ready to launch. We solved the chicken-and-egg problem using techniques that we promised never to speak of again because they squarely sat on the grey/black spectrum of naughtiness. If there was a line, we definitely crossed it. We had to. These hacks were harmless to others, so I figured it was only a problem if we got caught."
Basically the cards are stacked against these businesses from the day they are funded.
Male tech folks make a lot of false assumptions about female focused businesses. For investors it can mean leaving a complicated business model under-funded. For developers it means blindly taking a cofounder title in exchange for an equity-heavy compensation deal without thinking through what it means to work on a business you arent passionate about, for years, at reduced pay.
In both cases, if there isn't an early slam-dunk hockey stick marker of success, guys dont have the stamina to tolerate a female-focused business for very long. They bail. The company never gets its next round of funding. The engineering talent runs for the hills. Its not cool to work on a company for girls, especially a struggling company for girls. So male talent will just split as soon as the going gets rough.
Each time the company has a setback, the guys all start to bail. So the company needs to find new talent and appease many people at every little bump in the road. This is hugely costly and results in a lot of unnecessary crisis moments, doubts, and subsequent pivots.
The sad part is that a lot of female founders leave startups for good after one failure. I have a linkedin network filled with former female founder superstars who work in humdrum non-tech management roles. Women take the loss on a much more personal level than men do. So every time a female founder is stunted, and then abandoned by her male support network, she may be gone for good.
Whats the solution? Im not sure, but I think it has a lot to do with adding more female investors and developers to the world. That and encouraging more former female founders to come back, mentor and try again
I feel like I've read this sentence, or a version of it, so many times that it self-refutes. You hear plenty about people who failed. Not as often as the next big thing (since no one puts in the effort to send out press releases about how their failure happened - although that actually might be an interesting strategy for figuring out a next step if the post-mortem is honest enough), but it feels like once a week or so a post like this hits the front of HN.
Is it just an impression, or did she get this sentence the wrong way?
The whole point of this saying is to make you realize that failure should actually not be such a big deal. Failure isn't an dead end, it's a step forward on the difficult path of entrepreneurship. Therefore, saying things like "I couldnt fail. This was my baby, and if it was going to fail it would be over my dead body." can only lead you, indeed, to excruciating pain in case of failure.
Resilience is an excellent quality, and I think the only way to give your best and surpass yourself is by facing real challenges, but please remember that you cannot in any way resume 4 years of ultra rich/challenging experience with the two words "I failed". Jeez, just having survived 4 years in her very first startup experience is already a success.
I sympathize with her pain; I just find it sad that she doesn't seem to realize the incredible experience and skills she gained from this adventure. Those years were absolutely not wasted; the chances of success for her next startup are incomparably higher than for her previous one, and I wish her all the best for the future.
Edit: A startup is first a human adventure. After it "failed", ask yourself the right questions:- Did I learn something? Do I know better?- Am I a different person? A better person?- Did I help some people in any way?- Did my social skills improve? Did my network grow?- What about my legal/technical/managerial/whatever-ial knowledge?
If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, than this adventure wasn't a failure at all. :)
The one thing that made no sense to me was why they didn't stay in Australia and go after local market. Does the concept not work there?
"99dresses was squarely focused on trading cheaper fast fashion (fast fashion is really hard to re-sell for cash)" I wonder how much demand exists for cheap secondhand clothes which go out of style quickly. Isn't it the point of this type of clothing that people can buy it new for not much money, and not worry that that it often doesn't hold up well? The clothes themselves are probably mass produced in third world countries for next to nothing. This seems like a very vertical online thrift store.
Does the world need another online thrift store?
Was the product ever successful in Australia?
Fully 20% of Australia's entire population is concentrated in Sydney alone - what was the expected total market (for a product heavily invested in shipping physical items) that didn't work here that there was a need to, apparently, move so quickly and wholly into the US?
It sounds like you hit 2 of the biggest issues startups can face. Co-founder disputes and Product issues.
Re Co-founder disputes - once money gets involved and the cap table is in your favor in the early days, the st will hit the fan. Raising money dilutes everyone and that too has a negative effect of the minority holders and can create some bad energy.
As you found out working with the right people is super super important. What I have found that has worked super well for me is working with people I have worked with before. One, you know they are good (the ones you choose to start a business with them) and the honeymoon period doesn't exist so its all about execution. I don't believe in cofounder dating events.
As you found out having a mobile product is a big deal. People are mobile creates. Even more now then ever. So being able to reach them via the computer in their pocket is an opportunity not to be missed.
