I took the plunge and decided to follow the ‘age-old’ wisdom of fixing my own problem and building a startup around the solution.
The entire experience was too complicated and opaque. I started Atrium to make this easier for founders.
Despite having a great team, great investors, and early customers, our rosy start soon began to wither.
Many things contributed to the eventual downfall of Atrium.
Here is what I learned from my failures:
As with most founders after a big sell, my ego kept nagging me to think ‘bigger’.
My dreams were full of insanely large numbers. A ten-billion-dollar company. A hundred-billion-dollar company.
It is very hard to write the mission after the fact. You should start with a clear reason to exist and filter early hires for believers.
Without clearly defined goals between co-founders, huge frictional costs can arise.
Hiring too quickly – especially before PMF can be a fatal mistake.
At Atrium, we hired too many people too fast and we failed to set a cohesive culture early. This is incredibly hard to change later on.
We raised a $10m series A with just an idea. We focused on growth over everything else. While we successfully grew our customer base, we couldn’t retain them.
We simply hadn’t spent enough time to figure out our product.
It wasn’t clear who Atrium served; the lawyers or the clients who were buying our legal services. Without making the distinction, we fell into the pit of trying to be everything to everyone.
My colleagues needed to be supported and set up for success. My “win or die” strategy didn’t work and worse, strained relationships.
I lost several friends this way.
A more empathetic approach would have at least been a morale boost for the team.
Not figuring out my intrinsic motivation made it impossible to stay resilient in tough situations. My big question was, do I really want to be the CEO and build products? I also had no passion or real interest in legal tech.
After Atrium, I realized that building product and being a CEO was not my primary goal.
I love interesting people, stories, and ideas – all of this has led me to content creation.
I am a much more actualized now and pursuing something that I find fulfilling.
It sucks having to shut down a company. I was not the only one affected, and I let a lot of people down.
Dealing with it moving on to discover what’s important is what really matters.
Reply to this thread and share what you’ve learned from your own shortcomings, would love to read them.