Thoughts on Pressgram Shutting Down

Pressgram announced they were shutting down today.

There’s always something to be learned when another entrepreneur “fails.” That’s in quotes because I don’t really consider Pressgram a failure, because I’m sure the lessons John learned from this are invaluable.

The strange thing is that they have had more media, exposure, and users than any company I’ve started. So when they shut down I’m not sure if I should feel good about my own business (still here), or if it is a portent of doom (maybe I will fail?)

It’s also strange when someone announces the demise of one venture along with a preview of their next business. John announced that he is working on a new desktop publishing project called Desk.

I think I’ll skip that one.

Entrepreneurs tend to be overly optimistic about their “next” project, you almost have to be. But what about the people that invested in this one, with time or money?

Shutting down a startup comes with consequences. You lose something. You lose trust.

It reminds me of Adii, who has had some very public ups and downs in his career.

After launching Public Beta, he shut it down for personal reasons, only to reopen it again. He’s also had a few other smaller projects that he sold off after a very short time.

I’m not super excited to sign up for the next project, because it might have the same fate as the last one. I’ve also lost some trust for the founder, because I went along for the ride and it hit a dead end.

I understand that startups fail, and I appreciate the public honesty of guys like John and Adii. I wish them only the best.

Startup failure is an inevitability, I just want to remember that the founder is not the only one who loses when it happens.


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Posted by Scott

  1. This is soup du jour in the app world, they come and go all the time. I think the app was well made. There was a pivot during the apps life that went from friendly WordPress photo app to an app for serious photogs to share to social sites. This might have been it’s coffin for mass adoption. Photo apps are a dime a dozen, you really have to do something very specific. iOS 8 has some native filters coming and this could have played into the decision to not update for the next OS.

    As an experience for John it must have been fantastic.

    Reply

    1. @modemlooper

      Appreciate these kind words and the truth to what you say: This IS the way entrepreneurship is… come and go all the time.

      It was an experience that I’ll carry for the rest of my life and I’ll be introspecting heavily over the next few months as to what I can glean from the experience.

      Onward and upward.

      Reply

  2. Thanks for your thoughts here as they are fairly presented (and at least you’re not attacking my character and integrity as a human being… at least explicitly as many, many others).

    A few points of clarity:

    1. Desk is Pressgram’s pivot and so is a continuation of the effort (and financial investment) that has been made. It’s impossible to express to most people who aren’t entrepreneurs how difficult these changes are. And for those that know what this is like there are no words as well as it’s just a shared experience!
    2. Desk has been in active development for nearly 300 straight days. It’s not “new” in any sense of the word. First public blog post was November of last year: http://blog.desk.pm/hello-world/
    3. You’re right. The time invested for all parties has been massive… but none more than for me. This isn’t ego, this is just the reality. I did a prelim “check” of how many hours I’ve spent over the last 2+ years on Pressgram and it hurt my heart to think that I’ve spent thousands of hours (over 3,000 conservatively… not done my retrospective yet!) that I’ll never get back. It… literally… hurts… my… heart.

    Finally, comparing the “loss” for users and the startup founder(s) / startup team isn’t entirely fair. Sure, there’s loss for all but, again, it’s hard to put those two groups side-by-sides and say that it’s even remotely close to equal. This isn’t even including my investors, my friends, and my family who have walked beside me and watched, with just as much anguish, the decisions that went into making this change.

    I feel so blessed to have even had the chance to do this project and I feel like I was granted an additional portion of grace knowing that a digital colleague had to close down their project (TwitPic) on the same day (or at least announced). I didn’t put nearly as many hours (i.e. years) as Noah did and as base as it might be I simply compared my loss with his and knew that mine was much, much smaller. Man, does that keep things in perspective big-time. Seriously blessed. Seriously.

    Finally, the only problem (and is it really a “problem”…? Hey… it’s your blog post!) that I have with this post is the assertion that every startup that launches must succeed or the journey wasn’t worth it. Not interested in following another project because it might “end up like the last one”? You might as well not follow any entrepreneur, ever! Most startups will fail. Bet on it. Will Desk fail? Statistically-speaking, the answer will most likely be a resounding “Yes”. Does that stop people like you or me or the next hungry entrepreneur from trying? No. But at least we’re not naive; we know that we’re attempting a mountain climb in our underpants with no food…! We go with both eyes open…. and the climb itself is the reason we try in the first place.

    Simply put… I suppose the biggest problem is that although the entrepreneur goes with both eyes open to the reality of failure but the customer never considers this as an option. To them the project should exist in perpetuity and the realities of running a business and the financial machines that keep things open isn’t even on the radar. That’s sad, but true. I appreciate that you appreciate that I am candid and transparent… but even that doesn’t seem to help for many people although the intent is to simply educate others about the realities and difficulties of these things that we do.

    Do I want this project to fail? Obviously not. Obviously not. Will I try my fucking hardest to make it a success? Hell yeah. You can bet on that too.

    Thanks for letting me comment and I apologize beforehand if this feels like I’m upset or mad or anything like that. I’m not actually as I think you’ve treated me respectfully. There are others who will mindlessly tear down someone who puts it all out there and not give a second thought about how those same people are, in fact, human… just like them… with feelings, emotions, and basic needs like acceptance, love, and respect.

    I’ve written more than I had hoped I would write… and I’m not sure why. Sorry for this comment that is so fucking long.

    😛

    Reply

    1. Hey John, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I agree with this part:

      I suppose the biggest problem is that although the entrepreneur goes with both eyes open to the reality of failure but the customer never considers this as an option.

      I think there’s just disappointment all around when a project fails, and explaining to a customer that “this is just how startups go” is never going to satisfy. This is especially true with the large number of Kickstarter disappointments. I’m not saying I know the solution to this problem, just that it’s a problem.

      I also think it sucks that people would attack you personally, we should always separate what people do from who they are. I have a lot of respect for you for putting yourself out there with this project, and honestly I think the fact that people are talking about this so much (positively or negatively) is a testament to your success in doing something that mattered.

      Maybe I will check out Desk when it’s ready 🙂

      Reply

      1. Thanks Scott.

        It’s always the hardest when it comes from other entrepreneurs and startup fans… you would think that they would empathize the most and yet, strangely, they end up being the most vocal and the most critical.

        I can stand the casual naysayer who isn’t doing much and throws a barb (or two) my way, but when another entrepreneur says that I suck… i take that one to the chest.

        Thanks for letting me rant in your comment section.

        🙂

        Reply

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