Being an entrepreneur is hard. Very hard. For the most part we hear about the successes, and much less about those who fail.
Sheriff Shittu of Showroom.ng, is closing up this month, and he shares his story of being in the startup game for 12 years. There is no happy ending this time.
by Sheriff Shittu O
12 Years a hustler, time to go home
I’m exhausted, it’s been roller coaster for the past 12 years having started my first startup then and ever since, it’s been from one to the other.
I really felt I could succeed, I have read the right books, the right blogs, draft right business plan and but in execution I have fallen short. Maybe it’s time to change things a little, something is quite wrong I think.
The height of it was last year end, business was doing fairly well then everything started crashing. Somehow I survived the robbery at gun point in the middle and rally round to try to make things work, but getting worse and every now and then the thought will always come around, what if it all ends here? What if I just have an accident right now (while driving home at 11pm on third mainland bridge)? Maybe it was law of attraction but somehow I had an accident but in the daytime when I didn’t think about it.
I launched showroom.ng almost 2yrs now and within months with all the permutation (maybe strategy) we were on a super roll, the dream roll. I think personally I wasn’t introspective enough as I was just riding with the tide. That’s super wrong for a CEO, “you don’t just work in your company you work on it”, so they say. I only read it, I didn’t live it.
I personally won’t attribute the failure to wrong market, or wrong product. It was a wrong execution.
Maybe this will help
- Weak domain expertise: we don’t have that in our team, inasmuch as I tried to learn on the fly, this will fucking take years of learning, practice before charging people. I had personally underwrote mistakes from partner or staff 100%, just so you could make customers happy, but resources are limited we do not have that much and our products are heavy items.
- Speed: the edge a startup has over bigger company is suppose to be speed, yeah for a couple of our products we were fast but for so many we were terribly late. Building features, making user experience superb is not my strength, I’m ninja but in the team we didn’t have either or could afford one.
- Team setup; success of any endeavor have a lot of tie to the people behind it. Looking back, I’d selected those with; domain expertise, better work ethic (than myself) and complimentary strength.
- Raise enough money, don’t raise at all or don’t start. I personally think or being conditioned over the years that startups need to raise fund. It’s not so. I worked with a couple partners that didn’t raise a dime for their companies and they are doing pretty fine(offline). Sells a piece here and there. When we started doing fine, I somehow felt entitled to be funded. Somewhere along the line I asked myself, why really must this guys give me money? Did I work the money in their pockets? I felt really bad and awkward sometimes with the process.
- You don’t know everything. Fuck it, I have read all the article, the manifestos, I have worked with a team that built massive stuff. Looking back, I think…our strengths are magnified when we work in a strong team, and diminished when we work alone or in a weaker team. Listening to advise, following your instincts are all as good as knowing what to do right per time. If at a particular you make wrong decision and another then another, the damage may be bigger than you can reverse.
- Be true to your core values even at tough times. I believe, customers reign supreme in every business and as such whenever we fall short, I felt personally responsible for them. And at many occasions avoided facing the customer. Cause I thought, if I was in their shoes, I had done worse. I really think as at this time, it’s harder to keep to the ethos, it’s better I just pause, see what’s wrong and find a way out.
On a personal level, my journey so far as been onerous. It’s either tech or nothing. I don’t have any community I belong to other than tech. I just felt every other thing is time wasting. If not for my wife that drags me to church every now and then, I’d be okay just watching online. When the time became really tough, maybe church community could have been of great help had I been fully integrated like I was 8yrs ago.
Somehow I felt sorry when people mock those who committed suicide; its not every pain or failure one can withstand. As someone who have been pushed to that limit at many times, it’s just a thing line between life and death. Like receiving a call just before the act or your car refusing to start. ☹
I don’t know maybe I shouldn’t write this, maybe I should go get a job. Maybe I should go look for help, but the only family I have is the tech. Maybe I’ll think this through more. But writing this could be the salvation I need to do better next time.
By month end I’m shutting down showroom.ng. I’ll probably just take a month off. Not doing nothing. I have not stopped working on one idea or another since January 2004. When I decided, I wanted do startup, to build a site like Google for Nigeria.
I feel responsible for upcoming tech entrepreneur that if they have more of what we didn’t have then, their failure would be our responsibility. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself as I really haven’t succeeded.
Did I get support, absolutely. From those who’d chat me up at night to connect me with customers, to those who invited me for a chat just to help straighten out a strategy and review products. I have been luckiest person in this community.
I was talking with my mechanic about how much my car could be worth, he gave me a low figure. I was like, fuck it…i want to sell this stuff , pay all our outstanding debt and start on a clean slate. If possible.
I have cried, even in the presence of those who think I got all figured out. I felt embarrassed but I couldn’t help it. I don’t know what may come out of this, but being alive and scorned is better than being dead and hopeless.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Sheriff Shittu is a tech Entrepreneur, CEO at showroom.ng & product architect at G1:3 Energy. He has a keen interest in building African tech revolution and paradigm shift.