Regarding the Visas, E2 Visa would have gotten you into USA. Or you could have setup an entity remotely in USA and through the company setup E3/H1B for yourself and your cofounder. There are some obstacles to jump but possible with the right legal/immigration team.
Finally, I didn't see in your story mention of an advisory board? I have found that getting the right people around you can open doors to investors, industry people, advise on technology, product etc... highly recommended if you can use them wisely.
Overall I believe the experience you have gained at such a young age will only set you up for big success in the future. Don't give up and keep on going! Good luck!
Keep at it Nikki. Well done for your first round. Level up now and go at it again.
You kids doing startups in your early 20s have so much going for you! I wish I'd not waited until my 30s to get on this train, there's a lot more to lose (and less time to sort something out...)
My YC startup failed two years ago and it still has an impact on me. I learned a lot and wish I knew what I know now back then. My cofounders parted ways within one year of YC and I became a self made single founder. One of the biggest mistakes was not taking breaks. I thought I had to work twice as hard to compensate. It just went into this vicious cycle: depressed & tired -> not productive -> worked every waking moments -> depressed & tired.
Hindsight and all that. But still, don't just take on anybody as co-founder, easy come, easy go.
Super tough to read all this, I'm really sorry your hard work did not work out but you've done all that could be required of you and then some.
I very much recognize your trust issues, but over time even that will fade.
Very well-written. Makes your readers stronger in novel ways for reading it. Thanks for sharing.
It's all about knowing how to light up parts of the graph in life though. Now you know. Second time will go further.
I had a startup crash and burn almost a year ago now. We wrote a blog post about it too: http://blog.piratedashboard.com/post/69595110761/out-of-the-... Basically, we made a ton of mistakes that ultimately led to a founder disagreement that prevented us from closing an investment deal which may have saved us. So we cut our losses and moved on. My new startup has evolved a lot from what is mentioned in that blog post and is doing well so far (but not yet at the stage where I feel secure).
Losing your startup is almost like losing a loved one. After putting so much into it, when its gone it sucks. Really bad.
But in the end, you just gotta move on and not let one failure stop you.
Nice story, I have a similar one myself. I remember that I followed 99dresses quite closely two years ago, I was the technical co-founder of a Fashion & Tech startup, and we were trying to do something really similar for a while. (I'm also foreign, got a lot of local press coverage, traveled to Silicon Valley to work etc.)
I've been the leaving co-founder of a startup, mostly because I thought (and told) that my co-founder was incompetent and bringing zero value to the table. He took it pretty bad, but at least I was honest about that (and right).
You're very young, I'm 28... my biggest advice would be for you to get a stronger technical background. You can still do it, you are young, and it would greatly empower you.
If you wanna have a chat shoot me an email or add me on skype 'n_goles'.
I hadn't heard of your startup before this post. But from reading the comments here, you and your startup are very well regarded.
I doubt it feels that way right now, but I think you have a bright future ahead of you. Take some time to process and relax. Good luck!
Probably too late for that kind of advice though. But I believe a start up dies if you give it up. But you don't have to let it if you don't want to. Sometimes that's the most reasonable thing to do, but you don't always have to.
I'm in the same case as you. I had to let go of all my employees, Couldn't pay them anymore. And I'm now the only one on board doing all the code, design, marketing and everything. I'm just too stubborn to give up and I still believe in what we do 100%. (Damn I still say 'we' I mean 'I'. Just a reflex)I do feel your pain. But my best advice is to try to learn how to code and sketch things yourself. With all the skills that you accumulated you'll be able to create prototype rapidly, be less dependable and bounce back rapidly and next time you'll be fearless. Food for thoughts ;-)I wish you the all the best for your next adventures.
I wish Nikki all the best in the future!
Now, I realize this doesn't apply if the end game is a high dollar exit, but if you can make a decent living with your application/web site ("startup" and "founder" are overused terms in my opinion) who cares?
If you can't make a profit long term, then maybe you your idea doesn't deserve to live. Simply passing the bomb on to the next set of suckers be they the public at IPO's, or acquires, or VC investors hardly seems like the right thing to do (although no doubt it is done all the time... sometimes with incredible profits).
There is life outside the VC world. If it's a good idea and profitable and you love it....stick with it. If you are looking for a billion dollar exit... that's another thing entirely and it's time to move on to the next idea.
I have been an entrepreneur 5 years now, and I can totally relate with the part of showing a positive face when you have none - its an occupational hazard. Good luck for the next set of adventures.
