Welcome to the Startup Morgue

Updated January 31, 2023 in Startup Morgue Interview Series, Startups

When a startup dies, it is a tragedy for every founder. The swarm of emotions, painful conversations…a lot of founders find it hard to talk about the death of their startups. I do want to offer a perspective, tested on myself, and my failed startup — it is therapeutic to not only talk about it but also look into the causes of death. Nobody can turn back the time and change the past but we can look into mistakes made and identify outside factors and influences, learn from it, accept it and move on — more prepared than ever.

The global pandemic 2020 shed light on a lot of things — your partner’s attitude, real state of the economy, personal revelations for both introverts and extraverts…Remember how we all cheered for 2020 to be roaring ear? Small and big businesses are closing, startups feel the same pain. And here we are — surrounded by dead businesses and startup corpses. A lot of us found themselves looking for the next thing and reinventing ourselves, coming up with new businesses. This got my brain gears spinning.

Earlier this year, Cleo Capital Chrysalis program invited me to join other fellows to go through a 6-week ideation process to possibly build new companies. Week 2, the Idea validation stage: step 1 is researching what’s been done before. “There are very few truly original ideas in the world — it is likely that someone has explored some version of your idea previously. Spend some time researching prior/current attempts. What’s been tried? What seemed to work, and what didn’t?” 

But where do you get deep and sufficient information about what failed and why when the majority of info is about what worked. Brain gears still spinning. Then a colleague and friend of mine shared a story about testing new military planes in the 20th century: they focused on analyzing only test planes that got back to the target destination. They never looked into the planes that failed — or into why they failed. And it hit me — we need to build a startup f*uckup directory so our Soar clients can better use the tools available to them to grow and not repeat these mistakes. I want those failure stories to autopsy — and so do my fellow entrepreneurs, and investors, and curious minds.

So here we are, this is the startup morgue: Opening up startup cadavers to find the cause of death for the benefit of the entrepreneurial and investment community. I have been on both sides of the table — an entrepreneur and investor. Always curious about the “why” behind things and addicted to problem-solving, I want to help provide insights into startup failures and f*ckups, with the help of fellow bruised entrepreneurs. My first startup failed — and so did many of yours. Failure is a vital way of learning, nothing is wrong with it. So why don’t we talk about it more openly?

Yes, we talk about WeWork, you can google high-level lists like this, even platforms like thisI really love this tweet thread by Gagan Biyani, co-founder of Udemy, that inspired me to take action.

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So we are setting on a journey full of interviews, startup cadaver reports, and case studies aiming to provide insights and details about startup failures — the deep reasons, not the top-level “couldn’t fundraise” ones. The purpose is to help learn from the mistakes (and pivots) of others, as well as to encourage founders to openly speak about things that failed (consider it a therapy session). Look at it as a shared failure depository for resilient brilliant minds.

Want to submit your startup cadaver?