BTW, I am sure the Valley community will be open to welcoming you back. You are an entrepreneur through and through - so if its not the Valley, Bangalore's doors are always open :-). Best of Luck.
These are the kinds problems we are gunning for. These are the kinds of things investors are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into. This is the scope of problem our industry is solving right now. This is why I'm often embarrassed to work in tech.
Great post. However, when guys paint the other gender with a similar broad stroke as here, we go after them. I hope posts like this make it okay to state our general observations about the other gender.
EDIT: Nevermind. Found the answers. Turns out to be a pretty cool story actually: http://wpcurve.com/y-combinator/
It does help. Keep writing. Welcome to the club :)
That's just something you have to go through on your road to success.
If there were three things you would do differently, what would they be?
That would be regarded as sexist if it were arranged with such a blanket statement the other way around.
I've seen countless stories on HN where guy founders talk about the emotional side of failing and their startup going under. I'm not sure where she gets this notion. In fact, I see the emotional side written about more often than anything else. It seems like there's a few new stories every week on HN by some guy that failed, and he's discussing dealing with the substantial emotional fallout (how it affected his life, his savings, his family, his sleep, and how agonizing in general it all is).
Maybe her real problem was picking a big "problem" to solve that wasn't.
On mobile but will elaborate on this as I think the idea was amazing but could have also benefitted from something specific...
My wife as a great style sense - and also reasonable with her money. She would find amazing fashions at Crossroads in San Francisco where she could find desirable brands like D&G, BCBG and other smaller labels where women sold their designer clothes at a discount.
She picked up MANY amazing dresses from this place, as well as shoes. She hardly recycled dresses for events or dates and did it economically.
If 99Dresses had coupled with places like this where they had rental inventory as well, I am sure this would have been an amazing offering.
You could have had a daily rental price, as well as an option so that if the owner chose; a sell price.
A place like crossroads was actually pretty good at being discerning, yet well priced in their garments.
It would also had been an opportunity to provide brick-and-mortar fitting rooms... as well as local inventory. Connect this with a garment style ID and a "different sizes available via online at locations X Y and Z.
DISCLAIMER: Did 99Dresses have all this already?
I am amazed it did fail - I LOVED the BM and Idea.
Nevertheless I learned a tremendous amount. You learn things by going through it in the trenches that cannot be taught in school.
Currently working toward attempt two, which is probably much more likely to be successful.
"I felt like I was drowning in a black ocean, and I couldnt see any light at the surface. I didnt know which way to swim."
"I was fucking tiredphysically and emotionally. I wasnt sleeping properly."
"I had no bandwidth for anything else."
"I felt physically sick all day"
"I felt shame, guilt, embarrassment..."
"I was scared Id meet someone new and theyd ask me what I do"
"I was also embarrassed because I couldnt afford to pay for anything..."
"I wasnt depressed so much as disappointed."
..and on and on.
She crushed it starting this business, got traction, built up a community, and was getting close to scaling what was a real business, with a real business model, and real money.
It's phenomenal how much her team accomplished on that money - which is not very much for a team of 5. Until you've run a business yourself, it's hard to understand just how much overhead truly does walk on two feet.
If this company had gotten to scale, it could have provided food for hundreds of thousands of men and women, selling extra stuff laying around their closets. And that's off a glance at their site and app. If your comment was your first response to an amazing post like this, you should look in the mirror.
And comparing her to the Collison brothers? 2 incredibly smart guys that were well-accomplished and millionaires before entering YC?
Nikki, I really enjoyed the write-up. Looking forward to see where your next adventure takes you.
"for some reason a 5'11 woman in 7 inch heels commands more talking time and attention from investors
"As a woman going out in NYC my nights were normally cheap because cute guys would buy me drinks, but I am not the kind of woman who expects that.
Why did YC ever bet on such a dud? Like honestly good on you for trying and all but you sound very immature. I don't mean that in a negative way I mean that in having read your post that's how you come across. Your cofounders decided to leave you and you are calling them out - I wouldn't blame them at all - they made a choice and their equity would not have vested. Cofounders have walked away from much larger startups than yours and its for the reason that they did not believe in your vision. Seems kind of immature to call them out. No one wants to be led by someone who responds to their problems by sobbing.
Its a shame YC bet so big on a non-technical founder because you give non-technical founders a bad name. They got you in Forbes, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. The Stripe brothers had a billion dollar company before even getting half the notoriety you got. For a two-sided marketplace that's like getting to start a mile race with a kilometer lead. Any startup that gets such a ridiculous head start (global publications covering you before you get to 100,000 members) comes down to a failure to execute.